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As the most successful head coach and quarterback pairing in NFL history prepare to square off for the first time, there is plenty of talk of who needed whom more, of who is more to credit for their success.
What no one can deny, Bill Belichick included, is they were best together.
The famously grouchy and legendary head coach acknowledged that he could not have won his six Super Bowls with the Patriots without Tom Brady.
“Of course not,” Belichick told reporters Friday when asked if he would have had the same success with another quarterback. “I think I’ve been on the record dozens of times saying there’s no quarterback I would rather have than Tom Brady, and I still feel that way. I was very lucky to have Tom as the quarterback, to coach him.
“He was as good as any coach could ever ask for.”
Does Bill Belichick feel he would've had the same level of success without Tom Brady?
"Of course not." pic.twitter.com/rzJ0svrZmL
And yet, Belichick let him get away. After 20 years together in a system that left players like Rob Gronkowski retiring early (before returning to play with Brady) and left Brady reportedly unhappy with his say in how the team was run, the Patriots allowed a 42-year-old quarterback to leave in free agency.
Brady signed with the Buccaneers in the 2020 offseason and promptly won a Super Bowl last season.
Belichick’s public praise of Brady, after apparently deciding he could win without him, caught the attention of a former contributor to those great Pats teams.
“The thing about life is if your words don’t match your actions you’re just blowing [smoke],” Asante Samuel, a Patriots defensive back from 2003-07, wrote on Twitter.
For two decades, there were arguments over who was more integral to New England’s success. On Sunday, when the now 44-year-old quarterback makes his return to Gillette Stadium as both enemy and conquering hero for one of the most anticipated regular-season games in NFL history, there will be some of the first evidence of who deserves the most credit.