When Bill Belichick jogged across Qwest Field following one of the Patriots' more satisfying victories of the season this past Sunday, it was fitting that he was heading in the direction of Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.
He'd been approaching Holmgren for some time now.
Registering his 150th career head coaching victory, Belichick joined Holmgren as one of just 17 NFL sideline bosses to reach that milestone.
Accounting for his five seasons in Cleveland from 1991-95 and the past nine in New England, Belichick is now 150-90 as a head coach (regular season and playoffs included).
His .625 winning percentage ranks fifth among coaches with at least 150 wins, behind George Halas (324-151-31, .682), Don Shula (347-173-6, .666), Curly Lambeau (229-134-22, .631), and Joe Gibbs (171-101, .629).
As for Belichick's reaction to joining the 150 Club, he took stock of members of his new fraternity and said it was flattering, yet made it clear that players win games and that he simply coaches them.
"Never did I think about seeing my name on a list with these legendary coaches," he said. "It is very humbling and I appreciate everyone who helped win those games. Hopefully there will be another one this week."
While the importance of players cannot be understated, the role of coaching in football has perhaps never been greater in a league where the goal is to make all teams even.
How else to explain why as many as 10 teams could be making changes at the head coaching spot this offseason? How else to explain dramatic turnarounds in places like Miami, Baltimore, and Atlanta, where new coaches have created a winning culture with teams that were doormats last year?
The Patriots' injury-ravaged campaign has highlighted Belichick's excellence and put to rest one of the more topical but misguided early-season story lines: Would he be a winning coach without Tom Brady as his starting quarterback?
Those asking the question seemed to forget that Belichick's sub-.500 record without Brady included a final year in Cleveland (5-11) that was torpedoed when owner Art Modell announced the team was moving to Baltimore. Furthermore, his 5-11 record in 2000 came in his first year as Patriots coach, when the pieces were being put in place under tight salary cap conditions.
Maybe this season will draw everyone to a more realistic meeting point when it comes to Belichick: He isn't the run-of-the-mill coach some perceived him to be without Brady, and at the same time, he isn't the genius that some trumpeted him to be when the Patriots were winning three of four Super Bowls from 2001-04.
Simply put, he's one of the top coaches in the game, which he's proven over time, in a variety of situations.
"For Bill to reach 150, that's a great accomplishment when you look at how many years he's been a head coach," said Dan Reeves, who is one of the 17 coaches in the 150-win club (201-174-2). "I always felt that if you could get 10 wins each season, that's a good job. Then you look at what he's doing this year, given all the injuries, and it's just some great coaching, maybe his best."
Reeves's point is that not many teams that lose their starting quarterback - not to mention the reigning NFL MVP - on the 15th offensive play of the year would be in this situation. Furthermore, not many teams that placed 14 players on season-ending injured reserve would still be in the playoff hunt.
A total of 60 players have appeared in at least one game for the Patriots this season. Considering that NFL rosters have 53 players, and only 45 can be active on game day, Belichick and his staff have had their hands full.
"I've said for years that Bill is probably one of the best coaches in the league," said linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, who rejoined the Patriots last Wednesday as an emergency replacement.
"I've been able to experience a couple different systems, and been on teams where you've had injuries and there's a decline, a drop-off. But when you're able to plug different guys in and continue to go out and be successful in all phases is definitely a tribute, not just to the players, but the coaches as they continue to draw up schemes and put players in position to make plays."
Reeves believes Belichick might be the best coach in the history of the game when it comes to that aspect - putting players in position to succeed and making the proper adjustments. At the same time, Reeves emphasized that, in the end, it comes back to the players delivering in those key moments.
A foundation of Belichick's approach is consistency, through good times and bad, and this season has been filled with more bad when it comes to the injury department.
But the coach has plowed ahead, undeterred, and his players respond to his leadership style.
It's an approach that has served Belichick well, leading him to the lofty perch on which he now resides: the 150-win club, with some of the game's all-time great coaches.