Max Thompson

The New England Patriots have had, undoubtedly, the single greatest 20-year run in sports history. At the heart of this are two pioneers: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The real question is, who deserves more credit? The answer is fairly obvious: Bill Belichick.

Yes, this is not going to be popular. Brady is significantly more adored in the casual football community than the cold, stoic Belichick. It is Bill, however, that needs more credit.

While Brady has consistently played at a high level, he has done so with the support of the greatest defense of all time, courtesy of Belichick. Let us just compare the defensive help that Brady has gotten to that of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

This is the part where someone screams “six rings” at their phone. Drew Brees has played with a top 10 defense in only 23% of his seasons. Aaron Rodgers has had a top 10 defense in only 18% of his seasons.

Tom Brady? Well, he has played with a top 10 defense in 83% of his seasons, over twice as much as Brees and Rodgers combined. The Patriots have had one of the two best defenses in 27% of Brady’s years. That means that Tom Brady has played with a top two defense more often than Brees and Rodgers have played with a top 10 defense.

This is ridiculous. Brady has had a top 10 defense in 15 out of 18 seasons. Aaron Rodgers is on pace to have a top defense in 15 out of 83 seasons. If Rodgers wanted to play with as many top 10 defenses as Brady, his career would have to be longer than Morgan Freeman’s entire lifespan.

Am I arguing that Brees and Rodgers would have six rings if they had some help on the other end? No, of course not. The point here is that while Brady has had some achievements, he has ridden on the back of his all-time defense.

The Belichick effect is real. This is where the pushback typically comes. Brady-truthers are quick to point out that before Brady, Bill Belichick was not successful. This is simply incorrect.

If Bill is so special, he could win without Brady, right? Yes, and he has. In 19 games without Tom Brady, the Patriots have won 68.4% of their games, for an average of 11 wins per year. According to ESPN, “no other team in the league besides Belichick's Patriots has posted a winning percentage higher than 0.684 since Belichick and Brady joined forces in 2000.”

At that rate, the Brady-less Patriots would still be better than every other team in the NFL since 2000.

Also, Bill had legitimate success before coming to New England in the first place. He was the defensive coordinator for two separate Super Bowl titles with the Giants in just six years in that position. Also, his defense was ranked in the top two for three out of the six years, and was in the top 10 for five out of the six years.

If you hate Bill Belichick, no amount of coaching dominance is going to make you recognize that he is the single greatest coach of all time. If you love Tom Brady, no amount of embarrassing comparisons are going to open your eyes to all of the help he has.

Nevertheless, one thing must be agreed upon: we need to stop judging individual players’ accomplishments in team sports.

Dan Marino couldn’t go and play defense too, and Larry Fitzgerald can’t throw himself the ball. So yes, Brady has won more than any other professional football player in history. Just please do not forget, he has done so with the greatest supporting cast in the NFL.

Max Thompson is a freshman majoring in Business Management and Journalism and Electronic Media. He can be reached at sthomp92@vols.utk.edu. Want more NFL analysis? Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter!

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