With five weeks remaining in the 2021 NFL season, the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are rolling.
Led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the Patriots are 9-4 and enter their Week 14 bye with the top seed in the AFC. Tom Brady and the Bucs are 9-3 as they continue their Super Bowl title defense.
The success of both teams has many daydreaming about a potential Bill Belichick vs. Tom Brady Super Bowl. The hypothetical matchup, which undoubtedly would be the most anticipated game in NFL history, would help to settle the Belichick vs. Brady debate once and for all. But ironically, as both pillars of the Patriots dynasty enjoy their separate success, that "Belichick vs. Brady" talk has subsided.
Instead, the focus this year has been on their mutual respect. Belichick met Brady in the Buccaneers locker room and had a conversation with his ex-QB after their Week 4 matchup on Oct. 3. Earlier this week, Belichick heaped praise on Brady and even said he plans on tuning in to the seven-time Super Bowl champion's "Man in the Arena" documentary series.
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Has the success of Belichick and Brady's teams this season helped to mend their relationship? Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry, and Matt Cassel discussed on a brand new episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast.
Patriots Talk Podcast: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and a separate peace | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
"The fact that the Patriots are having success, because the conversation and the narrative all last year was, 'Well, Bill couldn't have done it without Tom Brady.' And what Tom was able to do last year and accomplish to win a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick, the argument was always still there," Cassel said. "But to see what the Patriots have done this year, and to see the genius behind Bill Belichick and how he was able to go out and rebuild this team to put them at the position that they're at right now, and then Tom also having the success, they obviously have respect for each other.
"They've had the best dynasty that will probably never be matched again in sports history, of any organization across any league. And so, for them it's very cool to see them come together and have this respect and be positive toward each other. It's calmed down all the outside noise about Belichick vs. Brady. They're joined at the hip and they will forever be joined at the hip."
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Perry believes that mutual respect might not be as evident had Belichick and the Patriots struggled for the second straight year.
"I think part of the reason that they're in such a great spot is they're both having success right now," Perry said. "If it was another 7-9 season or looked like it was trending that way for the Patriots, and the Bucs were on their way to another Super Bowl -- I won't sit here and pretend to know how their relationship would be impacted by that, but I think it's a lot easier for everyone to be back in sort of a loving mode with each other when you both have found success after the fact."
Also discussed in this episode: What was the conversation like between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick following their game on Oct. 3? Revisiting Tom & Phil’s preseason predictions. Making the case for Matt Judon for Defensive Player of the Year. And heading into the bye week, what’s the Patriots’ biggest weakness?
Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network, or watch on YouTube.