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James Harrison believes Bill Belichick is a better coach than Mike Tomlin — by far

James Harrison may have played 14 seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it only took him four games with the New England Patriots to be convinced Bill Belichick is a better coach than Mike Tomlin.

In an appearance on Fox Sports 1’s “Undisputed” on Thursday, Harrison was asked flat-out who’s better.

“Belichick,” he said.

James Harrison appeared in four Super Bowls in his 15 NFL seasons — three with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one with the New England Patriots. (Getty Images)

By far?

“To me,” said Harrison, “yes.”


The reason, according to Harrison: discipline and consistency. Belichick holds everybody accountable, from rookies to the veterans.

“Man, I’ve seen Tom Brady run into a meeting scared to be late,” he said.

“Mike Tomlin is good as a head coach,” the recently retired linebacker added. “He’s a players’ coach. I think he needs to be a little bit more disciplined. Other than that, the big thing with Belichick is he’s very regimented, he’s disciplined, everyone is going to be on the same page, there’s not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing. I think over there their whole coaching staff is like that. You’re going to know what your doing. There’s meetings after meetings. I’ve never been to so many meetings in my life, and I think that’s really what helped me pick up that defense so fast.”

James Harrison’s Steelers and Patriots experience

Harrison finished his career as Pittsburgh’s all-time sack leader, totaling 80.5 in a Steelers uniform. Having played 13 of his 14 NFL seasons in Pittsburgh — five under coach Bill Cowher and 10 for Tomlin — Harrison played only sparingly in the 2017 campaign and was waived with two games remaining.

The Patriots signed Harrison three days later. He recorded five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in his lone regular-season appearance in New England. Harrison’s playing time increased in the playoffs, culminating in a season-high 67 defensive snaps in the 41-33 Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He announced his retirement in early May, having won two titles in Pittsburgh.

Belichick owns a 7-2 head-to-head record against Tomlin, including the 2016 AFC championship win.

Harrison on Tom Brady: ‘He’s the ultimate teammate’

“I’m a Brady fan now,” said Harrison. “I’m not going to lie. I wanted to hate this dude.”

The Steelers and Patriots developed a heated rivalry, with Harrison and Brady serving as leaders on either end of it. Harrison remembered one season, probably 2004, when his Steelers beat the Patriots and Eagles in back-to-back weeks, only to have Brady hand them an AFC title-game whooping. He figured Brady must have cheated, before he realized how much the quarterback studies the game.

“They came back that year and hit us on 86 percent of our blitzes. He checked down and out of 86 percent. How do you do that? You can’t even do that on ‘Tecmo Bowl’ when you only got four plays,” he said. “He is a great quarterback. He reads. To be honest with you, I’ve never seen anybody with his study habits, his preparation. Literally, he’s filling up a whole notebook of notes with each game.”

Harrison, who turned 40 on May 4, believes the 40-year-old Brady has at least three years left in him. Brady suggested he wants to play until he’s 45. “If he’s healthy,” said Harrison, “45 is easy.”

Harrison doesn’t buy into the Brady-Belichick rift

Harrison arrived in New England having heard rumors of a rift between Brady and Belichick, and he was eager to find out for himself. In his short time with them, he found no evidence to support it.

“All these stories that come out, all this friction and stuff, I honestly believe that is made up,” he said. “[…] I get there, and I see nothing. They’re interacting, they’re talking. I don’t see any friction. I believe they just make up these stories to pull that team tighter and closer together. That’s really all it does.”

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!