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Brady or Belichick? Neither.

This article is also available through Spotify, so feel free to listen to Jake's narration as you read along.

Most of the time when we talk about legendary duos, we do not question the impact of either individual. However, it is curious that when it comes to possibly the greatest duo of all time, we fail to appreciate their greatness as a duo. We may acknowledge their accolades, but we still choose sides when it comes to the debate. It is probably no secret that I am speaking of the Patriots dynasty and the two men that are largely responsible for the decade(s) of dominance in the NFL.

After two years at the University of Michigan, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. was picked 199th in the 2000 NFL draft. It would not be crazy if a player picked that late turned out to be a decent player but drafting the best quarterback of all time at 199th has got to be the most impressive draft pick ever. The guy who made that draft pick must have been a genius…After missing the playoffs twice in a row with Drew Bledsoe, Brady’s brilliance on the field gave New England fans hope and the opportunity to praise Belichick for making a franchise-renewing draft pick.

Brady or Belichick has always been a hot topic around the world of sports, but recently it has caught fire as the duo separated after almost twenty years together. This fission left Bill with a depleted Patriots team and a 7-9 record…Meanwhile Brady took his talents to what was formerly known as Tampa Bay and took one of the worst franchises in major league sports to the super bowl and won in his first year with the team. One of the greatest athletes of all time or one of the greatest coaches of all time, who was the catalyst for the dynasty?

I could talk about the incredible statistics of either individual’s career, but the problem is that most of the things they have accomplished were done together when Brady was coached by Belichick. To appropriately assess their greatness, I believe the intangibles of their careers must be assessed. There are many anecdotes about Brady’s competitiveness from his illustrious career…

  • Letting teammates know that Drew Bledsoe would not get his job back

  • Refuses to let backups get reps in practice

  • Gave inspiring speech to teammates to win charity game against firefighters

  • Refuses to sign photos if his mechanics are off

  • Gives the silent treatment to players that pick him off in practice

Beyond Brady’s competitive nature, the Patriot’s dynasty is characterized by “The Patriot way”. The phrase was coined by the media to describe the no nonsense nature of Belichick’s coaching style, which Brady not only adapted but ran with. He changed his entire lifestyle to model the rigidity of Belichick’s coaching style, this became known as the TB12 method.

The method was developed by Brady with his close friend and body coach Alex Guerrero. The theory is centered around the notion that “for good health and prolonged athletic performance, we need our muscles to be ‘pliable’” (Reynolds, 2017). Brady and Guerrero developed a nutrition plan and exercise routine based upon this principle to prolong his career and to share with others. If playing quarterback at a high level for 20 seasons does not prove its effectiveness, maybe winning a super bowl at 43 will.

Obviously, winning the Super Bowl without Belichick is an achievement that tilts the scale in Brady’s direction. However, one may counter by pointing out that Brady was able to do so by recruiting an all star cast to play with him. Every Buccaneer that scored a touchdown in the super bowl was recruited by Brady (Gronk, AB, and Playoff Lenny). How did he get these guys to buy-in so easily? Being an incredible leader with 6 super bowl rings might have helped him. We must remain curious though, as we must consider how Brady achieved these things.

Is the quality of leadership taught or is it innate? That is a debate for a different website, but I am sure no one would argue that Belichick’s formality and ability to influence others rubbed off on Tom. His coaching style has become notorious among the sports world. Working his way up from a special assistant on the Baltimore Colts to the head coach and general manager on the New England Patriots with positional coaching and defensive coordinator positions sprinkled in between. As his talents as a coach became more apparent to the public, his no-bullshit attitude started to be highlighted as a reason for his success as well as his hard shell.

From our point of view Belichick uses his typical one liners to keep the media at bay, “It is what it is.” “The past is the past.” “Stats are for losers”, and the most famous “We’re on to Cincinnati,” (Posnanski). An attitude like this comes off as harsh, but there is no way to know how Belichick is during practice other than player accounts. Here are a few that I believe highlight his effective coaching style:

Rosevelt Colvin: "…he could be on another field and come running over because he saw that the key guy on a kickoff return missed his block."

"The dude's a walking football encyclopedia… I tell people all the time, if you ever had a conversation with him about football it would be one of the greatest conversations you ever had in your whole life."

Aqib Talib: "Once, in practice, Brady threw a seam ball that was intercepted, and Bill, man, he chewed Tom out, saying, 'You got 130 career interceptions,' or whatever it was, 'and half of them are on this route. You keep doing the same s--- over and over and this is what happens.’…”

Belichick brings the same attitude to practice that he presents to the media, but instead of resenting him like the media does most players are motivated by his methods. Chewing out Brady, not favoring one side of the ball, and attention to detail all support the notions that no one is special, and it takes a whole team to win a football game. Recently he has been defamed for his “poor” record without Brady but winning 7 games is pretty impressive with 8 relevant opt-outs and a quarterback who cannot throw. Belichick has also been criticized for his poor drafting skills, but his famous attitude, coaching style, and subtle charisma are key reasons as to why he is able to not only get his players to outperform their skill level, but also recruit players that others may shy away from. Sometimes this does not work out so well (Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown). However, the best example of his recruitment is without question, Randy Moss.

The star wideout was blackballed by teams for his famous, “I play when I want to play” (Wesseling, 2018). Belichick stole him for a 4th round pick, he almost acquired him for a 6th round pick until former Raiders owner Al Davis stepped in and raised the price. Although Moss may not have aided in a super bowl victory, he helped the Patriots reach super bowl XLII after an undefeated season with nearly 1500 yards and 23 touchdowns. I think any executive in football would take this kind of production in exchange for a 4th round pick.

Before you say that Brady was the reason that “Tompa Bay” became an island for misfit toys, it was Belichick that taught Tom how to recruit. Before you say that Brady’s discipline and authority was the reason the notoriously mistake-prone Buccaneers bought in to his competitiveness and specificity, remember who Brady was coached by for 20 years. In no way am I saying that Belichick is responsible for Brady’s greatness. Brady would not be the player he is today without Belichick and Belichick would not have gained this much respect as a coach without having a player as great as Brady to lead the team.

Who mattered more to the Patriots Dynasty? The easy answer may be to say that they were both responsible, but the truth is it was neither of them… As each individual’s greatness grew, Foxboro became too small for both of their egos to coexist. This divide started long before the media noticed, but who was able to keep it quiet and keep the duo together? Mr. Cheddar himself, Robert Kraft. Jeff Benedict, author of The Dynasty, talked about Kraft’s mediation between Brady and Belichick in an interview with

He has to have a different relationship with (Belichick and Brady). In Brady’s case, Brady wants approval and appreciation, like any player — but maybe to a greater level with Tom. And he’s not getting that from the coach. That’s not the kind of coach that Bill is. Robert fills that, and not just because he knows it has to be done for practical reasons, but he actually looks at Tom that way — like a fifth son…Then in Foxboro, he gets to go into dark rooms with Bill Belichick and study film and basically learn from the master.’ That’s the trinity here. Kraft has the familial relationship with Tom, and with Bill it’s different. His nimbleness and ability to have those relationships is what stretches the Brady and Belichick relationship further than where it could’ve gone on its own. (Reimer, 2020).

Brady and Belichick were reliant on each other for their success. Although Brady reached the pinnacle for the 7th time, this time without Belichick, his greatness was not bred but sharpened by Belichick. There is no question that Belichick is a great coach, but without the perfect prophet to preach his gospel does he still win 6 rings? Although there are comparisons between the regimented styles of these individuals, the divide was created by Belichick’s failure to acknowledge Brady as special. Kraft was there to praise Tom. The friction was also fueled by Brady’s insane desire to be best and not settling for anything less from Belichick. Kraft was there to encourage Belichick’s ideology. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Without Belichick there is no Brady, but without Brady there is no Belichick. Without Robert Kraft there is no Patriots Dynasty.