COACH OF THE YEAR

Patriots' Belichick is overwhelming choice

New England's coach leads team to win their final 12 games.


Published: Sunday, January 4, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 4, 2004 at 12:28 a.m.

Bill Belichick owns three Super Bowl titles, and after leading the New England Patriots in his best coaching job, he was honored Saturday 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.

``I am honored to accept this award as recognition of the tremendous work of our entire coaching staff, personnel department and Mr. Kraft,'' Belichick said. ``Coaching is always a collective effort that depends on the assistant coaches' preparation and direction and the players' performance on the field. More than anything, it was the players' exceptional resiliency, toughness and execution under pressure that allowed us to have a successful regular season.''

The Patriots succeeded with a variety of starting lineups, unusual for a championship- caliber team.

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