Brady and Belichick – Who Made Who?

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Boston sports fans are never satisfied.  No matter how good of a season one of our team has, or how well one of our players performs, they find some flaw or issues that somehow diminishes the achievement.  For example, when the Red Sox won 108 games last season, naysayers claimed it was only because the rest of the league was down and provided weak opposition. 

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times

You would think the Patriots would be immune to this affliction.  After all, they have dominated the NFL for the past 18 years.  After playing in only two of the previous 25 Super Bowls, they have played in half of the last nine of the next eighteen.  In case you’re not good at math, that is half…HALF of the Super Bowls for nearly the last two decades.

All of this success has come with one head coach and one quarterback.  They each have not only re-written postseason records, they have demolished them and put them so far out of reach that it is likely they will never be matched in our lifetime.  But while each is recognized as the greatest of all time at their respective professions, there is one debate that has lingered.  Which one gets the credit?

Bill Belichick

Since becoming the Patriots Head Coach in 2000, Belichick has experienced only one losing season, which came in his first year.  Since then, he has won less than 10 games in a season only once, and has missed the playoffs in just two of 18 seasons.  In addition to taking the Patriots to a record nine Super Bowls as a head coach, he has also coached in three other Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator or assistant head coach.  Again, for those who are challenged by math, that means Belichick has coached in nearly one quarter of all Super Bowls played.

Belichick is known for his meticulous preparation and attention to detail.  It is unusual for a Patriot team to be embarrassed by an opponent, and in those rare instances when it does happen, the team has shown the ability to put it behind them and focus on the next opponent.  This is a credit to Belichick’s leadership. 

Belichick also has the ability to revise the team’s offensive and defensive approach each week to best fit the opponent.  He can identify a team’s strength offensively and take it away from them, while attacking a team’s weakness defensively.  The key to this is the buy-in of the players who must sacrifice their egos for the overall good of the team.  Not an easy feat in modern day professional sports, and a testament to the respect Belichick has earned.

There are those who claim that Belichick’s success would not have been realized if it weren’t for the presence of Tom Brady.  Belichick’s previous tenure as a head coach with the original Cleveland Browns was deemed as a mild failure, though the looming specter of the team’s move to Baltimore had a lot to do with the team’s demise.  The Patriots went only 5-11 in Belichick’s first season in 2000, and the team got off to an 0-2 start in 2001 before fate intervened and Mo Lewis blasted Drew Bledsoe into the hospital.  Enter Tom Brady, and the fortunes of Belichick and the Patriots’ franchise were changed forever.  Without the emergence of Brady, Belichick may not have survived the season.

Tom Brady

Shop for official New England Patriots fan gear and authentic collectibles at NFLShop.comThe list of Brady’s achievements is long and impressive.  He holds virtually all postseason records for a quarterback, thanks in large part to the fact that he has made it to more than double the number of Super Bowl appearances than any other quarterback.  He has played in more Super Bowls than Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana combined. 


Brady does not have the big arm or mobility of a Michael Vick, Cam Newton or Patrick Mahomes.  What he does possess is the ability to read defenses and switch out the play to one with a better chance of success.  For what he lacks in arm strength, he makes up for it with quick release and accuracy.

His greatest attribute of all?  The uncanny ability to rise to the occasion and engineer come from behind drives time and time again.  Brady can remain calm even in the biggest of moments, and he instills that same confidence in his teammates.  Brady has lead the Patriots to comeback wins in countless regular and postseason games, including all five of his six Super Bowl wins.  And let’s not forget that in the two Super Bowl losses to the Giants, Brady also lead a late touchdown drive to take the lead that the defense ultimately squandered.

The knock on Brady over the years has been that, because he lacks the pure athleticism and dynamic playmaking abilities, he is only a “system quarterback”.  The thinking is that any able QB can complete a short pass and let the receiver add on the yards after catch.  This line of thinking was reinforced when Brady missed virtually the entire 2008 season with an ACL injury, and Matt Cassell led the Patriots to an 11-5 record.  However, what has been forgotten about that season is it came the year after the Patriots 16-0 season in 2007, and despite returning with virtually the same team, the 2008 season was the only season since 2002 in which the Patriots did not make the playoffs.  The Patriots played a very weak schedule that season, and a late season four game winning streak was not enough to recover from a mediocre start.  

Who Made Who?

With all the above taken into consideration, was Belichick’s coaching the reason for Brady’s success, or was Belichick the beneficiary of the play of Brady?  Sorry Boston fans, but there is no right answer to this question.  The simple answer is…both, and neither. 

Timing is everything in life, and sports is the perfect example of that fact.  And in the instance of Belichick and Brady, each came to the other at the right time and in the right place.  

Belichick found a quarterback who was able to understand his coaching, execute his plan, and buy into the team first concept.  Brady came to a team with a coach who recognized what the quarterback was capable of doing, and instead of trying to mold that quarterback to fit a certain system, he changed his system to best fit the quarterback.

Had Mo Lewis not taken out Drew Bledsoe that fateful night in September 2001, Brady may never have gotten the chance to display his talents and could have been just another sixth draft round pick that never made it.  The Patriots may have continued to struggle under Belichick, and his tenure as the Patriots’ Head Coach may have been a footnote in history in the same manner as Dick McPherson and Ron Meyer.

Neither can be cited as the reason for the other’s success, because one without the other would not have been able to accomplish what they have achieved together.  


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Brady and Belichick – Who Made Who?
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