BOSTON (CBS) — The Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick debate has hit a fever pitch this week. With Brady set to return to Foxboro for the first time since he left New England for Tampa Bay two summers ago, pitting the quarterback against his former head coach for the first time ever, the war over who meant more to the Patriots’ 20-year run of dominance has reached deafening decibels.

It’s safe to assume that had the two never paired up in New England, mostly by fate 20 years ago, they still would have gone on to have some level of success in their respective careers. It’s also safe to assume that without each other, there is no way the Patriots would have won six Super Bowls over the last two decades.

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During his Friday morning Zoom call with reporters ahead of Sunday’s much-anticipated matchup, Belichick was asked if he believes he would have had the same level of success without Brady under center for the Patriots. His answer was unequivocally a “no.”

“Of course not,” Belichick said definitively. “We talked about that for two decades. I think I have been on the record dozens of times saying there is no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady. I still feel that way.

“I was very lucky to have Tom as quarterback and to coach him,” Belichick added. “He was as good as any coach could ever ask for.”

Brady was asked about the QB vs. Coach debate last year, and dismissed it in no uncertain terms.

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“I think it’s a pretty sh—y argument actually, that people would say that,” Brady said when told that players deserve more credit than the coach. “Because I can’t do his job and he can’t do mine. The fact that you could say, would I be successful without him, the same level of success? I don’t believe I would have been.

“I feel the same vice-versa as well,” Brady continued. “To have him allowed me to be the best I could be. So I’m grateful for that. And I very much believe he feels the same way about me, because we’ve expressed that to each other.”

On Friday, Belichick expressed that to the world as well.

The Patriots head coach has been fairly open in his praise for Brady this week, which should come as no surprise, but is a bit of a surprise because this is Bill Belichick we’re talking about. But he also made it clear on Friday that the Patriots are not just taking on Brady this weekend, as the Buccaneers send out one of the NFL’s best offensive units overall.

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“You have to look at an entire team, all the people on the team —  not just the quarterback,” he said when asked if there was one quarterback over the years that he could not fool with his defense. “Who his receivers are, his tight end, what the running game is, what the offensive line is. Ultimately, you have to play great team defense. The Bucs are the best passing team in the league, and you have to defend the passing game in its totality.”

CBSBoston.com Staff