How Bill Belichick became the latest piece in the Kirby Smart-Nick Saban rivalry
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Georgia football: Bill Belichick now a figure in the Kirby Smart-Nick Saban rivalry
Whether he knew it or not, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick became a piece in the ongoing rivalry between Kirby Smart and Alabama coach Nick Saban when Belichick praised the Georgia football program at Super Bowl media day.
“I think Kirby’s program is excellent to prepare guys for the National Football League,” Belichick said in Atlanta prior to the Patriots’ 13-3 Super Bowl win over the Rams. Belichick went on to say that Georgia players approach the game of football is consistent with how New England does.
This kind of praise became an easy selling point for the Georgia program. Here is the greatest football coach of all-time giving high praise to the Georgia program. Belichick also seems to practice what he preaches, given that he used both of his 2018 first round picks on Georgia players in Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel.
Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley told reporters at the NFL combine that Michel told him the Patriots practice in similar way to Georgia. Factor in that the Patriots’ starting center is Georgia football great David Andrews, and the ties between New England and Georgia are very strong.
You might be asking yourself what Saban and Alabama have to do with this. Well on Tuesday, Alabama held its pro day. Belichick was in attendance and donned an Alabama pullover. As a New England Patriots fan myself, it’s one of the worst images I’ve ever seen.
— Joe Giza (@JoeGiza) March 19, 2019
Saban and Belichick have a long-standing relationship, as Saban worked as Belichick’s defensive coordinator when the two were with the Cleveland Browns in the 1990’s. They’re also both very well-regarded defensive minds, and for the most part considered the best coaches in their respective sports.
What makes Belichick wearing the Alabama pullover so interesting though is that he didn’t return the favor when he showed up at Georgia’s pro day on Wednesday. The legendary coach wore in his usual Patriots gear.
Smart was asked about Belichick’s fashion choice and seemed to brush it off.
“I didn’t see him wearing an Alabama one,” Smart said. “No I didn’t notice that. I’m good with whatever Bill wants to wear. I think he’s pretty comfortable in his own shoes.”
We’ll probably never know why Belichick put on the Alabama pullover. Do I think there’s a non-zero chance Saban asked Belichick to wear it as a favor? Absolutely. Do I think Belichick really put much thought into what kind of message the pullover send? No. Would he have worn a Georgia one if Smart asked? Maybe. It’s worth remembering that Belichick’s most iconic fashion choice is wearing a hoodie with the sleeves cut off. He’s never really branded himself as a man who focuses a ton on his personal fashion.
But in reality, I’m not sure how much Belichick’s fashion or comments would actually do much to sway whether a recruit picks Alabama or Georgia. Belichick isn’t exactly a beloved figure by many, and there are a number of other reasons why a top recruit would pick either school. What Belichick says shouldn’t act as a deciding factor in any recruitment.
When Smart was asked about how pro day would possibly help in recruiting, he made it a point to say that pro day is a bigger priority with Georgia’s chances of putting guys in the NFL draft than using it as something to sell to recruits. The relationship with Belichick is far more important in that regard than it is in the recruiting sense.
As for where things stand between Smart and Saban, it depends on who you listen too. Last week, Paul Finebaum said the two “can’t stand each other.” But Smart rebuked that idea on Tuesday, saying things are still good between the two.
“I don’t have any issue or any problem with any relationship with Nick. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s done anything but grown for more respect since we’ve played them twice,” Smart said on Tuesday. “Every time I see Coach Saban, we have a great relationship. We’re not texting and calling each other buddy, buddy, but I’m not doing that with anybody. So that’s not to be of mention. I have a lot of respect for him. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, and there’s no problem with our relationship.”
The Smart-Saban budding rivalry or relationship figures to only get more entertaining as Smart becomes more entrenched with Georgia football, and further distances himself from the Alabama. The tug of war over Bill Belichick is just another example of that.
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