By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s already begun. It began before it even began, really. It’s certain to continue for the months and years to come.
But can we as a society all come together for one brief moment and agree that no matter what happens with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay and no matter what happens with Bill Belichick in New England, we’re not going to use that as “proof” or “evidence” as to which man was more vital to the Patriots’ success over the past 20 years?
Can we leave that argument for the bozos?
I say that it’s already begun because a video of Mike Greenberg came across my eyes this week, and it was bad. Real bad!
I’ll show it to you anyway.
Brady vs Bill, the numbers don’t lie. pic.twitter.com/PFwjod68Vj
— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) March 30, 2020
In typical Greenberg fashion, it was a classic, “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin'” kind of case. Here’s two straight minutes of why Belichick is a failure without Brady … but I still think Bill is the greatest and none of this is to take away from his prowess as a coach!
No need to pick on Greenie here (eh, debatable), but the point is, this type of “discussion” or debate is bound to ramp up when/if Brady takes the field for the Buccaneers (barf) and when Belichick leads Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer onto the field in Foxboro next fall.
If Brady and the Bucs start out 0-2, even if the offense puts up 35 points per game, you just know the bozos will come crawling out of the woodwork. System QB. Owes everything to Belichick. Overrated.
Likewise, if Bill ends up with Stidham as his QB and that pick-six to Jamal Adams turned out to not be an aberration, you’ll hear a similar symphony emanating from a different set of bozos. Just not a great coach. He stunk before Brady and he stinks after Brady. Fourth-and-2. The entire 2015 season. Going for it on fourth down in Super Bowl LII. Malcolm. Butler.
The basis of these conclusions will spotlight any minor nitpicks that can be found in the most successful people to ever do their respective jobs.
Conveniently ignoring the 19 years of unprecedented success the two had together.
Conveniently ignoring that the quarterback will be 43 years old and the head coach will be 68.
Conveniently forgetting that no matter what happens in the future, it cannot rewrite the past.
Maybe — PERHAPS — that much is self-evident to all. But maybe not. Talk shows need to fill the hours. Radio shows need to keep the lines lit up (Michael Felger has essentially been frothing at the mouth for months at having this piece of red meat dangled in front of him.) And, well, at this particular point of American history, we all need something to do. Understandable.
But in terms of an actual discussion, and in terms of trying to read the situation logically, you should be able to conclude that both Brady and Belichick are responsible for the Patriots’ dynastic success. (So were Ty Law, Willie McGinest, David Patten, Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, Deion Branch, Tedy Bruschi, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, Stephon Gilmore, Adam Vinatieri, Stephen Gostkowski, Troy Brown, Rodney Harrison, Roman Phifer, Julian Edelman, James White, LeGarrette Blount, plus a whole host of offensive linemen, fullbacks, and other players who aren’t listed here solely for the sake of not having an endless paragraph.)
You should be able to reasonably deduce that if Brady entered the NFL without Belichick, he would have certainly found success … but most likely not in the form of six Super Bowl victories and four Super Bowl MVPs.
You should also be able to reasonably deduce that even if Belichick hadn’t finagled a way to keep Brady on his roster as a fourth QB in 2000, Bill still would have been able to win some Super Bowls. Though, again, most likely not six.
For whatever reason, likely because it does not fall in line with the black-and-white demands of our sports conversations these days, such an “opinion” has not been allowed to enter the club of Sports Debate. But it ought to be the resounding answer whenever the question arises.
In a sense, it’s kind of like The Avengers. Could Tony Stark have saved the world 10 times over if he was working only by himself? As much as he would like that to be true, it simply is not. Combine his powers with a super buddy or two, and he becomes infinitely stronger.
In our case, Brady is obviously Captain America, and Belichick is Hulk.
The reality is that what took place in New England over the course of two decades was unlike anything that’s ever happened in the history of the sport of football. A brilliant coaching mind paired with the most determined winner in the sport. The results were staggering. Six Super Bowl victories, nine conference championships, eight straight conference title game appearances, 11 straight division titles, 17 division titles overall, 30 playoff victories, an undefeated regular season, winning, winning, and more winning.
To think that just one man is responsible for all of that is, of course, wrong. It is a team sport, you know.
Likewise, to believe that either Belichick or Brady could have reached those heights without the other, well … that’s just a bit extreme.
Of course, this is not a particularly fresh topic. People have argued it for years, long before the two ever split. One particularly enterprising writer even resolved the entire “debate” in September of 2018. (Wow, great job, unnamed writer.) That writer managed to sum it up with one single line on both Belichick and Brady being able to navigate successful careers without the other:
Looking around the NFL, and seeing how much better these two men have been than their peers for two decades, how could you not reasonably deduce this?
Wow. Great job, writer.
The point is, even though Belichick’s overall record in Cleveland was subpar, those were less-than-ideal conditions, and it was his first crack at head coaching. There’s reason to believe he’d have found success with his system in New England, even without Brady.
At the same time, even though Brady’s had some potent defenses to help him win games, the quarterbacking job he has so consistently performed in the biggest moments of the biggest games is unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before. His unique blend of talent, focus, fearlessness and drive would have been present and on display no matter which team drafted him.
Using cockamamie “facts” — like saying that Brady “beat Peyton Manning and the Colts by 31 points as a double-digit underdog” in a game where Brady went 13-for-23 for 168 yards with no touchdowns and where New England’s defense scored two touchdowns — to try to diminish either party is simply a fool’s errand.
So I ask you, dear reader. Please be alert. Please be aware. This “debate” is coming to a town near you. There’s a chance it’s already there. You really cannot do much to stop it.
You can, however, resist it. You can rise above it. Because if you know football in even the most basic sense, you know that the pairing of Belichick and Brady in New England was a cosmic event. The results were extraordinary. Historic. Downright magical.
So, if you step out into this cold, dark world and encounter someone asking you whether Brady or Belichick is more responsible for all of that winning, and if you witness some bozo using the on-field results in the fall of 2020 to try to make a case against anything that happened in the first two decades of the 21st century?
You’ll need to tell that person that both men are responsible. And you’ll also need to politely call that person a bozo.