Tom Brady won't determine Bill Belichick's legacy
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 10:30 AM
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It's only a few weeks until the NFL draft and as things currently stand that will be the only football related event of this tumultuous off-season that could last for who knows how long.
The limitations brought about by the lack of free agency will hurt many teams substantially but the New England Patriots shouldn't feel the brunt of that.
Bill Belichick's recent draft classes have been by anyone's standards a success. Belichick has built a roster littered with youthful players that compliment the remaining stars of past Superbowls.
Guys like Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork won't play forever. Wilfork is 29 but plays in a taxing position while Brady is 33. The Patriots are the closest thing to a modern day dynasty however it may come as a surprise to younger NFL fans that the team does not have a history of winning, or often even competing at the top level.
The Bill Belichick era in Boston brought the area it's first NFL Championship after the 2001 season. It was the first of three Superbowl titles for the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, an award he has also won three times(2003, 2007, 2010).
Belichick's status so far as one of the best coaches in NFL history has been tied to players such as Tom Brady, Richard Seymour and Matt Light. It's no coincidence that Belichick drafted all three of those players who were cornerstones of his teams over the years.
It makes you think of Belichick's standing in a historical context. It's often easy to overreact to the stars of today and proclaim them as the best ever simply because we see them week in and week out. It's a major reason why a player needs to be out of football for 5 years before qualifying for the Hall of Fame.
As far as Belichick stands right now; It's safe to say he is a Hall of Fame coach. It's safe to say that he is the best coach in the league. It's nowhere near safe to say he is the best ever.
Belichick's legacy will be determined by the next generation of Patriots.
Don't get me wrong, his current résumé is incredibly decorated. The 58 year old has five Superbowl rings dating back to 1987 and three as a head coach which ranks second behind Chuck Noll who has four.
It could be argued that Belichick's achievements are greater than Noll's as his Superbowl victories took place during the free agency era.
At the start of the 1993 season the NFL introduced the first modern free agent system(it was the second attempt after a system introduced in 1989 was abandoned). The next season the salary cap was introduced. These two aspects of the league made it even harder for franchises to create any sort of dynasty. Since 1994 five teams have won multiple Superbowls but only one team has won three and appeared in a fourth.
Belichick has repeatedly insulted the parity of the NFL with a regular season record of 162-94-0 while his success in the playoffs is similar; 15-6-0.
However even if he is able to surpass Noll on these grounds, Vince Lombardi(5 championships), George Halas and Curly Lambeau(6 apiece) still lie ahead of him when you consider pre merger titles.
The writing has been on the wall for Belichick's past stars since the 2007 Superbowl loss to the New York Giants. The team is 0-3 in the playoffs since that day.
This is the reason for the drastic transition the team has gone through over the past few years. Abandoning the older veterans that had served him so well in the past in favor of stock piling draft picks to build a young raw roster, the young raw roster that reflects the next generation of Patriots.
Belichick has put his legacy in the hands of players like Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty and Sebastien Vollmer while hoping for, rather than relying on, Tom Brady to play to his current standard for long enough for these guys to develop.
The six draft choices in the first three rounds of this year's NFL draft will afford Belichick to piece together the jigsaw that will potentially give him a chance to catch Lambeau and Halas and maybe, just maybe, make him the greatest coach of all time.
In my mind, Brady and Belichick is the greatest ever quarterback-head coach combination and to qualify this I was brought up a Pittsburgh Steeler fan. I have no inclination towards the Patriots, in fact it's probably the opposite but you can't argue with facts. Coming into this season the duo were 97-30(.764) in the regular season, the best of any pair since the merger. They were 14-4 in the playoffs with an overall record of 111-34(.766).
Brady can maybe win one or two more titles before retiring if he's luck, I don't think he's durable enough to do a Favre(and it's not like that actually works), so it will be down to his successor to determine Bill Belichick's legacy.
Brian Hoyer is the only other current Patriot's quarterback but Brady still has enough time left that their next starting signal caller may not even be in the league yet.
We haven't seen enough of Hoyer to determine whether he is the starter in waiting.
Whoever takes the reigns we are guaranteed one thing, Belichick won't settle for being just the best right now. He was promoting Winning as a way of life long before Charlie Sheen was.
For more on the Belichick era in New England and a history of the Patriots check out The Blueprint by Christopher Price.
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