To be perfectly clear, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is deservedly headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But here’s the thornier question – should he start packing up right away?
For much of the time during the Belichick-Tom Brady era in Foxboro, the debate was whether Belichick’s overall management of the Patriots smoothed the way for Brady’s extraordinary accomplishments or was it Brady’s virtuosity that reinforced Belichick’s perceived genius.
For the two decades that the partnership endured, and the wins and Super Bowl trophies piled up, the discussion felt like it was in the chicken-egg category – in other words, impossible to really answer.
Then, in 2020, Brady left for Tampa Bay, where he went 37-20 overall in three seasons, took the Bucs to the playoffs all three years, and won another Super Bowl. During that same time, the Belichick Patriots went 25-25 in the regular season and went to the playoffs once, where they were smashed by a Buffalo team that scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions.
Getting Back to Winning Ways
Following last Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia, Belichick is now 25-26 regular season post-Brady. Fans are eagerly hoping the Patriots’ playoff chances start on the upswing.
What makes 2023 more significant is that by now, New England should be over the trauma of losing the greatest quarterback of all-time, and Belichick should be well into charting a new course for the franchise. And the further thought is that if the Patriots continue to drift on a course of mediocrity in 2023, might it be time for an entirely new start, including a coaching change? The Patriots find themselves 3-point home underdogs at BetMGM Massachusetts to the Miami Dolphins Sunday night with games at the NY Jets and Dallas next.
Granted, there’s no denying the Belichick numbers. He has 298 career wins. That is third all-time and he needs just 31 to take the No. 1 spot from Don Shula. Belichick’s teams have gone to the playoffs 19 times, have won their division 17 times, claimed the AFC Championship nine times, and won the Super Bowl six times. But do those prodigious statistics make Belichick the NFL coaching GOAT.
Before answering that, consider Joe Gibbs. The former Washington coach won three Super Bowls in his 16 years and did it with three different quarterbacks: Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. And while all three had accomplished careers to varying degrees, none were hardly the GOAT.
In the offseason, after an 8-9 finish in 2022, Belichick responded to criticism by pointing out the “last 25 years” as a reason why Patriots fans should be optimistic about where the current team is headed. The comment drew instant heat and Belichick quickly walked it back. However, until it’s proven otherwise, there is going to be the lingering thought that it was the player who made the coach.
Utilizing ProFootballReference.com, BetMassachusetts.com examined Belichick’s record throughout his illustrious career in the NFL. Here are the numbers:
Other Times Without Brady
In the pre-Brady years, when Belichick coached Cleveland for five seasons (1991-1995), he was 36-44 (.450) with one playoff appearance (1-1).
In the 19 seasons that specifically overlapped with Brady as the starter in New England (2001-2019), Belichick was 232-72 (.763) in the regular season. In Belichick’s first New England season, Brady appeared in just one game, throwing three passes. It should be noted that Brady was a back-up to Drew Bledsoe until he started Game 3 of the 2001 season; that Brady missed almost all of 2008 with a knee injury, and that he was suspended for four games in 2016 due to “Deflategate.”
Since Brady left the Patriots in 2020, Belichick’s Pats are 25-26 (.490) regular-season following the Game 1 loss this year.
While Belichick certainly has nothing left to prove and his Hall of Fame bust is probably being chiseled already, the interesting debate over his personal legacy as it is entwined with Tom Brady could very well be decided over the next few seasons.
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