Behind every quarterback is a head coach who relentlessly supports them. Every legendary quarterback who has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl has had his head coach nearby, ready to embrace. Joe Montana with Bill Walsh, Terry Bradshaw with Chuck Noll and Troy Aikman with Jimmy Johnson or Barry Switzer.
In New England for the past two decades we’ve watched Tom Brady with Bill Belichick. Together, they celebrated six Super Bowl wins, and easy paths to Canton, Ohio, and the Hall of Fame, as arguably the best quarterback-head coach tandem in NFL history.
When Brady decided to leave the only team, and coach, he’d known in the NFL to move to Tampa Bay it came as a shock to every football fan.
Were people skeptical that Brady would find success somewhere else, and with someone other than Belichick on the sideline?
Yet in typical Brady fashion, he went into this season with a chip on his shoulder, continuously playing as a quarterback who had something to prove, even if his resumé speaks for itself.
We saw some growing pains for Brady as he played in an entirely new offense under his new head coach, Bruce Arians. After losing in week one to the New Orleans Saints, 34-23, the Bucs had an up and down season. After another tough loss against the Saints in week 9, Arians didn’t shy away, after the game, from criticizing Brady, the 21-year veteran, for three interceptions.
When Brady’s pass to newly acquired receiver Antonio Brown was intercepted, Arians called Brady’s pass “a poor throw.” On another pass later in the game intended for Chris Godwin, Arians said Brady read the play wrong, thinking he was going deep when Godwin ran the route properly. Arians also said Brady didn’t try enough to get the ball to star wide receiver Mike Evans, who Arians said was “open a bunch in that ballgame.”
It was shocking to see this all unfold, as we were so adjusted to seeing Brady never being critiqued. Belichick, a man of few words, never went into grave detail about Brady’s mishaps after a bad game. Arians, though, was very open when he did. For the first time since I started watching him when I was 8 years old, I saw Brady more as a regular player prone to mistakes and less as a perfectionist.
But the conflicts didn’t last. The Buccaneers won five of their last seven regular season games, securing a spot in the playoffs. Throughout the playoffs, we saw Brady and the Bucs stop the Washington Football Team’s young defense, beat Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field and upset the Saints, possibly ending Drew Brees’ historic career.
In his 10th Super Bowl, Brady, at the spry young age of 43, was ready to take on the explosiveness of the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs. While the Bucs’ defense was stifling quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Brady was in classic form, throwing three touchdown passes, including two to Rob Gronkowski, his longtime tight end and former Patriots’ teammate. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl on their home field, claiming the NFL championship for the second time in franchise history with the 31-9 rout.
In winning his seventh ring, Brady has proven to the skeptics that Belichick isn’t the main reason for his career successes. Brady proved, although faced with criticism and growing pains, that he was able to lead a new team, under the tutelate of a new coach, back to the top of the mountain. Though his career would satisfy any player, Brady has stressed that he is far from ready to hang up his shoulder pads. When asked during Super Bowl media day if he intended to play past age 45, Brady responded, “Yeah, I would definitely consider that.”
Brady’s legacy isn’t done. Though most will remember his days with the Patriots, we can expect to see Brady lead the Buccaneers on another deep playoff run as the quest for his eighth title will begin this week. Although Brady will always be tied to Belichick, he proved on Super Bowl Sunday that his legacy is his own.
No matter the team, coach, or offensive scheme, Brady is capable of winning anywhere in the National Football League.