Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have accomplished and achieved about all you could hope for during their tenure with the New England Patriots. But, if there was ever a moment where you could say that their dominating era was starting to burn out, it was this past Sunday. The Patriots were upset 20-18 at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, who were slated against a 13.5 spread.
Belichick and Brady’s record number for coach-quarterback wins (125), is 12 more than the amount the Arizona Cardinals have in their 18-year history. Brady looked satisfactory and Stephen Gostkowski, the most accurate kicker in Patriots history, missed the game-winning field goal with a second left on the clock. It was New England’s first home opening loss in 10 years.
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What’s interesting is the defeat came on the same day Troy Brown was inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame. Brown, combined with Deion Branch, were simply special flourishing with Brady in the crucial moments during their Super Bowl years in ’01, ’03 and ’04. That connection is something Brady has been seeking for a lengthy period of time.
Wes Welker is a bona fide receiver, but has no championship titles to his name and will forever be remembered for his vital drop in SB XLVI. Since Brown and Branch, the Patriots have implemented a different style offence, which involves constant use of their tight ends. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were key short yardage options for the Patriots adaptation of a west coast offence last season.
That’s exactly why the Cardinals defeat on Sunday could turn out to be a crushing blow for New England. Tight end Aaron Hernandez left the game with a high ankle sprain and is likely to miss a significant amount of time.
Many thoughts come to my mind when thinking about Belichick and Brady. Tom’s the handsome heartthrob of many viewers’ wives; Bill’s the disgruntled old coach. Tom picks apart his opponents’ defence; Bill solidifies his. Tom’s all about fresh and expensive cashmere and goatskin; Bill wears cutoff hooded sweatshirts. Beyond their contrary styles, what they do share is there mission to win. And do they ever. As mentioned, they hold records for coach-quarterback victories (125) and Super Bowl appearances (five) since the AFC/NFC merger in 1970.
Outside of how extraordinary there play on the field and numbers in the books may seem, the NFL and sports in general are markets where it’s just not beneficial to keep such close partnerships between coaches and players for a long period of time.
Yes, perhaps week two is too early to foresee a substantial decline revolving such a dominating duo, but as history shows us, it’s not too bold a prediction. B&B have been together for 12 seasons. Next on the list are the Miami Dolphins Don Shula and Dan Marino. They compiled 117 wins together over 13 years which is an amazing number for a duo who never took home a Lombardi trophy.
Outside of Shula and Marino, the closest coach-quarterback tenure is 10 years. There are five of them including the legendary tandems of Bill Walsh/Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers), Bob Griese/Don Shula (Miami Dolphins), and Tom Landry/Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys).
If history and popular culture tells us anything, it’s that it’s better to burn out than to fade away…and that reality could be closer than we think.