Tom Brady on Bill Belichick: ‘He’s at the top of the list’

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

With Tom Brady taking the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, the future Hall of Famer still thinks Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was vital to his legacy.

When quarterback Tom Brady made his fateful decision to test NFL free agency last offseason and depart the New England Patriots, the only team for which Brady had played during his pro career, there was going to be the inevitable question.

Who was more important to the Patriots dynasty, Brady or head coach Bill Belichick?

With the Pats stumbling their way to a 7-9 finish and missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and for only the fourth time during Belichick’s tenure, it’s pretty clear Brady, not Belichick, was the main architect behind the Pats’ legendary run.

Now, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are enjoying the fruits of Brady’s work ethic and on-field abilities, as they’re gearing up to square off against the defending NFL champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, in Super Bowl LV.

Putting it bluntly — Tom Brady > Bill Belichick.

Brady’s experience under Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has been entirely different than the one experienced in New England. Whereas Belichick installed the “Patriot Way” with keen attention to work ethic, focus and nothing above winning, Arians’ focus has been much more enjoyable. Although Brady has brought that same focus and attention to detail he perfected during his time in New England.

That said, Brady hasn’t turned his back on Belichick.

“I have a great relationship with him,” Brady said of Belichick on “I’m just incredibly grateful for what he’s meant in my life as a coach. He was everything you could ask for as a player. I loved my time (in New England). I had two incredible decades there. My football journey took me to a different place. I certainly could never have accomplished the thing in my career without his support and his teachings.”

Some have felt there was an irreparable rift between Brady and his former head coach, the likes of which were detailed in that now-infamous 2018 article by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham. Belichick naturally questioned Brady’s ability to continue playing at a high level into his 40s, then considered replacing the future Hall of Famer with a younger quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. Yet Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft got the final say, eventually forcing Belichick to trade Garoppolo to the SF 49ers late in 2017.

The seemingly cold and businesslike Belichick was conducting his roster accordingly, at least as he saw fit, despite an apparent rift between Brady and Jimmy G.

So, naturally, one might assume the fallout from that process inevitably led to Brady wanting out from Belichick and New England once and for all.

But Brady doesn’t think of it that way.

“Incredible coach and mentor for me,” Brady added. “I’ve had a lot of those in my career, but obviously, he’s at the top of the list.”

Of course, it’s certainly easy for Brady, who won six Super Bowls with Belichick, to sing his former head coach’s praises. While Brady is proving to be the difference-maker, there’s little questioning Belichick gave him more than enough backdrop to attain that success.

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Now, Brady is taking those pieces with him to Tampa Bay, and the end result could be an unprecedented seventh Super Bowl ring for the all-time great.