Brady or Belichick? It’s the NFL’s chicken or egg scenario, causing an endless debate that obfuscates the other necessary pieces that go into creating a Super Bowl champion.
Yes, last night’s performance by Tom Brady was brilliant. Yes, Bill Belichick somehow convinced his team they were still in it, even when they were down 28-3 midway through the third quarter.
Together, they have a 183-52 regular season record (.778 win percentage) and a 25-9 postseason record (.735 win percentage). The pair have been to the Super Bowl 7 times, winning 5 of them, all in dramatic fashion.
Perhaps none of those Super Bowl wins was more dramatic than last night’s heart-stopping 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
But one thing all these numbers can’t compute is the heart of a champion.
While Brady and Belichick played a pivotal role in that victory, to throw it all on them overlooks the other contributions that made it possible for those two to be lifting a record 5th Lombardi Trophy.
- There was linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s sack of Falcons QB Matt Ryan, forcing a fumble that his teammate Alan Branch recovered in the middle of the 4th
- There was wide receiver Danny Amendola hauling in a 17-yard reception on a 4th down in the 3rd
- And then there was Julian Edelman’s miracle catch, drawing comparisons to David Tyree’s helmet catch in the 2008 Super Bowl which the Pats lost, before the two-minute warning in the 4th
Look down the Patriots 53-man roster and you found players – Chris Long, James White, Chris Hogan, Ryan Allen and Trey Flowers – contributing in big ways and small. The game was indicative of a system better known as the Patriots Way that emphasizes team first.
It’s a grade school approach to sports that doesn’t always work in the pros, but it does with the Patriots. They have players who buy into the philosophy, starting with Brady. He has done so since 2001 and his teammates have followed suit; the result has been a sustained level of excellence rarely seen in professional sports.
In any collaborative effort, success starts at the top and funnels its way down. This is why Belichick refused to glom onto any praise that came his way after Sunday’s victory vaulted him past Chuck Noll for most Super Bowl wins by a head coach. “The most important thing tonight is the team win,” he said. “I am happy for our team, our players and our organization. Everybody worked so hard for this. The only reason I am here is because of what our players did, what our assistant coaches and coordinators did, but Chuck Noll is a tremendous coach, a tremendous legacy. I coached against Chuck in his final game. I always admired Chuck and his style. The way his teams played. It is an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence with Chuck Noll. Tonight is really about our team. It is not about some record or something like that. It is about what our team accomplished. They deserve to be champions. They earned it tonight.”
If you’re wondering how and why the Patriots won on Sunday, and how they’ve been so good for so long, look at that quote again. It’s not about Brady. Or Belichick. It’s about the entire team.