December 28, 2012

Brady, Belichick lead Patriots by example

It's no fluke that the quarterback and coach share the NFL's best tandem record.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Stump Bill Belichick?

Tom Brady
click image to enlarge

Tom Brady’s fistful of records and championships only makes him all the more determined to learn and improve on what’s already amounted to a Hall of Fame career.

Photos by The Associated Press

Bill Belichick, Barry Anderson
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Bill Belichick seemed just a mediocre NFL coach before he came to New England, where he’s since distinguished himself as one of the best ever.

Tom Brady knows better than to try. The two meet several times during the week as the New England Patriots prepare for their next opponent, reviewing film, talking about game plans, trying to get better.

Brady, the sixth-round draft pick who has developed into a Hall of Fame quarterback under Belichick, doesn't even try to come up with something the coach hasn't seen before, or heard.

"There's not much I can do to do that," said Brady. "He's got a great memory, so his history lessons are some of the most fun meetings that we have."

It's hard to believe that Brady and Belichick are ending their 13th season together. When the Patriots selected Brady with the 199th pick of the 2000 draft, no one could have imagined that he would develop as he did. But together, Brady and Belichick have helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls and put together one of the NFL's premier franchises.

Entering Sunday's regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium, the two have a record of 134-39 -- the best regular-season record in NFL history for a coach-quarterback tandem. Don Shula and Dan Marino combined for a 116-68 record, Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll 107-51.

Over the years Belichick has been asked repeatedly where Brady rates among the great quarterbacks in NFL history. His response has always been, "There's no quarterback I'd rather have than Tom Brady."

The feeling is mutual.

Asked about their relationship on Wednesday, Brady said, "There's no better coach out there and there's no one that I'd ever want to play for."

Teammates often talk about their competitiveness, their quest for perfection, the countless hours they spend poring over game film to detect even the tiniest advantage. Asked earlier in the year about the Patriots' ability to cause fumbles, Belichick said the defense watches how opposing backs carry the ball.

"Carry it, throw it, yeah," he said. "Again, whatever opportunities we have, when we see certain types of plays, certain techniques, we point those out to the players."

It's that type of attention to detail that has pushed the Patriots -- and their coach/quarterback duo -- to the top. New players come in knowing they have to perform simply because the standard is set so high by Brady and Belichick, a fact alluded to earlier this year by veteran wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.

"(Belichick) brings a consistency to our team in terms of motivation, our focus, our execution, his expectations for us," said Brady. "I think winning is the most important thing and that's the most important thing to him. And that's what it's all about, it's a competition. There's a test at the end of every week to see how well we did."

The Patriots usually do quite well. They have had a winning record in 12 consecutive years, second only to the great Tom Landry-led Dallas Cowboys teams that had 16 straight winning seasons from 1970-85.

They've had 10 consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins, second only to San Francisco's 16.

And at the forefront is Brady and Belichick. An average passer when he first took over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady is now one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to throw 30 or more touchdown passes in at least four seasons, as well as one of only five to have at least 4,000 passing yards in at least five seasons.

Belichick has 203 career victories, including playoffs, 166 with the Patriots.

Belichick, of course, tries to steer away from singling out any one player. He reminds everyone that the Patriots won 11 games in 2008, when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game. But he admits having the same starting quarterback for 11 of the last 12 seasons has been extremely beneficial. How many other teams can say that? None.

(Continued on page 2)

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