TAMPA — The debate may rage on. Who was more responsible for the Patriots’ six Super Bowl wins? Bill Belichick or Tom Brady?
Their separation after 20 seasons wasn’t without some icy moments, but Brady appeared to thaw in the sunshine of Tampa Bay.
During a star-studded “Let’s Go!” podcast on Monday, Brady’s first since announcing his retirement, Belichick paid his former quarterback the ultimate compliment.
“The greatest player, the greatest career,” Belichick said. “A great, great person. It was such an opportunity and honor for me to coach Tom. I guess it’s got to end at some point. But it’s the greatest (career) ever.”
Brady, who went on to win Super Bowl 55 with the Bucs in his first season apart from Belichick, reciprocated.
“For me, there’s nobody I’d rather be associated with,” Brady said.
Belichick and his staff spent the past week at the East-West Shrine Bowl, and he reminisced about watching Brady at that event when he was coming out of Michigan in 2000. The Patriots drafted Brady in the sixth round, No. 199 overall.
“That’s kind of where it all started,” Belichick said. “Michigan, the Orange Bowl, the East-West game.”
Brady was asked by co-host Jim Gray what Belichick did to develop him into a seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
“I think it’s more what did he not do to bring out the best in me,” Brady said. “You know, everyone always says I was just very lucky. I came into my career and got drafted by the Patriots. I was always joking I didn’t ... know where New England was when I got drafted. I flew into Providence, which really confuses you coming from the West Coast. I’m like, Boston, Providence … and it was Coach Belichick’s first year there, and we came in there together.”
Though he had others, including some players, take him under their wing, Brady said Belichick saw something in him that few others did.
“I think Coach Belichick and I developed an amazing relationship really from the moment I was drafted,” Brady said. “But really, we spent a lot of time together. He started to teach me really what football was all about. How to study defenses. How to learn to play, certainly.”
Brady said what annoyed him at the end of his career with the Patriots was that people tried to put him against Belichick in a presumptive debate about who was more responsible for the team’s success during their nine Super Bowl appearances and six victories.
“I think it’s always such a stupid conversation to say Brady vs. Belichick, because in my mind that’s not what partnerships are all about,” Brady said. “Coach couldn’t play quarterback, and I couldn’t coach. And I think the best part about football, and Coach says it a lot, ‘Do your job.’ And he asked me to play quarterback. He didn’t ask me to coach.
“You know, I didn’t want him playing quarterback. I just wanted him to coach. I’d see him throw, so he definitely wasn’t playing quarterback. In my view, it’s just people always trying to pull us apart, and I don’t think we ever even felt that with each other. We were never trying to pull each other apart. We were actually just trying to go in the same direction.“
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Brady said he suspects media in New England grew weary of chronicling the same storyline year after year for two decades.
“I think when we were in New England for 20 years together, you know, they get tired of writing the same story,” he said. “So once they write all the nice things and championships and this, then they just start going, ‘Well, this works. Let’s start trying to divide them.’ I never really appreciated those in the ways people would try to do that.”
“(Belichick) and I always had a great relationship, and we met all the time. Did we always see everything exactly the same way? Who does in life? What close relationship can you have where everything goes like a bright, sunny day? No, there are moments when it was never intolerable, but it was, I would say, healthy debates about certain things.”
In fact, Belichick admitted he was deliberately critical of Brady in team meetings, a tactic he learned from former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight.
“Coach Knight, he told me that’s what he did with Michael Jordan on the Olympic team,” Belichick said. “He said, ‘You know, Michael, I’m going to rip your ass because I can’t rip some of these other guys without ripping you.’ And Jordan said, ‘Hey, bring it on, because I need that and that will help me with my teammates. And it was kind of a similar thing with Tom.
“He told me he appreciated it. I don’t know if he truly appreciated it.”
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