And so the debate rages on this week ahead of Super Bowl LV. Namely, who was most responsible for the Patriots unprecedented run of success that started at the beginning of this century: Bill Belichick or Tom Brady? The talking heads in the media would have you believe that Brady has taken a solid lead in the discussion by leading the once-laughingstock Tampa Bay Bucs to the final game, while Belichick was unable to coach his team to a winning record, let alone a spot in the playoffs. Moreover, there are those in the media espousing the narrative that Belichick needs to make an earth-shattering signing or two in the offseason in response to the success Brady has had without him. To be fair, it’s not only the media that has been trolling Belichick.
Once Brady left the Patriots, that the question would be raised was inevitable, and it makes for an entertaining debate amongst sports fans. But, like many such debates, there’s never going to be a clear-cut answer. It’s like comparing similar athletes from two different eras. Who was better? Ty Cobb or Rickey Henderson? Johnny Unitas or Peyton Manning? And the classic one: Michael Jordan or LeBron James? Even if enjoyable, these debates lead nowhere.
In this case, how can you compare a head coach to a quarterback? Comparing, say, Brady to Manning makes much more sense because they competed against one another, and they played the same position. Even then, many people would argue that Manning was better despite the fact that Brady simply dominated the rivalry going 11-6 in head-to-head matchups.
Breaking Down Brady vs Belichick
For the sake of argument, is Brady really “winning” this debate of Brady vs Belichick? In the media, he is. One could also certainly argue that he’s winning it on the field too. Again, though, it’s hard to compare two teams that were already headed in opposite directions even before Brady left the Pats. New England was embarrassed in last year’s playoffs and then they had a few notable opt-outs due to the pandemic. Not to mention, Julian Edelman was a shadow of himself before landing on the injured reserve. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, already had two excellent young wideouts, and then they added Rob Gronkowski and, later, Antonio Brown.
The larger and more answerable question is, will the legacy of either man be tarnished? The guess here is no. The call on Brady is easy. At this point, he can only improve on his legacy. If he wins the Super Bowl, it will be one of the most impressive accomplishments of his distinguished career, surpassed perhaps only by his first Super Bowl victory when his Patriots were 14-point underdogs to the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
If Brady loses, and even if the Bucs get blown out, getting to the championship will still be considered an upgrade on his resume. If he never plays another game, or even if he is horrible next year and then retires, he will still go down as the consensus GOAT (although, of course, there will always be haters who disagree out there.)
For Belichick, the Brady vs Belichick question is a little more complex. If he is not able to resurrect the franchise and go back to the playoffs before he retires, his perceived inability to win without Brady will remain a stain on his record. The truth is, he has won without the GOAT. In 2008, the Pats went 11-5 with journeyman quarterback Matt Cassel after Brady went down in Week 1. As head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he also beat Drew Bledsoe’s Patriots in the playoffs. But detractors will always say he never won a Super Bowl without Brady. In fact, as the defensive coordinator of the Giants in Super Bowl XXV, he was considered one of the heroes for crafting a scheme to slow down a star-studded Buffalo Bills offense. Even if he never has another winning season, he’ll still go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and be regarded by many as the greatest pro football coach ever.
Brady vs Belichick will continue to be debated until both retire. In the long run, though, it will be but a footnote on the Wikipedia page of each man. Both will go in the Hall and likely each will give speeches about the other.
By: Peter Mooney CruelFan.com