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It has finally come out. Bill Belichick’s salary has been made public. Forbes Magazine recently released an article exposing the top 10 coaching salaries in American sports. Belichick’s salary ranks second among active coaches at $7.5 million per year behind Phil Jackson’s ridiculous $10.3 million annual salary. And with questions over Jackson’s future as a coach, being a contract year for him with the Lakers, a retirement or even a pay cut to stay in Los Angeles could make Bill Belichick the highest paid coach in American sports.
Before the mystery was exposed, we all figured Belichick’s paychecks were relatively large, seeing as Bob Kraft didn’t want anyone to know what he was paying him. But it may sound a little surprising to hear that Belichick is ranked that high. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2005, and was the head coach of the 2007/08 team that suffered the biggest upset loss in Super Bowl history. You would think some of this would have come into consideration when the Patriots signed him to his lucrative extension in 2007. Jackson, on the other hand, just won his 10th career NBA title last season and is currently in the running for his third consecutive Western Conference Championship.
But, the common argument that Jackson owes some of his success to the talent at his disposal (Jordan, Shaq, and Kobe all in the prime of their careers) justifies Belichick’s salary upgrade in 2007. After suffering through a sub-par stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Belichick has turned a sixth round pick from Michigan into “Tom Brady: Future Hall-of-Famer,” and turned an obscure team with a shabby stadium in Foxboro into a dynasty with three Lombardi trophies in four years. Belichick even adjusted to the famous Brady knee injury in the first quarter of his team’s best potential season, and went on to turn perennial bench-warmer Matt Cassel into a franchise quarterback. Then, once Brady was healthy again the next season, he got his team a high second-round draft pick out of the Chiefs in exchange for Cassel. Oh, and that season that essentially ended with Brady’s injury was salvaged behind Belichick into an 11-5 season, only missing the playoffs by a technicality.
Belichick seems even more deserving when considering some of the other guys listed in Forbes‘ top 10 highest paid coaches. The New York Knicks paid coach Mike D’Antoni $6 million for a 29-53 record this season after the Phoenix Suns fired him last year. That’s the same contract as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (four NBA titles this decade) and current Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson (all time NBA victory leader). It has been said that the Knicks made the move to sign D’Antoni in an attempt to attract Lebron James in free agency, along with the many other elite free agents this summer. But if they strikeout in free agency that contract for their coach seems to be a losing bet. Even so, the strategy doesn’t make much sense. With free agents like Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dirk Nowitzki all putting winning a championship at the top of their priority lists, why would any of them be interested in a coach who got fired by a team that is currently doing better without him?
And then there’s Mike Shanahan, who is admittedly a great coach and a probable Hall-of-Fame inductee, but hasn’t done much in the NFL to deserve the $7 million contract the desperate Redskins gave him before this season. Shanahan was out of football last year after the Broncos fired him in 2008. He had missed the playoffs in his last three seasons in Denver, including the 2008 collapse that blew a division lead and may have cost Shanahan his job, and he hasn’t finished a season with a winning record since 2006.
The Redskins have showed recent trends similar to their big offer for the unemployed Mike Shanahan, like Albert Haynesworth’s $100 million deal and DeAngelo Hall’s $55 million contract, but neither deal has really paid off. Haynesworth has been criticized while in Washington for his disappointing first season under a monster contract. Playing in only 12 games in 2009, Haynesworth only had 37 tackles and 4 sacks, and is currently involved in a potential holdout controversy. The Redskins are financially rolling the dice again, and this time on their head coach. And Mike Shanahan will be earning just half-a-million less than Bill Belichick next year, and $1.5 million more than Doc Rivers next year, who rounds out the bottom of Forbes‘ top 10 list even though he has more recent success than others like the Bobcats’ Larry Brown or the Titans’ Jeff Fisher.
After thinking about it, the large investment in place to kep Belichick in Foxboro is one of the smartest investments New England has made recently. And, if he can bring the Patriots back to glory, and win his first title since receiving his extension, that investment will pay for itself.