From NFL.com Wire Reports
(Jan. 3, 2004) -- Bill Belichick owns three Super Bowl titles, and after leading the New England Patriots in his best coaching job, he was honored as The Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year.
In a year of masterful coaching throughout the league, Belichick led the Patriots to the NFL's best record, 14-2. The Patriots, fighting off injuries almost from the outset of the schedule, won their final 12 games, setting franchise records for winning streak and victories in one year.
They did so in great part because of Belichick's brilliance as a game-planner, motivator and in-game strategist.
And they did so with a variety of starting lineups, unusual for a championship-caliber team.
"We have had a number of different people," Belichick said. "It has been that kind of team.
"Again, I am not caught up on the big starter thing. ... I think all of the players have been active at one time or another. They have contributed in one way or another. So it has been a lot of different mixes through the course of the year from game-to-game, and from one part of the season, and so I guess that part of it has been maybe a trademark of this season."
Another trademark in 2003 was the strong coaching in many cities. Although seven head coaches either were fired or resigned, there was admirable work done by Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, Bill Parcells in Dallas, Andy Reid in Philadelphia, John Fox in Carolina, Tony Dungy in Indianapolis, Brian Billick in Baltimore and Dick Vermeil in Kansas City.
Belichick, with 351/2 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL, easily beat Lewis, who received seven votes. Parcells was next at 61/2 and Reid received one.
There was no indication at the beginning of the season that Belichick would be coach of the year or that the Patriots would be dominant. In a stunningly controversial move, Belichick cut starting safety Lawyer Milloy, who was picked up by Buffalo. The Bills then promptly spanked the Patriots 31-0 in the opener.
"If you had asked me at the beginning of the year, I'd say, 'Hell, no! How can you cut Lawyer Milloy?"' star cornerback Ty Law said. "But he changed my mind.
"He's done an outstanding job. In my opinion, he's coach of the year. He can get rid of me, I don't care, he's still the best coach of the year."
New England was 2-2 when it began the winning streak that carried it to the top of the standings. The Patriots have won in every manner: defensive battles, high-scoring free-for-alls, close games, routs.
At Denver, Belichick's coaching acumen was on display when he made one of the shrewdest calls of the season.
Trailing 24-23 with 2:49 remaining and New England at its 1, Belichick ordered a deliberate safety rather than punting.
Denver misplayed the ensuing free kick, and the Broncos went three and out. That gave the Patriots time to drive 58 yards, and Tom Brady threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to David Givens with 30 seconds left to win.
"He just knows pretty much everything about everybody or every position," tight end Christian Fauria said. "He knows everything about the offense. He knows everything about the defense and special teams, where a lot of coaches are either offensive-minded or defensive-minded."
Belichick's background, of course, is defense. As coordinator with the New York Giants under Parcells, he designed defenses that led to two NFL championships. One of the best jobs he did for New York came in the 1991 Super Bowl, when the Giants stymied Buffalo's prolific offense in a 20-19 victory.
After an unsuccessful first stint as a head coach in Cleveland, where he went 37-45 from 1991-95, Belichick rejoined Parcells in New England and then with the New York Jets.
When Parcells quit as coach after the 1999 season, Belichick was elevated, but he spent only one day as Jets coach before resigning, citing uncertainty in the team's ownership.
Soon after, he surfaced as coach of the Patriots, who paid the Jets compensation for Belichick. Clearly, the price was right.
Belichick is the second Patriots coach to win the award; Parcells got it in 1994.
Reid won it last year.