Is Bill Belichick Out to Make a Point?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 13, 2020

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, left, walks on the field near quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham (4), and Tom Brady (12) during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/Associated Press

For the vast majority of Tom Brady's tenure with Bill Belichick in New England, fans and pundits hotly debated which of the two deserved more credit for the Patriots' unprecedented dynasty.

Now, with Brady moving on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, much will inevitably be made of the success (or lack thereof) each guy experiences without the other.

In an interview last week with SiriusXM Radio's Howard Stern, Brady made it abundantly clear he doesn't care for any of that chatter.

"I think it's a pretty s--tty argument that people would say that," Brady said, per Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper. "I can't do his job, and he can't do mine. So, the fact that you could say, 'Would I be successful without him? The same level of success?' I don't believe I would have been. But I feel the same vice versa as well. To have him allowed me to be the best I can be. I'm grateful for that, and I very much believe he feels the same about me because we've expressed that to each other."

Maybe that's because Brady isn't concerned with his legacy.

"I never cared about legacy," he told Stern, according to SI.com's Chris Chavez. "I could give a s--t about legacy. ... That's just not me. It's not my personality."

But what about his now-former boss?

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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks with Tom Brady #12 before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Ril
Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Belichick is a professional football historian. He's spent his life consuming and analyzing the game, and his familiarity with players and coaches from as far back as the 1930s is arguably unmatched. He was enthusiastically the only active head coach involved in picking members for the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

He might not admit it, but Belichick cares about his legacy. He's also intensely competitive, and for two decades he's been the chief decision-maker for a franchise that has defined organizational hubris.

One of the key tenets of Belichick's "Patriot Way" is that no player is larger than the team. It sometimes felt as though Brady was an exception to that rule, and that may explain why the two seemed to butt heads late in Brady's tenure.

With that understanding, and without ever really knowing what's on Belichick's mind, we can make an educated guess that he's out to prove something to the football world.

Belichick and the Pats could still sign 2015 MVP Cam Newton, and they may just be waiting for an opportunity to examine his bruised and battered body after foot and shoulder injuries severely limited his effectiveness the last two years.

But earlier this month, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported the team has "expressed no interest in signing" Newton or trading for veteran Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. And former Patriots executive Scott Pioli recently suggested Belichick and Newton couldn't coexist in New England.

Instead, it looks likely that they'll roll with 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 21: Jarrett Stidham #4 of the New England Patriots looks on next to Tom Brady #12 before the game against the Buffalo Bills  at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Remember how the story goes for those who subscribe to the pro-Hoody narrative: Belichick saw something in a quarterback who was passed on 198 times in the 2000 draft, and then he took that sixth-round pick and helped him become the most decorated player in NFL history.

But now, by thus far opting not to replace Brady on a roster that lacks an established potential successor, that hubris is on full display.

Stidham, who barely completed 60 percent of his passes in his final year at Auburn, entered the league as nothing more than an adequate quarterback prospect, just like Brady. Both posted 138 passer ratings in their final college seasons (which wasn't particularly good in 1999 and wasn't good at all in 2018), neither left the NCAA with anyone outside of their direct families believing they'd become stars, and both were passed on well over 100 times in the draft.

Is Belichick cocky enough to believe that he can win with Stidham just as he won with Brady?

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on prior to Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Maddie M
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Because it's Belichick and the Patriots, the benefit of the doubt belongs in Foxborough.

Days after they lost the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history, a couple of weeks after they lost key veteran free-agent defenders Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and a few months after they lost back-to-back home games to the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans to unceremoniously wrap up the Brady era, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane still declared the Patriots "the team to beat" in the AFC East.

That might be modest coachspeak, but it reflects the way many of us feel about Belichick. We're terrified to count him out, because so many of us have been burned when doing so. Now, it appears he's looking to embarrass his doubters in an entirely new, Brady-less fashion.

"Let's give him somebody else, let's give him Geno Smith, let's give him whoever, and let's see how many Super Bowls he would have won," former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said on ESPN last week. "We saw the answer was zero in Cleveland."

Now comes Belichick's first chance to win that seemingly tired debate about which legend was more reliant on the other, and to quiet those like Ryan.

What better way to show everyone that this was always about you than to build another Brady—and another dynasty—from scratch?

                

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter. Or don't. It's entirely your choice.