It is basically impossible to argue that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are not the greatest quarterback-head coach tandem in NFL history. In their 20 seasons together, the two reached nine Super Bowls, raised six Lombardi Trophies, captured 17 AFC East titles, won 30 playoff games and accumulated 219 regular season wins.
It is the most dominant run in sports history. Especially considering how the league is set up to deter dynasties. The NFL’s focus on creating parity through free agency, the salary cap and the draft has made it difficult for organizations to consistently be great, and yet the Patriots were a Super Bowl contender every single year.
On the field, teams tend to notice which franchise is tearing up the rest of the league. New England got every team’s best shot each time they took the field. Brady and Belichick knew what it took to win every year and embraced the challenges that came with that goal.
The most impressive aspect of Brady and Belichick’s reign was their ability to squeeze every last drop of talent out of the roster. Many years, Brady and Belichick made deep playoff runs with subpar offensive or defensive units.
The NFL will certainly not see a run of sustained excellence like the Brady-Belichick Patriots again. The greatest quarterback ever and the greatest head coach ever have a combined legacy that will endure throughout NFL history. However, their time together is now officially that. History.
Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two years and $50 million, guaranteed last Friday. The deal was reached after Brady announced a few days after Brady tweeted that would not be re-signing with the Patriots.
Throughout their time together in New England, many fans and media members have debated who was more responsible for the Patriots dynasty — Brady or Belichick?
Those who argue for Belichick cite how much success he had in the NFL before Brady came along, especially when he was a part of the New York Giants. They mention that Belichick puts every player, Brady included, in the best position to win as the team’s head coach and general manager. They believe a good head coach is more critical to a NFL team than the players because play calling and schemes are so crucial.
Others, such as myself, argue Brady has been more vital during this stretch. I believe Brady’s play covered up many mistakes Belichick made as both the coach and general manager. Belichick can design the greatest game plan ever, but it becomes moot if Brady fails to deliver accurate throws. While football coaches are incredibly important, the players on the field, especially the quarterbacks, determine who wins the games.
As interesting and entertaining as this argument was for two decades, many fans did not care about the answer. They just wanted the Patriots to win and did not put stock into who was more responsible. And besides, it was impossible to prove. That is, until now.
Once Brady and Belichick put forth at least one season apart from each other, this debate will be easier to answer. While Brady and Belichick had nothing left to accomplish together, both of them have something to prove now.
Their legacies will be affected if either one of them thrives or struggles in their new situation. If Brady has a bad season in Tampa Bay, especially with quite a few talented weapons and an offensive-minded head coach, many will argue Brady really was just a “system quarterback” in New England and was a product of Belichick’s genius. However, If Brady and the Buccaneers have a successful year, his defenders will claim Brady can be productive under any circumstance and Belichick was lucky to have him during that run.
On the other hand, if Belichick puts forth a lousy season, Brady’s supporters will argue he was the main reason the Patriots were so good for so long. But if Belichick creates a winning year in New England with Jarrett Stidham or another quarterback, Belichick’s fans will debate that he can win with anyone taking the snaps.
Whatever way the rest of their careers shape out, both of them have to be looking forward to this challenge. These are incredibly competitive men who are consumed by winning. It was clear there was growing tension between the two after Belichick drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014. Brady’s career was rejuvenated after seeing a dip in production the years before Garoppolo was selected. Belichick thought he found Brady’s replacement until Brady somehow got better. Then this offseason arrived and it became clear the two sides were ready to move on from each other.
It will be fascinating to see how Brady and Belichick perform after their separation. They both will be especially motivated to finish their career strong and leave no doubt they can excel without the other. While their greatness will never be questioned, this offseason’s events could change their legacies.