Tom Brady vs Bill Belichick Debate Rages On

The Tom Brady vs Bill Belichick debate has been raging for years. Everyone has an opinion on who was more important to the New England Patriots unprecedented success over the last two decades. The conversation surrounding this debate picked up steam when Brady chose to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past off-season and the media seemed to be determined to pit the quarterback and coach against each other and make it “Tom Brady vs Belichick.” Talk has seemingly intensified once again with the Patriots missing the playoffs this season for the first time since 2008 and Brady leading the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl. So, which side is correct? Who was more responsible for the Patriots dominance over the last 20 years?

Tom Brady vs Bill Belichick Debate Rages On


Brady entered the NFL with few, if any, expectations. The former Michigan Wolverine was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round (199th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft and most fans didn’t think much of it at the time. The future Hall of Famer didn’t exactly take over the Michigan program or enter the draft with much fanfare.

Similarly, Belichick didn’t come to New England with anywhere near the resume he now has. Before he became the head coach of the Patriots he was with the Cleveland Browns where the team went 36-44, with only one winning season (1994 when the team went 11-5) and he was coming off of a 5-11 season when he joined the Patriots.

Brady Becomes the Starter in New England

But somehow, lightning struck for Brady and Belichick. On Sept. 23, 2001, after Drew Bledsoe was injured in a life-threatening hit by Mo Lewis in a game against the New York Jets, Brady entered the game. And the rest is history as the Patriots, with Brady under center and Belichick at the helm, went on to win six Super Bowls in nine appearances, nine AFC Championships in 13 tries (they reached eight straight at one point) and 17 AFC East titles (including stints of five and 11 straight).

2020 Season

The Bucs got off to a somewhat rocky and inconsistent start this season, but they seemed to figure things out and won their final four regular season games and, thus far, three playoff games. The Patriots got off to a better start, but things went south fairly quickly. Brady and the Bucs absolutely fared better than Belichick and the Pats this season, but does that mean Brady was more important to New England’s success?

The answer is no. Brady had the far better supporting cast than did Belichick this season. He had weapons like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and others while Belichick’s team was trying to put up points with a washed up Cam Newton (who has never consistently been an elite quarterback) under center and receivers who aren’t exactly household names. The Patriots also had a number of key players (particularly on defense) opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns or leave in free agency.

The Argument

Brady and the Bucs had the far better 2020 season than did Belichick and the Patriots and those who are on Brady’s side use that as ammunition. But, in 2008, Brady tore his ACL on the Patriots opening drive of the season and Belichick was still able to lead New England to an 11-5 record with Matt Cassel at quarterback. In place of Brady Cassel threw for 3,693 yards, 21 TDs, and 11 INTs and had a 63.4 percent completion percentage. Cassel was a career backup in both college and the pros, but was able to parlay that 2008 season, under Belichick, into a nice contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Cassel wound up signing a six-year, $63 million deal, with $28 million guaranteed, but never was really worth a big contract.

The point is, if people want to point to the 2020 season as evidence that Brady is more important than Belichick, it is just as easy to point to the 2008 season to prove that Belichick was more responsible for the Patriots dominance. In addition, it is just lazy to come down on either side of this debate, or any debate, based on essentially one season of data (2008 for Belichick and 2020 for Brady) for each person.

Last Word

On Feb. 7, 2021, Brady will play in his 10th Super Bowl while Belichick didn’t even qualify for the playoffs. And that is leading many football fans and media members to say that means Brady was the main key to the Patriots success, not Belichick. But common sense would dictate that neither Brady nor Belichick were more important to New England’s incredible success. They were the perfect pairing, at the perfect time, for two decades and it worked really well. Both will walk into the Hall of Fame and each would have accomplished a lot without the other, but they were able to reach the heights they did because they were paired together at the right time. Fans should just enjoy that instead of trying to debate who was more important.

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