There is no denying the legacy Bill Belichick is going to leave behind for his work with the New England Patriots.
Since taking the helm in 2000, the team has been to nine Super Bowls, winning six of them, and missed the playoffs only three times. That is a patently absurd track record when you consider only six of the 16 teams in the AFC conference make the postseason each year.
Naturally, then, Belichick is the person most associated with the Patriots’ success, even more so than Tom Brady. Is that fair? We can’t yet be sure. The quarterback and head coach have been together for far too long, nearly two decades, for us to know for sure.
We may, however, be about to find out.
Many expect Brady, who will soon turn 43, to leave the Patriots in free agency. Rumors have swirled over the past couple of years that he and Belichick aren’t on the same page. The coach has apparently wanted to pass the torch for some time and was livid when it came time to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, then Brady’s backup, at the behest of ownership. The vast majority of people think he sent Jimmy G to the San Francisco 49ers for a lukewarm return just to spite the powers that be above him.
That’s some wild hubris on Belichick’s part if all this is true. Brady is no doubt on the back end of his career, but he’s arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. The Patriots won a Super Bowl with him just two years ago, and they still mustered 12 victories with him under center this past season.
How responsible Brady has been for New England’s most recent runs is up for debate. The Patriots have started leaning more on the run game and their defense as he ages. It is on this model that Belichick has a case as the franchise’s most important building block.
New England has long been a revolving door for defensive talent and running backs. Belichick has always trusted his system over the individual. The Patriots’ transformation into a run-heavy team that relies on its defense to control the pace of games and come up with stops support this opinion he apparently has of himself.
If Brady leaves, though, that will be Belichick’s ultimate test. It’s one thing to succeed with a known commodity under center, even one on the downswing. It’s another to rebound quickly with a younger, unestablished QB who can make or break your rebuild.