- Two years since their breakup in New England, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are both flying high.
- Brady is already a Super Bowl champion with the Buccaneers and en route to another MVP.
- Belichick again has the Patriots atop the AFC and showing he can win in a variety of ways.
For 20 years, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick worked together to build the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen.
Together in New England, the duo won an astounding six Super Bowl titles — more than any team not named the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The most astounding chapter of the Brady-Belichick Patriots dynasty may have been the final one, spanning from 2014-2018. New England made it to four of the five Super Bowls, winning three.
But after the final Super Bowl win, it was time for a change. The Patriots roster was thin in help for Brady, leading to a disappointing 2019 season — although it is worth noting that 4,057 yards and 24 touchdowns are what we are qualifying as “disappointing” for the greatest of all time.
Brady left the Patriots to begin a new era in Tampa Bay. Bill Belichick remained in New England to usher in a new era of his own. The greatest head coach and the greatest quarterback in NFL history were no longer together, but as they would show, they were still the best at what they did.
Tom Brady wasted no time writing a new chapter for his legacy
Amidst a pandemic that left stadiums empty and players conducting offseason workouts from home, Brady made an immediate splash in Tampa Bay.
After an up-and-down start to the season, including a brain lapse the likes of which was certifiably un-Brady, the newly dubbed Tompa Bay rattled off four straight wins to finish the regular season and then marched all the way to Super Bowl victory.
It was a vintage Brady performance, but this year, he’s taken things to a new level.
Through three-quarters of the season, Brady leads the NFL in nearly every passing category that matters: passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions, attempts.
Despite being 44 years old, Brady’s arm looks as young as ever, and the Buccaneers offense is built almost entirely around showing off what that arm can still do.
—NFL (@NFL) December 6, 2021
In 12 games this season, Brady has had at least 40 pass attempts eight times. In his final season with the Patriots, Brady cleared 40 pass attempts just seven times all year. The year before that, Brady hit the mark just four times.
Freed from the limitations of the Patriots offense, which were both systemic and talent related, Brady has shown the NFL that he’s still as sharp as ever.
Tampa Bay’s offense is built around the philosophy that Brady’s arm and mind are two of the strongest weapons on the field at any given moment, and the result has the Buccaneers looking dominant heading into their Super Bowl title defense and has Brady on the verge of his fourth MVP trophy.
Bill Belichick’s success in the new era didn’t come as quickly as Brady’s, but his 2021 has been a masterclass
2020 was not a great year for the New England Patriots. In the Brady-sized hole left in their roster, Belichick placed a newly-signed Cam Newton, who, after a hot start rushing the ball, dropped off in play rather significantly.
The Patriots finished 2020 an admirable if mostly unremarkable 7-9 and looked towards the future, drafting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
This brings us to this year. After a 2-4 start to the season that left some wondering if the Patriots dynasty was done for good, New England has since won seven straight games to capture the top seed in the AFC.
Belichick has led his team to victory in a variety of ways.
To beat the Titans, the Patriots put the ball in Jones’ hands and watched as he threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns to put away Tennessee.
The very next week, Belichick and the Patriots threw the ball just three times in blustery conditions in Buffalo, taking down the Bills with a game plan centered around running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.
Through the entirety of the Patriots’ hot streak, the team’s defense has looked like a vintage Belichick unit, holding opposing offenses to 13 points or fewer in six of the seven wins.
While the Patriots of today might not look as dominant as they did when Brady was under center, Belichick has put together a team that is plenty dominant in its own fashion and now sits as one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The breakup between Brady and Belichick meant the end of an era, but it has also given football fans the chance to appreciate both in a new light.
Not all relationships are meant to last forever. Sometimes moving on can bring the best out of both partners.
Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, but through his final seasons in New England, we only saw the best he had to offer in rare glimpses. In his last Super Bowl win with the Patriots, Brady and the New England offense managed just 13 points against the Los Angeles Rams.
But since joining the Buccaneers, we’ve got a complete showcase of what Brady still has to offer on the field, which at 44, is still a lot. Paired with talent like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and yes, Gronk, Brady is shining as bright as he has in years and a near-lock to win MVP once again.
Similarly, we’re also seeing a side of Belichick that was less present in the final Brady years.
Belichick wins football games the way you or I might solve a sudoku puzzle — taking a wide view, valuing what might fit where, and then patiently filling in one box after the other until the final score reads Patriots more, Opponent less.
When paired with Brady, the puzzles were much easier to solve, but watching Belichick this season it’s impossible not to appreciate what goes into the way that he wins games.
Further, Belichick seems to be enjoying the challenge. After the stop that sealed the game for the Patriots win over the Bills, Belichick did something we’ve rarely seen him do through 20 years of NFL coaching.
—ESPN (@espn) December 7, 2021
For 20 years, Brady and Belichick gave football fans a glimpse of something we may never see again: what does it look like when the best football player and the best football coach are working together to win football games. The results — six Super Bowls, nine AFC championships, 12 AFC title game appearances — speak for themselves.
But in just 20 months since their split, both Brady and Belichick have shown that each of their dominance was not defined by the other.
Making the moment all the more dramatic is the very real possibility that the two could potentially meet in the Super Bowl this February, a game that would bring even more debate over which of the duo is more responsible for the other’s success.
But as thrilling as that matchup would be, that debate surrounding Brady and Belichick would miss the point of what the past two years have already shown: They’re great at what they do, with or without the other.