The New England Patriots are 136-39 under Bill Belichick when Tom Brady is the starting quarterback.
Additionally, with Belichick and Brady the Patriots have won five AFC championships and three Super Bowls. By any standard, New England has been an extremely successful franchise over the past 12 seasons.
But who deserves more credit for this success—Belichick or Brady?
Discerning an individual's full contribution in a team sport can be difficult. Especially in determining the contributions of a head coach and starting quarterback.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady both came to the New England Patriots in 2000, although Brady did not start until 2001.
Both Belichick and Brady are future hall of famers, and with Brady's recent contract extension, it has become increasingly evident that he will retire a Patriot. Consequently, we'll most likely never see him play for any head coach other than Bill Belichick.
Thus, judging Brady's contributions independent of Belichick's—or vice versa—is a daunting task.
I. The Case for Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick has been a head coach in the NFL for 18 seasons. Prior to becoming the head coach of the Patriots in 2000, he served as the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1991 to 1995.
Belichick has amassed 187 regular season wins as a head coach. His teams have a record of 136-39 with Tom Brady as the starting quarterback. Without Brady, he's 51-65.
However, while quarterbacks have passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns, the only statistic coaches can be judged by is wins and losses. While a quarterback can have a good game in a loss, a coach is never said to have a good game in a losing effort.
Belichick has a much higher win percentage with Brady than without, so in a vacuum it's easy to make a case for Brady.
Admittedly, Belichick's first three seasons as an NFL head coach did not go smooth, nor did his first season with the New England Patriots. But what new NFL coach hasn't gone through growing pains?
Belichick was given an opportunity in the right environment, and after a season of imposing his vision for the Patriots on the team, New England catapulted into "dynasty" status.
Coach Belichick's lack of need for Brady was clearly evident during the 2008 season. In Belichick's system, Matt Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 season. Since Cassel left New England for Kansas City in 2009, he has never been able to perform at the same level as he did under Belichick.
Bill Belichick is a mastermind football coach. His schemes are unparalleled. He's the best in the business in regard to making personnel decisions. And his play-calling is nothing short of a science.
Belichick's incredible coaching ability have afforded Tom Brady the opportunity to become a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback.
He took Brady from the sixth-round prospect he was and made him into the superstar he is today. And that is why Bill Belichick deserves more credit than Tom Brady for the success the Patriots have had over the past 12 years.
II. The Case for Tom Brady
Tom Brady has been awarded a plethora of individual accolades, including eight Pro Bowls, two AP NFL MVPs and two Super Bowl MVPs.
Tom Brady has played his entire NFL career under Bill Belichick. Without Brady, Belichick is 51-65. But with Brady, the Patriots are 136-39 in the regular season.
Brady has shown excellent accuracy and decision making in his time as a pro. With a career completion percentage of 63.7 percent, he has amassed 44,806 passing yards and 348 total touchdowns during his 13 seasons in the league.
Yet beyond the quantifiable statistics, Brady brings unmatched leadership to the Patriots organization. He demands a high-level of respect, which in turn produces a high-level of performance from every individual.
Hence, Tom Brady makes every player around him better.
Tom Brady has been a consistent high-level performer throughout the course of his career, whereas Bill Belichick has only been a high-level performer with Brady leading his team. And that is why it's clearly obvious that Tom Brady deserves more credit than Bill Belichick for the success the Patriots have had over the past 12 years.
III. An Additional Argument: The Case for the Combination
Aristotle once said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
These wise words' application may extend to the gridiron. It's possible that Belichick's career may have never flourished without Tom Brady, and vice versa.
Maybe Bill Belichick is a mediocre head coach without Brady at quarterback. And maybe Tom Brady is a mediocre quarterback without Belichick calling the shots.
But by a stroke of luck, Tom Brady, was taken No. 199 overall in the draft by a new head coach with a career record of 36-44. And by that same stroke of luck, Brady flourished in Belichick's system.
At the end of the day, it may be easiest to simply credit the man with both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on the payroll—Robert Kraft.