Bill Belichick has called Tom Brady the greatest football player of all time. He practically worships Lawrence Taylor, the dominant outside linebacker he coached with the New York Giants.
On Monday, Belichick put one current New England Patriots player on the same level as both of those NFL icons.
In explaining the Patriots’ decision to re-sign longtime team captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater, Belichick said the latter is to special teams what Brady and Taylor are to their respective sides of the ball.
“I feel very fortunate to have coached two of the best at the position that have ever played,” the Patriots head coach told reporters at the NFL Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. “Certainly Matt Slater would go up there in the kicking game with Brady on offense and Taylor on defense. So I feel very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach all of the players, but I’d say those three in particular.”
Slater, now entering his 15th season with New England, is considered one of the greatest special teamers in NFL history, representing the AFC in 10 of the last 11 Pro Bowls. He’s also earned two first-team All-Pro selections and three second-team nods in addition to his three Super Bowl championships.
“I wasn’t going to go anywhere else,” the 36-year-old said after re-signing.
McCourty isn’t as decorated (two Pro Bowls, three second-team All-Pros) but has been a key cog in three Super Bowl-winning defenses, starting all but five games since he joined the Patriots as a first-round draft pick in 2010.
The Patriots prioritized retaining many of their veteran leaders in the early days of free agency, also re-upping running back James White and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
“It’s great to have Devin back, great to have Matt back,” Belichick said. “I’m glad we were able to work things out. Those are two fantastic people as well as players. They mean a lot to the organization. They’re great role models and great players.”