TAMPA, Fla. — When future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many experts didn’t expect a large drop-off for the New England Patriots because Bill Belichick was still the head coach.
Now that Belichick is going into a second season without Brady, the Patriots could be in for another long season. It's brought up the question of who was more important for the Patriots success, Brady or Belichick?
Before we dive into the numbers, the simple fact is when Belichick and Brady were together, they were the best. The six Super Bowl victories across 12 seasons is a record that will likely never be topped. They made the playoffs every season they were together except for two: 2002 and in 2008 when Brady was lost for the season due to a knee injury in the first game).
Then this week, former Patriots star Asante Samuel weighed in on last year’s starting quarterback, Cam Newton, getting cut by the Patriots on roster cutdown day. Samuel responded to a tweet from ESPN’s Louis Riddick and included this nugget: “But without Brady he is just another coach in my opinion. (sic)”
Samuel’s statement kicked up the discussion about Belichick without Brady. So, here’s how the numbers break down from a win/loss perspective.
Since Brady left New England, he led the Bucs to a Super Bowl championship in 2020 and looks poised to have the Bucs once again in the hunt for a second-straight title. Belichick’s Patriots stumbled to a 7-9 regular-season record in 2020 and this season will be starting a rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, which is tough for any team.
Prior to 2020, the last time Belichick didn’t have Brady under center was in 2008. That Patriots team was led by Matt Cassell after Brady tore his ACL in the first game of the season. The Patriots finished with an 11-5 regular-season record but missed the playoffs after dropping games to the Dolphins, who debuted the Wildcat offense that season. Belichick led the Patriots to a 5-11 record in 2000, the year before Brady took over as the starter and his first with New England.
Looking further back to his time in Cleveland, Belichick’s Browns made the playoffs just once in 1994, coincidentally the only winning season he posted as the head coach of the Browns. Overall, in Cleveland, Belichick posted a 30-34 regular-season record as head coach from 1992 through 1995.
In all his seasons without Brady at the helm in Cleveland and New England, Belichick has gone to the playoffs just once, the aforementioned 1994 season with the Browns. Outside of that season, Belichick hasn’t posted a winning season as a head coach in the NFL without Tom Brady as his quarterback. His overall record in the NFL as a head coach without Brady is 53-59, six games under .500.
Here’s a season-by-season breakdown of Belichick without Brady:
- 1992 Browns – 7-9 (missed playoffs)
- 1993 Browns – 7-9 (missed playoffs)
- 1994 Browns – 11-5 (lost divisional round)
- 1995 Browns – 5-11 (missed playoffs)
- 2000 Patriots – 5-11 (missed playoffs)
- 2008 Patriots – 11-5 (missed playoffs)
- 2020 Patriots – 7-9 (missed playoffs)
- Career record without Brady: 53-59
For comparison, Belichick’s regular-season record with Brady at the helm, 221-67.
So is Samuel right, is Belichick just another coach without Brady? Based on wins and losses, probably so. But there’s more to Belichick than just that.
Belichick is a defensive guru. As a defensive coordinator under head coach Bill Parcells, he helped build the New York Giants’ powerhouse defenses of the late 1980s including two Super Bowl victories (1986, 1990). He and Parcells teamed up again in 1996 with Belichick coaching the secondary for a Patriots team that went to the Super Bowl, before losing to the Green Bay Packers.
He’s also produced a coaching tree with nine assistant coaches from his time as a head coach ending up becoming NFL and college head coaches, including Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, arguably the greatest college coach ever.
There's no arguing Brady is the greatest quarterback ever, the GOAT. Belichick earned his accolades with Brady, what he does without him may go a long way to defining his legacy. Regardless, as NFL fans, seeing both of them in their prime has been a treat, even if you don't cheer for either.