We know what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick accomplished in their 20 years together with the New England Patriots. If I have to give you the details, you are probably on the wrong website.
Now that their unprecedented run is over, the stakes will be higher for each to either diminish, cement or enhance their legacies.
Brady is the greatest quarterback of the Super Bowl Era. But, comparing him to Otto Graham and Johnny Unitas is nearly impossible. Belichick is the most accomplished coach of the Super Bowl Era. However, comparing him to Paul Brown and Vince Lombardi is also impossible.
The Brady-Belichick combo is looked upon as the ultimate case of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
While Brady has played for only one coach in his career, we have seen Belichick without Brady. In seven total seasons, five in Cleveland and two-plus in New England, Belichick amassed a 54-63 record in the regular season and a 1-1 ledger in the postseason. With Brady, Belichick went 219-64 in the regular and 30-11 in the postseason.
Five of those less-than-impressive seasons in Cleveland did come 25-30 years ago. Obviously, “The Hoodie” has evolved as a talent evaluator and coach.
Both Brady and Belichick will experience life without each other for the next two to three seasons. How they fare alone will be the final and possibly determinative chapter of their respective stories.
If Brady fails and Belichick succeeds, the Brady haters will say he is a “system quarterback”.
If Brady prospers in Tampa and Belichick misses the playoffs, the narrative will be Belichick can’t win without TB12.
If you are old enough to remember, Boston sports fans had this debate over 50 years ago.
In 11 seasons with the Celtics, Bill Russell and Red Auerbach won 9 NBA Championships together. After Auerbach retired as a coach, Russell won the next two championships as player-coach. Russell remains the greatest winner in North American Sports history. Two NCAA titles, an Olympic Gold Medal, 11 NBA Titles in 13 seasons, the last two as player-coach. By the way, Russell was the general manager who put together the 1979 champion Seattle SuperSonics. His legacy was enhanced after Auerbach stepped down as coach.
Auerbach did remain as Russell’s general manger for those titles in 1968 and 1969. Red was also the general manager for five more championship teams. His legacy was also heightened after he retired his coaching whistle.
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Imagine if Brady wins a Super Bowl or two with the Buccaneers while Belichick orchestrates a few more Super Bowls as coach and/or General Manager. They then would retire the title of being the GOAT of their sport. All-time, not just the Super Bowl Era.
Look at other all-time player-coach combos. Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson. Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich.
Jordan never won a title without Jackson. Jackson went on to win five titles without Jordan. Although, it is tough to give Jackson full credit since he went from Jordan-Pippen to Shaq-Kobe. Life was certainly beautiful for the Zen Master.
Duncan and Popovich is the most similar to Brady-Belichick. Since Duncan retired the Spurs have gone from 61 to 47 to 48 wins. San Antonio sits at 27-36 this season and is headed for their first non-playoff season since 1997. The difference between that comp is both Brady and Belichick remain, no longer in tandem.
While their greatness is unquestioned, both Brady and Belichick do have a lot to prove this season. If one fails while the other succeeds then their legacies will be changed.
Whether you are “Team Tom” or “In Bill We Trust”, the ride should be fascinating.
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