Sports Debate: Belichick or Brady?

Matthew Arena and Frank Fishman

Much has changed since the year 2002: national security has increased, six of the Sharknado films have been made, and Trump went from having a reality TV show to running the world. However, one fact has stood the test of time: the New England Patriots still reign supreme over the rest of the National Football League.

In these past 16 years, the Pats have been the the truest example of dominance. Having only missed the playoffs twice (2002 & 2008) in that span, New England owns 5 Super Bowl victories in 9 appearances. Needless to say, the numbers never lie: the Patriots are good at football. The question is, why?

Two men have been staples within the franchise, each responsible in their own right. Of course, they are Bill Belichick, the head coach, and the quarterback Tom Brady. A dynamic duo, many across the sports industry have tried to knit pick as to who deserves more recognition for their contributions.

First, a quick review of the timeline. In 2000, both Brady and Belichick came to the organization. On January 27th, Belichick was hired as head coach of the New England Patriots. Officially, he was acquired in a trade from the New York Jets along with fifth- and seventh-round draft choices in exchange for first-, fourth- and seventh-round picks. Then, on April 16th, when the NFL Draft was well underway and hardly anyone was still viewing it, New England decided to use its 6th round pick, a Compensatory Selection and the 199th overall, on a quarterback. They took an unathletic kid from the University of Michigan who wasn’t even the Wolverines’ top signal caller. However, the Pats weren’t looking for a starter right way, as they already had that role filled by Drew Bledsoe. Therefore, they took Brady, knowing that if he never amounted to anything, it would not be a travesty. Well, he amounted to something alright.


Franks Opinion:

Let’s be clear: Tom Brady is the New England Patriots. The dynasty began in 2001; more precisely February 3, 2002, when the Pats took on the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI (36), a game in which Brady wasn’t even supposed to play. The only reason he had the opportunity was because Bledsoe got injured in Week 2 of the regular season. Even so, there was still speculation as to who would be named the starter against St. Louis. Thankfully, Belichick made the right call by going with the second year Brady, as NE beat the Rams by a score of 20-17. And a decade and half later, it was still the right call.

Although some might argue that Brady only benefits from the system implemented by Belichick, it is important to acknowledge Belichick’s history in the NFL prior to joining Brady. Yes, he came with winning pedigree, having been the Defensive Coordinator and second in command to head coach Bill Parcells on many successful New York Giants’ teams. However, it was not smooth sailing for Belichick once he got his first head coaching job. His first run as a head coach was far more forgettable. Taking over a 3-13 Browns team, Belichick managed to coach Cleveland to a 6-10 record in Year 1. It was a promising start, but the Browns went 7-9 in each of the next two seasons before finally breaking through with an 11-5 season and a playoff win in 1994. And yes, if you’re wondering, Belichick is the last Cleveland Browns coach to win a playoff game.

One season later the Browns were back to their usual 5-11, leaving Belichick unemployed. Even after his ineffective stay in Cleveland, there was not immediate success in New England. In his first season, while Brady road the bench behind Bledsoe, Belichick lead the Pats to an unimpressive 5-11 season. Of course, the following season with Brady under center, the Patriots won their first championship in franchise history. To date (10/16/18), Tom Terrific currently holds the following records:

  • Regular season wins by a starting quarterback (200)
  • Most touchdowns thrown to different receivers (71)
  • Division titles (15)
  • Playoff games started (37)
  • Playoff wins (27)
  • Playoff touchdown passes (71)
  • Playoff passing yards (10,226)
  • Super Bowl appearances (8)
  • Super Bowl wins (5)
  • Super Bowl MVPs (4)
  • Super Bowl touchdown passes (18)
  • Super Bowl passing yards (2,576)

Matts Opinion:

The New England Patriots drafted Tom Brady with the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, and signed former Cleveland Browns coach Bill Belichick in 2000 as well. This duo has won 5 Super Bowls, been to 8, went 16-0 in 2007, and have won the AFC East 15 years out of the 17 possible. But the often debated question is who is responsible for this success, and as clear as ever, Bill Belichick means more to Tom Brady than Brady does to Belichick.

With all due respect to Brady, he is one of, if not, the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He undoubtedly throws the ball shorter distances than many other quarterbacks, dumping it the running backs more than anyone else we have seen play, and his receivers seem to be wide open on half his passing attempts.

Without Brady there certainly would not have been eight Super Bowls for Belichick’s Patriots. But Brady without Belichick sounds worse. The Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel at quarterback when Brady got hurt in 2008. They went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett starting when Tom served his Deflategate suspension in 2016. And they are playing in a Super Bowl tournament in which they have faced Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, and Nick Foles.

In a generation featuring quarterbacks who are drafted as “projects”, it is clear there needs to be the right man leading the team. Los Angeles Rams drafted Jared Goff first overall in 2016, and he was nothing better than horrible his rookie year. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes, threw for just about 1,000 yards, with 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 7 games played. That’s horrible. He looked clueless on the football field, until Sean McVay came along. The Rams signed McVay, who was deemed an offensive mastermind, and all of the sudden Jared Goff is leading the highest scoring offense in the league. His stats jumped to 62 percent completion percentage, with 3,800 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in double the games. His stat line goes from horrendous to a top 10 quarterback in less than 1 year. That’s the head coach, not the quarterback.

We see the same with Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears, who signed another offensive minded coach in Matt Nagy, and have seen drastic changes in the play of the quarterback.

Now, I am not saying Tom Brady isn’t unbelievable however I am simply saying Bill Belichick’s system requires a capable quarterback which is why he didn’t succeed with Cleveland. Tom Brady is more than a capable quarterback which translates to the 8 super bowl appearances.

The quarterback position is absolutely vital in today’s day in age, and that is not what I am arguing but what I am saying is teams can fair well with a solid quarterback as long as they have the coach to lead the rest of the team. Nick Foles, I repeat, Nick Foles threw for over 350 yards, and 3 touchdowns in the biggest game in all of sports. The journeyman was a failed starting quarterback for that same Rams team with a terrible coach.

Mastermind Belichick is deserving more credit of the Patriots dynasty, with all due respect to the legendary number 12.

Nevertheless, both are first ballot locks for the Hall of Fame and the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in their fields. Brady could not be Brady without Belichick, and Belichick could not be Belichick without Brady. They are a tandem that are interdependent on each other, just like the Cookies and the Cream of an Oreo. This is an argument that has no wrong answer. All we can do is sit back and be grateful for their excellence and the time they still have left together.