Coaches in any sport who are largely devoid of ego often admit, "It's not the Xs and Os but the Jimmys and Joes" that are most often the difference between victory and defeat.
In other words, you better have pretty good players if you expect to win championships. And never is that more true than in the National Football League as it pertains to quarterbacks. If you don't believe me, check out the resumes of New England head coach Bill Belichick — supposedly the greatest NFL coach who ever lived — and his former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who still looks like the best pro QB ever after taking his talents to Tampa Bay the past two seasons.
History will show that Belichick has won six Super Bowls as the head coach of the Patriots, which is the most of any coach in NFL history. However, it also shows he's never won one without Brady as his quarterback. Moreover, Tommy Trophy won a seventh — also the most by any QB in Super Bowl history — with the Bucs a season ago.
So, is it not more than fair to ask who was more important to the Pats' outrageous success — Belichick or Brady?
But let's not stop there. Instead, let's dig deeper into the coaches and quarterbacks of all 55 Super Bowl winners to date, beginning with the Green Bay Packers at the close of the 1966 season all the way up to Tampa Bay this time last year.
Want to know the value of quarterbacks to those coaches?
Of the 13 different coaches who have won at least two Super Bowls, only three have won with more than one quarterback. The New York Giants' Bill Parcells won it with Phil Simms, then Jeff Hostetler. The San Francisco 49ers' George Seifert won it with first Joe Montana — who had won his first three rings under Bill Walsh — then Steve Young. The Washington Redskins' Joe Gibbs won each of his three Super Bowl rings with different quarterbacks — Joe Theisman, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien — which arguably makes him the best coach, or at least the most adaptable coach of the last 55 years.
Point is, those other 10 multiple winners had the same signal caller, be it Dallas Cowboys great Tom Landry with Roger Staubach, four-time Pittsburgh Steelers world champ Chuck Noll with Terry Bradshaw, the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin with Eli Manning, Denver's Mike Shanahan with John Elway or Belichick with Brady.
This is not to say those coaches weren't or aren't great, or that all coaches don't play a huge role in success or failure. But in light of what happened this past weekend in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs, it would appear reasonable to at least broach the argument that Belichick's legacy is more tied to Brady than Brady's legacy is tied to Belichick.
After all, in the two seasons since Brady left New England, the Patriots stand 17-17 following Saturday night's embarrassing 47-17 playoff loss to Buffalo.
Conversely, the 44-year-old Brady not only led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title in his first season with the Bucs, he has them back in this week's divisional round after leading them to a 31-15 win over Philadelphia in the wildcard round. Not only that, but while New England is 17-17 overall since Brady was allowed to leave through free agency, Tampa Bay is now 29-9 (including playoff games) since he became their quarterback.
Think Patriots owner Robert Kraft might not be rethinking his decision to go with Belichick over Brady, if that's what it came down to two winters ago?
As for this postseason, no quarterback's future seems more uncertain to remain with the same playoff team a year from now than NFC top seed Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Generally regarded as at least the best quarterback of his generation not named Brady, Rodgers went into this season with most expecting it to be his last with the Packers.
And it may be. The one-time Super Bowl champ isn't getting any younger (38), his past disagreements with the Green Bay brass are well-documented and his untruthfulness about being vaccinated this season has surely rubbed some folks in the organization the wrong way despite his overall brilliance on the field.
Beyond that, for all his success, he's one of 21 QBs to win only one Super Bowl, not unlike his predecessor with the Pack, Brett Favre.
But regardless of how far the Packers advance this time around — and San Francisco certainly proved on Sunday against Dallas that it can take down Rodgers and Co. this weekend — the rapid and pronounced decline of New England after parting ways with Brady should be a cautionary tale for letting a generational QB go without doing everything you can to keep him.
Having a good coach is important, but having a great quarterback is almost essential to winning a Super Bowl these days. Just ask any Patriots fan.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.