At one point, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that, unlike Hall of Famer Marv Levy, Belichick won’t be coaching into his 70s. As Belichick inches closer and closer to 70, his stance may have changed.
To start the week that will see Belichick turn 69, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com published recent quotes from Levy regarding the notion of coaching well beyond what once was the retirement age of 65.
“Age is only an approximate thing,” Levy told Reiss. “You’re involved and you’re going at it hard, and you love it, that’s it. You just coach as long as you love it. I finally retired [after the 1997 season] because the great core of our team had gotten old, and they were all retiring. And I had it finally. I felt I needed some time away.”
Levy said that, a year or two later, he wondered whether he may have left too early. He later returned to the team, in his 80s, to serve as General Manager in 2006 and 2007.
As noted by Reiss, Belichick has 311 career victories, 13 behind George Halas and 36 behind Don Shula.
In March 2017, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that he hopes Belichick stays into his 80s, citing men like Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch, who continue to thrive well into their ninth decades
Maybe Belichick will stick around a lot longer. In April 2017, as he closed in on turning 65, Belichick said he’s “good for a while.” He separately acknowledge in 2019 that, as he moved even closer to 70, he’s less certain about packing it in.
Halas retired at 73 because of arthritis in his hip, which kept him from handling the physical aspects of the job. Said Halas at the time, “I supposed I began to realize this in one of our final games last season when I started rushing after the referee who was pacing off a penalty and it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t gaining on him. I began to wonder whether the officials were speeding up, or I was slowing down.”
Some have speculated that, if/when Belichick slows down, he eventually could become a V.P. of football operations, possibly with a sliver of equity, for another team. Coaches who take those jobs rarely thrive, however, because they remain coaches at heart. For Belichick, assuming a position atop the football food chain and resisting the urge to micromanage the folks cooking the meals would become the ultimate test of his “do your job” mantra.
So maybe he’ll just keep doing the job he’s doing for as long as he physically can do it.