The greatest dynasty in sports history, the 21st century Patriots are the pinnacle of team sports, powered by most dominant player-coach combination ever. The mastermind of this dynasty, Bill Belichick, remains vastly underrated as the greatest coach in sports history.
Before I lose all of the Patriots fans who have read up until this point, I want to make it clear that Brady is the best quarterback to ever play. Additionally, I don’t want to hear any of the arguments that Brady and Belichick are only good together, because that takes away from the greatness of both of them.
But Brady is overrated. I said it.
He may be the greatest of all time, but he is not quite so dominant as many may be led to believe.
I want to start with this most recent season. At the beginning of the season, there was talk of 16-0. With the addition of Brandin Cooks, there were whispers that this was the most talented offense Brady had played with. By the end of the season, Brady had won MVP largely off the idea that he carried a deficient team to the Super Bowl.
That is absolutely ridiculous. Granted, Brady lost his favorite receiver in Julian Edelman, but Edelman is not enough to turn that offense from the best Brady has played with to a group that Brady has had to carry. Sure, the defense lost a key player in Dont’a Hightower, but they still were 5th in points allowed. This isn’t an anomaly. The Patriots haven’t had a defense finish worse than 11th in points allowed since 2005.
Just to reiterate, I do not deny that Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. However, I have a problem with the belief that he is head and shoulders above the competition. I also have a problem with giving Brady credit for much of what Belichick has earned.
For example, look at the last two Super Bowls in which Brady won MVP. Everyone remembers the Malcolm Butler interception, of course, but many people forget that Brady had two interceptions in that game. Brady deserves countless praise for going 13/15 in the fourth quarter – a feat that helped the Patriots comeback – but it can’t be forgotten how they got in that situation. Without that interception, Brady would not have been given Super Bowl MVP, he would have been seen as the quarterback who threw two costly picks in the most important game of the season. I don’t like dwelling on what-ifs, but I hate that a play that Brady had nothing to do with is still a credit to Brady. By the way, it was Belichick who signed and coached up the undrafted rookie who made that play.
The largest comeback in playoff history was influenced just as much by Belichick as the Super Bowl two years prior. While the offensive comeback was undeniably engineered by Brady, many tend to ignore the fact the the Patriots defense allowed zero points in the second half, giving Brady the chance to make the comeback. That defense was all Belichick. Furthermore, Brady nearly blew the comeback in one of the most exciting plays of the game. I’m talking about Edelman’s miracle catch. Not only should that throw have been intercepted, it was both a terrible decision and terrible throw by Brady. It was only sheer luck that it wasn’t picked off, much less completed.
This isn’t to say that Brady is not great, or that Belichick doesn’t make mistakes. This year’s Super Bowl proved quite the contrary. Sure, Brady missed a few throws, but he still played an amazing game. Although he lost the shootout, Brady played the game of his life and was let down by Belichick and the defense. The normally mistake free Patriots played sloppy football on defense and special teams, with the supporting players failing to overcome the moment. However, the blame ultimately lies with Belichick.
Not to delve too much into the unknown, but Robert Kraft seems to be ignoring these crucial points. While it isn’t certain what turmoil has occured within the Patriots organization, the trade of Garoppolo and retention of McDaniels seem to signify that Kraft has chosen Brady over Belichick. This is a mistake.
I recently heard some interesting tidbits from former Patriots receiver Andrew Hawkins. The whole Patriots environment was different from any other team he had played on. For example, when he first arrived with the Patriots, it wasn’t just coaches and players who helped him learn the playbook and techniques, but also the scouts. With the Browns he always knew he could finish his running first just because he was faster, but with the Patriots it wasn’t that easy because everyone ran like their lives depended on it.
I will give Tom Brady some credit for the environment, as he is a major leader on the team who allows himself to be the role model for the Patriot way. However, Belichick is the basis of the Patriots organization. Every single person in the Patriots organization is one the exact same page, from Tom Brady to the janitors. The reason the dynasty has lasted for 18 years is because of Belichick’s philosophy of team first, always. Next man up. Do your job. He makes every single player on his team better in a way that no coach in history was able to do. He makes the tough decisions that would normally destroy a franchise.
Every Patriots team is greater than the sum of their parts, and no one deserves anywhere close to the credit that Belichick does. He has created the ideal environment for the dynasty to last, with no egos to tear it down, his included. Brady is made to last too, with his Avocado ice cream and miracle diet, but he is a figurehead of Belichick’s system, not the other way around.
Belichick needs no one. He doesn’t need Brady to go 11-5, or Gronkowski to win a Super Bowl. Brady doesn’t need Belichick either, but the Patriots do, especially to continue their dynasty.