Bill Belichick has been singing Tom Brady's praises for years. But earlier this week, he articulated his feelings on Brady's place in history in a slightly different way.
During an appearance at the Salesforce World Tour stop in Boston, Belichick spoke for about 10 minutes on a variety of Patriots-related topics. Among them was the quarterback he drafted in the sixth round 16 years ago.
Belichick knew that Brady had spoken at the event last year, to which Salesforce Vice Chairman and President Keith Block replied, "Yeah, we had to clean up the aisles."
"I can imagine," Belichick said with a smile. "We have to do that at the stadium, too, [fans] paying homage to him. But, you know, greatest quarterback of all time. He's been just a tremendous leader, tremendous player for our organization."
It comes as no surprise that Belichick would feel that way. He often says that there's no quarterback he would rather have. This is essentially that same sentiment just worded a little differently. Still, for a football historian like Belichick to step to a microphone and give Brady the G.O.A.T. label is worth noting.
Throughout the address, Belichick happily goes over some of the stories he's most proud of during his time as head coach of the Patriots.
Wrestler-turned-offensive lineman Steve Neal got a shout out, as did Matt Cassel, who barely played in college and still managed to lead the team to an 11-5 record in 2008. A couple of Belichick's favorites -- Tedy Bruschi and Adam Vinatieri -- also earned quick mentions.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion -- particularly with the draft approaching -- came early in Belichick's appearance when he spoke about how the Patriots have "tried to be an outlier in some respects."
He referenced his time early on as Patriots head coach, when he chose to be one of only two teams in the league to play a 3-4 defense. At that point, players who fit that particular scheme, like nose tackle Ted Washington, were easy to acquire because the demand was almost nonexistent.
Five years and three Patriots championshps later, half of the league used a 3-4.
At that point, Belichick said, "if we were looking for a nose tackle, there was probably five other teams in the draft ahead of us." They had to evolve.
Over the years, as his teams have drafted near the bottom of the first round following successful seasons, Belichick and his front office have tried to take advantage of the market inefficiencies, which has given the team an ever-changing shape.
"We've kind of had to find different players, different schemes," Belichick said, "whether it be tight-end based offenses, or whether it be going from an odd to an even front defense, or whatever it happened to be. Just trying to find different ways to capitalize on the talent that's available. Otherwise, we're going to get the fifth, sixth, seventh best guy at whatever the position is so we've tried to take kind of more away in areas that have been less populated."
One other draft tidbit to take away from Belichick's speaking engagement: The Patriots want players who love football.
Because so much is put on their plates as soon as they sign on the dotted line, and because the expectations are high, it can be a difficult place to work. Belichick has admitted as much in the past.
But if it doesn't feel like work, if a player's passion for the game is genuine, then the odds of said player staying motivated and attentive are that much better.
"If you like football, you like to come in and work on football, then the New England Patriots is a great place to be," Belichick said. "If you don't, if it's a job, if you'd rather be doing something else, then honestly, you're better off with another team."
You can watch Belichick's entire Salesforce interview here.