Ever since Tom Brady left the New England Patriots last offseason and proceeded to lead his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to playoff success, it has been a seemingly constant debate on sports talk radio: Was Brady the driving force behind the Patriots’ success the last two decades and not head coach Bill Belichick?
The debate itself obviously glosses over a lot of complexity, and the New England dynasty simply cannot be broken down in those binary parameters. It was not just Brady or just Belichick, but a combination of both men being in the right place at the right time. Brady, who will play in his 10th ever Super Bowl on Sunday, also pointed this out during the pregame show on Westwood One radio.
“I never once in my life thought about that,” he said when asked by host Jim Gray whether he thought it would be important to win a championship without Belichick. “That’s a very hypothetical situation for me. That’s definitely a conversation people like to have because in the end it just creates some entertainment. Coaches don’t play and players don’t coach. You need great coaches and you need great players. That’s the way the sport works.
“It’s not an individual sport, it’s a team sport. And the only thing that does is, again, it tries to create division either inside your team that the outside wants to tear apart to what you’ve accomplished. I don’t think that’s an argument that I ever wanted to be a part of, thought to be a part of. I greatly appreciated what I’ve learned form the coaching mentors I’ve had, certainly coach Belichick. I couldn’t be who I am without those amazing coaches that I’ve had. And I couldn’t be the player I am without all the other playing mentors that I’ve had.”
Brady and Belichick both arrived in New England in 2000, and over the next 20 years led the Patriots to six Super Bowl wins. Along the way, they established themselves as future Hall of Famers and the most successful quarterback-head coach duo in league history.
Last year, however, they split: Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay, while Belichick remained in New England. And while they had unprecedented success alongside each other with the Patriots, they were on opposite ends of the spectrum in 2021
The Buccaneers went 11-5 during the regular season and won three straight road playoff games to reach Super Bowl 55. The Patriots, on the other hand, struggled to consistently move the football through the air in Year One after Brady and finished with a 7-9 record and out of the postseason tournament.
Still, the comparison does not matter to Brady.
“In the end to me, it’s all irrelevant,” the 43-year-old said. “The greatest joy I have in sports is living up to my potential for my team, and being the best I could be for my team. And that’s what motivates me; that’s a hundred percent of my motivation.”