View Full Version : Belichick and Brady soaring as NFL couple

11-14-2010, 01:22 AM
Belichick and Brady soaring as NFL couple
Sunday, November 14, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 09250.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_709250.html)

There is the seemingly joyless coach who projects a personality that is as drab as one of the gray-hooded sweatshirts he often wears during games.

Then there is the matinee-idol quarterback who dresses as if he stepped off the page of a Gucci ad and is pursued by paparazzi and pass-rushers alike.

New England's Bill Belichick and Tom Brady make a curious pairing to say the least.

"Off the field, they couldn't be more different," said ESPN analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "On the field, they're identical."

The two, who will lead the Patriots against the Steelers tonight at Heinz Field, are something else on the field: winners.

They have been the common denominators in an epic 10-year run that has seen the Patriots become the first team to win three Super Bowls in four seasons.

And if not for a miraculous catch by the Giants' David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII, Belichick and Brady would have achieved perfection in 2007 and joined the Steelers' Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw as the only coach-quarterback tandem to win four Lombardi Trophies.

The Patriots are 6-2 this season tied with the Steelers and Jets for the best record in the AFC but appear to be more vulnerable than in recent years. Yet, they still have an aura about them thanks largely to Belichick and Brady.

"Any time we've ever had a win against that team was a high point for me, because they're pretty much the benchmark of the NFL and everybody is usually following the those guys," Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior said. "They have a great system, a great coach and any time you have Tom Brady at the helm, you're always going to have a good chance."

A fortuitous union

Belichick, according to Elias Sports Bureau, is the first person to serve 20 or more years as an assistant coach in the NFL and at least 15 seasons as a head coach.

Nothing the football lifer did in his first stint as a head coach suggested that he would one day etch his name among immortal ones as far as accomplishments.

Belichick went 36-44 in Cleveland from 1991-95 and then won just five games in his first season as the Patriots' coach in 2000.

An injury in 2001 led to, or at least accelerated, the rise of Belichick and Brady.

When Drew Bledsoe, the first overall pick of the 1993 NFL draft, went down after a hit caused internal bleeding, it provided an opening for Brady, the 199th pick of the 2000 draft.

To say he seized the opportunity is an understatement.

Brady has charted a course that will one day make him a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. Earlier this season, he reached the 100-win plateau faster than any quarterback in NFL history, needing just 131 starts to accomplish that feat.

The Patriots have experienced significant player and coaching turnover seven of their current assistants have been on Belichick's staff fewer than five years since 2001.

The two constants during that span have been the quarterback who has been an NFL MVP and a five-time All-Pro selection and the coach who is second only to Vince Lombardi in postseason winning percentage.

"They have a terrific relationship, a la Bill Walsh and Joe Montana and those kind of combinations that come up every now and again," said Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti, who is in his 27th season as the team's color analyst on radio broadcasts. "They have a great deal of respect for one another, and Tom has an idea easy time of understanding what Bill is saying."

Good luck trying to get Belichick to articulate just exactly what that is.

He is as guarded as any coach in any sport about the inner workings of his team as his conference call with Pittsburgh reporters last week illustrated.

Treating the Q&A as the NFL requirement that it is, Belichick spoke in a monotone and in sweeping generalities whether it was about the Steelers or the Patriots' current run.

Of the latter, Belichick said, "Just try to make decisions every year about our football team, try to balance the short term with the long term. There's nothing more important than this week and this game and this year, but there's a season next year, too."

Brady as focused as Belichick

Wide receiver Wes Welker didn't provide much more insight on the Patriots' sustained success, showing just how pervasive Belichick's secretive nature is in the organization.

"There's definitely something unique about being here," said Welker, who had been with the Dolphins before signing with the Patriots in 2007, "and the attention to detail and the long hours and things like that that pay off in the end."

The Patriots' means to an end has, at times, raised questions about their success.

They were caught illegally videotaping a Jets practice in 2007, casting a shadow of suspicion on their previous accomplishments.

Perhaps the one thing Belichick and Brady need to truly validate their greatness together is another Super Bowl title, this one post-Videogate.

Brady's Hollywood looks and supermodel wife make him a magnet for attention off the field as much as on it.

But he has never let his focus stray from his day job or greatness, for that matter and is every bit as meticulous as Belichick.

"He probably prepares better than anybody in the league," Farrior said, "and that's why he's the best."

The Patriots need Brady, who is on pace to throw for over 3,600 yards and 28 touchdowns, to be at his best if they are to make a run at the Super Bowl.

They are giving up almost 390 yards of total offense per game and are 29th in the NFL in total defense.

Their top two running backs (BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead) made the NFL as undrafted free agents.

The Patriots have also lacked a bona fide deep threat since shrewdly trading wide receiver/serial headache Randy Moss to the Vikings last month for a third-round draft pick (Moss played four games in Minnesota before the Vikings waived him).

The Patriots are Brady's bunch more than they ever have been since he burst onto the scene.

And they will only go as far as he can carry them this season.

"I would say they're more Brady-reliant now," Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. "(Before), they were very balanced. Teams that they thought would be weak on the run defense they would really try to attack them with their run offense. Now, it's just all about spreading the offense and letting Tom pick and choose where he wants to attack the defense."