You’ve heard all the hot takes about the infamous Bill Belichick-Tom Brady split. Right when TB12 left the New England Patriots, it was all about “who won the divorce?” and “who needs who more?”
Well, just about everyone would have you believe Brady unquestionably won after leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl LV glory. The curmudgeon Belichick went 7-9 in his first year sans Brady and missed the playoffs.
Fox Sports 1 analyst and former NFL player LaVar Arrington recently went on TV to discuss how Belichick might be on the hot seat if he has another disappointing season:
Come again? Seriously?
Of course the Belichick-Brady aftermath looks like a lopsided situation in the latter’s favor at the minute, but is there any way we can just, you know, chill out about this for a minute?
There’s still so much to happen from here regarding how Brady finishes his playing career and what Belichick does in the next era of Patriots football.
For now, yours truly will pick apart all your popular takes around this tired narrative, starting with the most popular one that’s permeating the world of sports most egregiously.
Dispelling the ‘Tom Brady won! It’s over!’ take
If you’re talking about just 2020, then yes, Brady got the better of Belichick. Man, did he stick it to him.
As a serious celebrator of Brady’s greatness, this is not to take anything away from what he accomplished in Tampa Bay. He fundamentally changed the culture there, adapted quickly after two decades with one team, made the absolute most of an abbreviated offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brady helped snap the Bucs out of a funk as they staggered into their late bye week with a 7-5 record. They didn’t lose from there on out. It’s the stuff of legends.
But all that said, Brady joined an absolutely loaded Tampa Bay roster. Belichick watched all kinds of veterans opt out, signed QB Cam Newton very late in the offseason when it became apparent the answer under center wasn’t in the building, and didn’t have the means to upgrade talent in a meaningful way.
The fact that Belichick went 7-9 with the team he had is actually quite a surprise.
So, is it really fair to say that the debate is over, and that Brady owns Belichick for winning a championship in his first year elsewhere while the coach struggled with a threadbare roster, which was partially a product of years of going all-in to win Super Bowls?
Bill Belichick’s epic free-agent spending spree wasn’t a shot at Tom Brady
Now, if The Hoodie had drafted, traded for, or paid up for better skill players, the Pats would be in a better position. Alas, that’s not the reality. Belichick made sure to rectify that substandard 2020 in short order, though.
Suddenly splurging on a bunch of proven veterans wasn’t possible in years past with the way New England was built. Sensing the opportunity looming with a skyrocketing salary cap and tons of money to spend this offseason, Belichick pounced on the open market and rebuilt the roster.
It’s not a shot at Brady. Belichick is the greatest coach of all-time, and it’s hard to debate that. He obviously recognized the shortcomings personnel-wise that he was largely responsible for, and actually had the vision and conviction to pay out huge money in free agency when conventional wisdom is to build through the draft.
Guess what? Since 2013, all the draft picks the Patriots have made resulted in a grand total of one Pro Bowl selection.
Belichick recognized the draft wasn’t working. Saw the booming financial market ahead. While many other teams flush with cap room sat on their hands, Belichick showed that he’s continuing to evolve even at this super-accomplished stage of his career.
You can bet the Patriots will be back in 2021.
One more point: Eschewing his typical strategy of cutting veterans earlier than expected, Belichick actually held on to Brady longer than he ever planned to and traded away his would-be replacement Jimmy Garoppolo.
That’s one of the many things that makes Brady so special. He’s one of one. Belichick wasn’t kicking him out necessarily. He knew the roster wasn’t going to be in good shape in 2020. We saw the results of that. Brady wanted to see if there were greener pastures elsewhere. Turns out, there were.
Outsiders seem to stick far more hard feelings on the Brady-Belichick schism than the reality of the situations suggest there was. That whole, “the NFL is a business first” thing? It absolutely applied here.
Give Bill Belichick a chance to find Tom Brady’s replacement
Because Belichick was so hyper-aggressive with free agents, he could honestly trade just about his entire 2021 haul of draft picks to move up and take a first-round quarterback. Newton should be a bridge starter this coming season, but no one is expecting him to be the long-term heir to Brady.
Until New England really commits to a field general of the future, how is it possible to even compare the legacies of Belichick and Brady, or how they stack up together versus when they’re apart?
It’s been one season. And guess what? Belichick is showing no signs of slowing down as a coach. Just look at how much he spent this offseason as clear evidence of that. It seems to be setting the stage for an all-in move for a quarterback sooner rather than later.
Brady and the Bucs should definitely be in the Super Bowl picture in 2021 and could well repeat as champs. The last team to go back-to-back was, you guessed it, New England, when Brady and Belichick were in the midst of creating arguably the most impressive dynasty in sports history together.
Considering he’ll turn 44 in August, we can guess Brady probably has, what, two quality seasons left? Belichick is a football lifer and could coach for another decade — with a new star QB for possibly eight or nine of those years.
With all the buzz that there will be an early run on quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, Belichick could be eying a new-wave quarterback prototype in, say, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State standout Trey Lance.
Appreciating the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady heyday
There’s such a rush to declare a winner. Brady already won a Super Bowl, so he must’ve been the reason for all of New England’s success, right? Belichick had little to do with it.
Instead of pitting these absolute GOATs of the sport against each other, why not wait to see how Brady finishes up in Tampa Bay, and let Belichick’s big recent push to get the Patriots back on the map play out?
Brady and Belichick won six Super Bowls together. It’s unprecedented, and will probably be unmatched. Football is a team sport, and while quarterback is certainly the most important position, coaching and building the right team with a strong identity and winning culture are all characteristics Belichick helped foster in Foxborough.
The Bucs may have more fun winning than New England ever has. That’s fine. The Patriot Way isn’t Frederick Winslow Taylor’s “One Best Way.”
There are plenty of ways to get it done and earn a championship in the NFL, but you have to admit, the Patriots have done it better, for longer than anyone else, over the past two decades. Both Belichick and Brady deserve to be celebrated for their vital contributions to that legacy.
Folks need to stop pitting these NFL icons against each other. When each of them are retired, perhaps there will be a time and place for that. For now, embrace Belichick’s bid to spark the Pats in the post-Brady era, and feast your eyes on Tom Terrific’s quest for eight rings.
Given how much each man has accomplished, Brady and Belichick deserve to be looked at from a much broader perspective, and there should be no rush to dub one “winner” and “loser.” It’s OK to just call them “historic winners.”
Quibble about the comparatively little time Brady and Belichick had apart from each other once they’re finished being the absolute champs they are.