- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN.com continued its in-depth ranking of all-time NFL coaches Wednesday, and No. 7 on the list is New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
While a No. 7 ranking is definitely solid -- especially when Belichick is ranked ahead of other greats such as Tom Landry, Joe Gibbs and his mentor Bill Parcells -- it's hard not to avoid the elephant in the room.
Would Belichick be rated higher if not for Sypgate?
There are some who believe Belichick is among the top five coaches of all-time. He won three Super Bowls in four years with the Patriots, which represents the last modern dynasty in the NFL. Belichick also qualified for two additional Super Bowls, and both were close losses to the New York Giants. Belichick is establishing a consistency at a time when free agency is rampant, player contracts and egos are high, and it’s extremely tough to keep teams together for more than three or four years. Most coaches on ESPN.com's top 20 list did not have to work under today's circumstances.
But despite five Super Bowl appearances and three championships as head coach in New England, Spygate remains an ugly part of Belichick’s legacy. The illegal videotaping scandal resulted in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fining Belichick $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and cost New England its 2008 first-round pick. It’s also something that has followed Belichick and the Patriots since and still has an impact on their reputation today.
The most prevalent thing you hear from critics of the Patriots and Belichick is they've never won a title after Spygate. That is 100-percent correct. But New England remains very successful.
The best thing Belichick can do for his legacy and ranking among all-time coaches is win one more title, post-Spygate, before he retires. A fourth title could put the controversy to bed and catapult Belichick into the elite of the elite among NFL coaches.