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Sport Who was more responsible for Patriots' dynasty: Bill Belichick or Tom Brady? The debate rages on.

15:40  02 october  2021
15:40  02 october  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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It's become the quintessential sports debate, a question that promises to fuel national talk radio shows and be bandied about in Boston-area sports bars for decades to come.

Who is more responsible for the New England Patriots' dynasty: Bill Belichick, or Tom Brady?

"I’ll start off," NBC commentator Rodney Harrison said on a teleconference this week. "I think it’s stupid, OK?"

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Sunday night's game between Belichick's Patriots and Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers will mark the first head-to-head matchup between the two men on the field, but the debate over their respective legacies has long since taken on a life of its own.

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady (12) before the game against The New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. © Provided by USA TODAY New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady (12) before the game against The New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Together, Belichick and Brady won six Super Bowl rings between 2001 and 2019. Since they split, the Patriots (1-2) have missed the playoffs, and the Buccaneers (2-1) have won a Super Bowl.

So did the coach make the quarterback, or the other way around?

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady celebrate their overtime win over the Chiefs in the 2019 AFC Championship Game. © Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports Bill Belichick and Tom Brady celebrate their overtime win over the Chiefs in the 2019 AFC Championship Game.

Count Harrison, the ex-Patriots safety, as among those who are just sick of talking about it.

"I think it’s disrespectful," Harrison said. "Not only is it disrespectful to Tom and Bill, but it’s disrespectful to all those great players that came along that were part of those championship teams. Because, at the end of the day, it wasn’t Bill and Tom versus everybody else. It was an entire team.

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"Everyone wants to pit them together, put them against each other as opposed to celebrating success. ... You can give them props and call them the greatest of all time, and nobody would probably argue with that. But at the end of the day, it’s not, 'Tom's more responsible' or 'Bill's more responsible.' I just think it’s dumb."

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Tedy Bruschi, another former Patriot, said that even framing the question as one person versus another indicates that outsiders "have no clue on how a football game's won."

"I understand the search for the answer to give people their satisfaction," Bruschi told The Providence Journal, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.

"Whether they're being agreed with or whether they're being disagreed with sparks the argument. So I understand all of that. But it takes a lot of people. And there's two people that know that, too – that's Tom and that’s Bill."

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Other current and former players, meanwhile, have sided with Brady.

Former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount justified his argument during a podcast appearance last year by noting that Brady is the one who actually made the plays on the field.

Asante Samuel, who played cornerback for New England, said on ESPN's "First Take" last month that Brady's success since leaving the Patriots has given credence to the argument that the quarterback played a more important role.

"(Belichick) hasn't showed that he is a great coach, to me, because he had the greatest player of all-time," Samuel said.

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JC Tretter, the Cleveland Browns center and NFL Players Association president, said he would also go with Brady.

"Obviously they both are huge parts of it, but I think Tom's extremely special as a leader in the locker room, as somebody who brings the best out of the guys in the locker room," Tretter told The Akron Beacon Journal, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.

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"We've seen him in Super Bowls – no matter what the score is, no matter what the situation is, you feel like you've always got a chance playing with him."

Matt Cassel, who spent the first four years of his career as Brady's backup, offered a more nuanced take on NFL Network this week. He said he thinks of it almost like a time-specific split – that Belichick deserves more credit for the Patriots' first three titles, while Brady played a more important role in the other three.

"If you look at the first three Super Bowls that they went out and played, they won those Super Bowls by playing great defense, they were opportunistic, they took care of the football," Cassel said on "Good Morning Football." "But then you go to the last three Super Bowls, and this is when you start to see him become the GOAT."

As one would expect, the two men at the center of the debate have shared the credit and praised one another when asked about their success.

Belichick, for instance, was asked by a reporter this week if he would've had as much success without Brady under center.

"Of course not," he replied.

Yet despite their own input, the debate rolls on – much to Harrison's chagrin.

"Nobody ever questions, 'Who’s more responsible for the Indianapolis Colts’ success: Coach (Tony) Dungy or Peyton Manning? And Peyton left, and he won another Super Bowl with a different team," Harrison said. "Like, it baffles me that people can sit back and actually say, 'Well, Tom’s more responsible or Coach is more responsible.'

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"Coach gave Tom an opportunity to play. ... (Brady) had arguably the greatest coach of all time that believed in him, saw something that no one else saw in him. So I would just be careful with all those comparisons and 'who’s better' and this and that."

Contributing: Mark Daniels and Nate Ulrich

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who was more responsible for Patriots' dynasty: Bill Belichick or Tom Brady? The debate rages on.

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