Over the last few days more than one media personality in Boston shared a statistic on social media comparing Tom Brady’s record with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Bill Belichick’s record without the future Hall of Fame quarterback to Rex Ryan during his time with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. The apparent goal of doing that was to knock Belichick’s accomplishments and — most importantly — create debate (i.e. clicks).
Such a black-and-white exercise obviously lacks proper contextualization, and therefore should not be regarded as an indictment one way or the other. However, it creates a natural follow-up thought: What if Belichick is not as great as he appeared to be when Tom Brady was still around?
Based on the New England Patriots’ 2020 season one could attempt to make that argument based on record alone. The Patriots are currently 6-8 and will miss the playoffs for the first time since the Brady-less 2008 season, while Brady himself has led the Buccaneers to a 10-5 record so far.
However, it seems as if the old “In Bill We Trust” motto is still going strong among the New England fan base — regardless of some anti-Belichick sentiments on social media.
As SB Nation’s latest Reacts survey illustrates, a vast majority of Patriots fans still trusts Belichick to build a winning team. Participants were asked whether they believed the long-time head coach and general manager would be able to create a playoff-caliber team for the 2021 season, and 93 percent answered the questions with “yes” (which leaves 7 percent who went with the other possible answer).
Despite New England’s disappointing 2020 campaign and the obvious shortcomings of the team’s rosters over the last two seasons, this should not come as a surprise. Belichick has shown that he can retool on the fly, after all, and while having Brady covered up some issues and allowed resource allocation elsewhere, the Patriots would not have sustained their unparalleled success without the team as a whole being a competitive one.
That goes back to the man at the top doing a good job, and building a roster capable of playing winning football year after year after year.
2020 looks bad, yes, especially when compared to Brady’s current record with the Buccaneers. However, as mentioned above, context is incredibly important when making informed statements about, well, anything. And that context shows that the Patriots were in as difficult a situation this year as any team in the league.
New England did not just lose Brady and other cornerstone players in free agency, the team also had limited resources to work with after — to quote Belichick himself — selling out the last few years. On top of it all, the Coronavirus pandemic hurt the club as well. Breaking in new starters on offense and defense was made difficult due to the lack of traditional offseason workouts and preseason cancellation, while no team had as many opt-outs as the Patriots.
Add the fact that the team had limited opportunities to practice following its Covid-19 outbreak in early October and you get a perfect storm for a team to take a step back. That is not to say Belichick is without blame — he did build the team’s current roster and did not address the lack of high-end talent at the offensive skill positions, for example — but it is still not as easy as just proclaiming that he is bad at his job.
Based on the survey mentioned above, Patriots fans know all of this. Whether or not their faith in Belichick will be rewarded next year remains to be seen, but it would be a surprise if New England found itself in as challenging a setting for the second straight year.
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