TAMPA, Fla. – Without Bill Belichick, Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl and is on pace to throw a career-high 53 touchdown passes at age 44.
Without Brady under center, Belichick is 63-75 on his career, including 8-11 as the future Hall of Fame quarterback leaves New England for Tampa Bay.
Brady vs Belichick? The numbers don’t lie, but it’s not that simple.
The final NFL grudge match takes center stage Sunday night when Brady returns with the Buccaneers (2-1) to face the Patriots (1-2) for the first time.
For many, the Brady vs. Belichick debate ended when the No. 12 led the Buccaneers to a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and earned their fifth Super Bowl MVP award last February. Brady’s success in Tampa and Belichick’s struggles since the Goat left Patriot Place prove that the quarterback was more valuable than the coach. It is clear that the Patriots would not have won six Super Bowl titles without Brady.
Former Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel said Belichick is “just another coach” without Brady.
However, it would be fair to say that Brady would not have earned six rings in New England without Belichick. He drafted Brady in the sixth round with the 199th overall pick and built a dynasty around him led by a tenacious defense that helped him immensely during his two decades.
The Patriots won their first Super Bowl as their defense stopped Kurt Warner and the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams. The defense did it again in Brady and Belichick’s final championship season against Sean McVay’s Rams.
Of course, Brady led the offense on a winning drive in the final minutes of that first one and a late clinching drive in the fourth quarter of the last.
When Brady threw for 505 yards to lose the Super Bowl to Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles, Belichick’s defense was no show. That defense needed Brady to bail them out in a stunning 34-28 overtime win over Atlanta a year earlier.
“I will never take anything away from what Brady has done in his career. The greatest athlete to ever play any sport in my opinion, and obviously, the greatest football player,” said the former Patriots, New England debutante. Championship team member Jermaine Wiggins. “But for me I look at Bill, and what Bill has done for this organization, it’s about drafting people and getting people here and giving people opportunities. And he gave Brady that opportunity. Tom Brady, a lot of stuff he knows now and I think what you see in Tampa, Brady has taken everything that Bill taught him and is now implemented in Tampa – buy ’em down to receive.
So, Brady vs. Belichick depends on the question.
Who needed the other more? The best answer may be that they need each other.
Belichick’s strategy, attention to detail, and emphasis on discipline were important. Brady’s talent, drive and work ethic made victory possible. Brady needed Belichick more in his 20s than he did in his late 30s and now in his 40s. He thrives in the crime of Bruce Arion surrounded by excellent playwrights in skill positions.
“Well, I’ve had 20 years to be there and obviously he’s a great mentor to me,” Brady said on his SiriusXM podcast this week. “And, yes, of course I’ve learned a lot of good lessons from him. He’s a great football coach and he does a great job for his team. Any player I think they’d expect is just that. Give them everything they’ve got, and I’m sure every great coach wants every player to give them everything they’ve got. And I think that’s what makes for a great relationship.”
Which is more important to the success of the team? Brady hoisted another Vince Lombardi trophy and tossed it from boat to boat in his first season since leaving New England. Belichick doesn’t even have a winning record with all other QBs.
“Tom had an incredible career. There are not enough exaggerations and adjectives to compliment him on what he has achieved and continues to achieve,” Belichick said. “It is incredibly impressive. Nothing surprised me Tom. He is a great player. Hard Labour. Takes care of himself He has thought of playing till the age of 50 and if someone can do it, he probably can.”
Brady and Belichick know each other better than anyone, which makes the X and O of their matchups as interesting as the emotional side angles.
No wonder both men nailed it.
“I think everyone you play with, other coaches, other players has a little bit of it,” the coach said. “Of course Tom has a deep knowledge of everything that we do here, more than any other player in the league ever. So, I’m sure he’ll use that to his advantage. I’d expect him to I don’t think it would be in our best interest to go out there and do everything differently than we have done all year. What we need to do is keep doing the things we do and make them better. This will help us more than anything else.”
Brady said: “I’m excited to play a football game … and try to get back on track to win. And I know it’s against a team I played for 20 years, and I know It’s against a very quality team and a great organization and a great franchise, but I’m going to do whatever I can to keep it as normal.”
No matter what they say publicly, this is not just another football game.
(Fixes Belichick’s career record without Brady)
AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen and Kyle Hightower contributed.