Patriots

Great Patriots Debate: Who deserves more credit, Brady or Belichick?

Great Patriots Debate: Who deserves more credit, Brady or Belichick?

If there’s a more apt metaphor for building a football team than Bill Parcells’ famous “groceries” line from 22 years ago, I can’t think of it.

A refresher – when Parcells quit the Patriots in January 1997 he alluded to personnel meddling as the main reason, saying, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”

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Makes sense. Players and coaches are the ingredients. The head coach/GM spreads them on the counter and knows in a glance how well he shopped and what he’s capable of presenting.

But who really does the cooking, the coach or his most important players?

And who is most responsible for a perfect dinner, the guy who did the shopping and came up with the recipe or the guy who actually stood over the flame and cooked it?

We close our Great Patriots Debate series with this Gordian Knot question: Who deserves more credit for the Patriots success, Bill Belichick or Tom Brady?

They are strands of DNA joined in 2000 now intertwined for 20 seasons. None of the great quarterback-head coach marriages – Montana-Walsh, Marino-Shula, Starr-Lombardi, Bradshaw-Noll, Staubach-Landry, Brees-Payton, Holmgren-Favre and Manning-Dungy – got to the same plane as Brady-Belichick.

When it comes to longevity, Lombardis and annual excellence – 13 times in the 17 seasons Brady has played more than one game, the Patriots have been in the NFL’s Final Four – it will never be matched.

Chew on this: the Patriots have been so successful in an NFL rigged for parity that the league has intervened multiple times since 2004 in an effort to bring them back to the pack, changing rules, confiscating draft picks, suspending Brady, etc. And still? Same as it ever was.

This is a collaboration like Lennon-McCartney or, maybe even more accurately, like Auerbach and Russell. If Auerbach had Wilt Chamberlain instead of Russell would the Celtics have won eight titles in nine seasons? If Belichick had Peyton Manning would the Patriots have sustained this long?

I would say no in both cases because the vision of Auerbach and Belichick needed the ethos, ego and mental makeup of Russell and Brady to achieve what they have.

But for the sake of debate, let’s try to split this atom.

The case for Belichick begins with the fact he drafted Brady. And, while he took him after 198 other players in the 1999 draft, Belichick, Charlie Weis and Scott Pioli were sharp enough to see what they had.  

Despite having an established, favorite son franchise quarterback in Drew Bledsoe, Belichick did what was best for the football team in 2001 and pried the offense from Bledsoe’s entitled hands and gave it to Brady. In doing so, Belichick had to stare down his Cleveland past and his decision to bench beloved Bernie Kosar and do the same thing again. He had to be prepared to be framed as a cold, out of touch, control freak bent on self-sabotage. And he was framed that way.

“Who benches a Pro Bowl quarterback with a $103-million contract who was forced from the field by a sheared artery in favor of a chubby checkdown expert? Someone who doesn’t learn.”

But the team-building brilliance of Belichick overwhelmed the inch-deep analysis that followed the Brady-Bledsoe decision.
The 2000 to 2004 seasons were master classes in economics, psychology, sociology and management, never mind the sublime, bottom-line, no-frills football Belichick and his staff embraced.

The first five years of this collaboration were all thanks to the architect and that was Belichick.

Those teams were carried by the New England defense. But that’s because they didn’t have the offensive firepower to put the game in Brady’s hands on a week-to-week basis. And maybe he wasn’t quite ready to hold it.

But when the defense sagged in the 2005 and 2006 seasons and Brady’s surrounding personnel got even worse, the team dipped.

Then, in 2007, when Brady was given the toys necessary to excel, he showed he was ready to take ownership of the Patriots week-to-week fortunes by having a historic season.

That’s when he became the straw that stirs the Patriots drink.

And he’s remained that for the past 12 years. He’s the one who takes the personnel equivalent of a poop sandwich with no bread – like last season – and figures it out. He’s the one who can have a player like Randy Moss exiled, see Deion Branch inserted, and be named unanimous MVP as he was in 2010.

He’s the one who can orchestrate 2014 – leading the offense to 14 points in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl against a generationally great defense to cap a season that began with the stunning trade of Logan Mankins with a championship.  

He’s the one who threw for 505 against the Eagles in SB52, keeping the Patriots afloat while their defense got shredded. And he’s the one who authored the SB51 comeback.

He does his job for less money than the other “elite” quarterbacks and he does it under circumstances that would leave the Rodgers, Roethlisbergers and Mannings in the fetal position weeping about a lack of support or protection.

Bill Belichick is the greatest coach there’s ever been in any professional sport. But he’s put five loaves and two fishes in front of Brady and asked him to perform a miracle several times. And Brady’s the one that ultimately feeds the multitude.

Agree? Or Disagree?

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Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Tom Brady appears to have a kindred spirit as his career continues into his 40s.

Eminem name-drops TB12 on the track "Premonition" off the album "Music To Be Murdered By" which he released on Friday.

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The song takes on the critics of the 47-year-old rapper from Detroit and compares the critiques he gets to ones leveled at LeBron James, 35, and the Patriots quarterback, who'll turn 43 in August. 

Here's part of the song:

“Revival flopped, came back and I scared the crap out ‘em

But Rolling Stone stars, I get two and a half outta

Five, and I’ll laugh out loud

‘Cause that’s what they gave BAD back in the day

Which actually made me not feel as bad now, ‘cause

If it happened to James

It can happen to Shady

They do the same [expletive] to Brady

More people hate me than love me

This game will make you go crazy.”

It's not Eminem's first reference to Brady in one of his songs. In 2013's "Baby", he raps, "I'm what Tom Brady is to the Patriots of rap. Not a man, a weapon."

And it's just the latest Brady reference that has dotted hip-hop and rap since the mid-2000s when the QB led the Pats to the second and third of the six Super Bowl titles they've won. Other artists such as Drake, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and Kanye West have referenced him as a symbol of excellence. 

Brady told the Boston Globe last year before the Super Bowl he appreciates it.

 “That’s always really cool,” Brady said. “I’m a big fan of so many of those guys. I have a lot of friends [in music] that I’ve met over the years that are fans of what we do, too...I think that mutual appreciation or admiration is really flattering.”

Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

The Green Bay Packers are preparing for a battle the San Francisco 49ers on the NFL's championship Sunday. The two will square off in the NFC Championship for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

While Aaron Rodgers and his teammates are doing what they can to be ready for the game, they still aren't exactly sure what to expect from the 49ers.

And Rodgers credited Bill Belichick's influence for that.

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Rodgers explained in a post-practice interview that not knowing what to expect from opposing defenses is something that has been popularized over the course of the past five years. And he called the defense's ability to change up week to week "the Belichick effect".

"I think that’s the NFL in the last five years, especially, it’s kind of the Belichick effect where teams are more reluctant to really try and scheme up opponents instead of relying on their base defense," Rodgers said to reporters.

"There’s less and less teams like the Lovie Smith Bears defenses over the years that say ‘Hey, screw it, we’re going to play four-man front, play Tampa-2 the entire game and make you go the whole field, and strip the ball and tackle securely and stop the run with a six-man, seven-man front.’

"There’s more teams that are scheming specifically up for teams. I think the tough part is it might be different than you saw on film. The drawback from that is a lot of these teams are used to playing coverages they’re not used to playing, they’re not super-comfortable playing, they don’t have a lot of reps in and that can cause some confusion at times."

Rodgers hit the nail on the head as the NFL's best defenses have become more versatile and game plan-dependent in recent seasons. Having multiple defensive looks is essential to success in the modern NFL and Belichick's ability to adjust week in and week out played a big role in kicking off the trend.

Though the Patriots won't have a chance to out scheme anyone on the defensive side of the ball until next season, they can be thankful that they have a forward-thinking coach at the helm. His ability to adjust on defense as well as Josh McDaniels' ability to change the Patriots offense look to match their best weapons have helped to make the team difficult to figure out.

And that's a big part of the reason that they have been able to make multiple deep postseason runs in recent seasons.

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