Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Two NFL titans that will forever be linked.
Belichick, one of the greatest coaches to ever patrol the sidelines, is four days removed from celebrating his NFL record sixth Super Bowl title as a head coach, after leading the New England Patriots to a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. He is also the first coach, head coach or assistant, to win eight Super Bowls.
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Brady has been Belichick’s championship quarterback through it all, becoming the only player in history to win six Super Bowls when he raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy once again on Sunday night.
Where would one be without the other? Would the Patriots be the same dominant force if they had never drafted Brady in the sixth round, 199th overall, in 2000? Would New England be the greatest dynasty the NFL has seen since the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s if Belichick never bolted after just one day as head coach of the New York Jets?
It’s a debate that doesn’t have a clear answer, ever after all these years.
Brady was named New England’s starting quarterback in 2001 and he and the Patriots became a Cinderella story that year, en route to winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl. The team has missed the playoffs just twice in the Brady era: in 2002, when the post-Super Bowl blues limited the team to a 9-7 record; and in 2008, when Brady suffered a season ending injury in the first game of the season and backup Matt Cassel guided the club to an 11-5 record. To this day, the ’08 Pats are the only team in history to win 11 games and fail to make the playoffs.
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Prior to Brady’s arrival as New England’s starting QB, Belichick’s Patriots were a 5-11 outfit in 2000 with Drew Bledsoe under centre. But again, without ‘Tom Terrific’ in 2008, the Pats were 11-5.
I think it’s fair to say that the Patriots would not be six-time Super Bowl champions if they did not have Belichick or Brady, and especially not both.
NFL teams have also found that plucking assistant coaches from Belichick’s staff doesn’t guarantee a championship-calibre team, or in many cases, even a competitive one. Of the nine head coaches (not including Flores because he hasn’t coached a game yet) who have come from Belichick’s coaching tree, only three have a winning record. All together, they are 182-249, a .422 winning percentage.
Al Groh (a 9-7 record with the New York Jets) in 2000 – a year after Belichick stiffed the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets – Mike Vrabel (9-7 with Tennessee in 2018) and Bill O’Brien (42-38 with Houston from 2014 to present) are the only former Belichick assistants who have winning records as a head coach in the NFL.
The others — Matt Patricia (6-10 with Detroit in 2018), Eric Mangini (33-47 with the Jets and Cleveland between 2006 and 2010), Nick Saban (15-17 with Miami in 2005-06), Josh McDaniels (11-17 with Denver in 2009-10), Romeo Crennel (28-55 with Cleveland in 2005-08, and Kansas City in 2011-12) and Jim Schwartz (29-51 with Detroit from 2009-13) — are sub-.500.
If these guys had Brady at quarterback, perhaps they’d be six time world champions. We’ll never know.
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