The New England Patriots have experienced a 19-season dynasty since Tom Brady was drafted by the Patriots in 2000. In this span of time, the Patriots have won six Super Bowl championships, played in 14 Pro Bowls, had a winning record every season and have won eight out of nine American Football Conference (AFC) championship games. But who else came to the Patriots in 2000? Bill Belichick.
Rather than focusing on Tom Brady, the Patriots’ coaching staff deserves credit for New England’s success in the 21st century.
Sorry Patriots fans, but I am here to tell you Tom Brady is just an above-average system quarterback in an amazing coaching system.
What is a system quarterback?
A system quarterback (QB) is a QB who flourishes under a particular offensive system. Football has been compared to a game of chess between offense and defense. Coaches will develop strategies on both sides of the ball to put their players in the best position to beat other players. In this metaphor, the coaches are the chess players and the athletes are the pieces on the chessboard. Each team tries to guess what the other team will call as a play and try to exploit weaknesses. Players actively read schemes and adjust themselves throughout games; but the coaches make the majority of the choices that dictate individual actions and, thus, the entire game.
So, why is Brady a system QB?
Without Bill Belichick coaching, Tom Brady has never done anything to address his weaknesses. This is not to say that Brady is a terrible QB with no skills whatsoever, what I mean is that Belichick is such a great coach that he can design an offense around Brady’s strengths to minimize his weaknesses — which is what every coach tries to do, but none as efficiently as Belichick.
There are other great QBs in the league that have had similar or better stats than Brady each season; but none have had the same consistent winning records as the Patriots. This is because Belichick’s coaching system is like no other, and that the Patriots have only needed a better record than the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins to get into the playoffs each year — none of whom have had a winning season in this century.
This season, the Patriots’ offensive line is terrible, leaving Brady exposed. In previous years, Brady’s offensive line has been tremendous, allowing the QB to sit in the pocket for what felt like years to find an open teammate. Now that Brady has less time to find an open receiver, his inability to improvise and make plays outside the pocket is shining through. This shows Belichick has recruited offensive lines and play designs to camouflage this shortcoming.
The one year that Belichick could not camouflage Brady’s weakness, he has been unable to adapt. Without Belichick’s highly-tailored system, Brady proves himself to be just a slightly above average QB.
What will change the fans’ minds about Brady?
For NFL fans (besides Patriots fans) to finally respect Brady as a great QB and not just Belichick’s groomed golden boy, Brady must do what Peyton Manning did: Prove he can maintain his skill and success under another coaching system. Manning left his 13-year, Super Bowl-winning career with the Indianapolis Colts and was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2011 where he led the struggling team to two Super Bowls, winning the second.
For Brady to earn respect without having an asterisk next to his legacy, he needs to prove he can do it somewhere else. If not, people should only remember how Bill Belichick schemed the Patriots to six Super Bowls with merely the help of Tom Brady.