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The New England Patriots: Give the Devil His Due

Photo via Wikipedia
Photo via Wikipedia

INDIANAPOLIS – I’ve had a week to think about this. I’m probably going to upset a lot of people with what I’m about to say (notably my sisters who will harangue me), but here goes. Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time and Tom Brady has solidified himself as the greatest quarterback of his generation.

For the record, typing those words hurts emotionally. But it’s true. I even wrote a column a few weeks ago stating that I would take Peyton Manning over Tom Brady, but that has since proven to be foolish. I can’t deny it any longer. Their fourth Super Bowl title in six appearances is the validation.

Hold on! I know that the Patriots have been busted for Spygate, have been accused in Deflategate, and probably have a paper trail of unknown scandals. I know that Belichick looks like one of Gepetto’s puppets as he answers questions at press conferences. I know that Tom Brady wears Uggs, has a house with a moat, and celebrates victories by jumping up and down like a schoolboy. I get all of that. But there is too much evidence for me to let my Indianapolis Colts’ fandom affect my thinking any longer.

The fact is the Patriots with Belichick and Brady at the helm are all-time good. Belichick’s first season in New England was in 2000 and they finished 5-11 with Drew Bledsoe as their quarterback. Bledsoe got hurt in 2001 and Brady took his place. They finished that season 11-5 and won the Super Bowl over Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf.

Since that 2001 season, the Patriots’ worst record was 9-7 and they have won three more Super Bowls. In 2008, Brady got hurt and they still finished 11-5 with Matt Cassell as their quarterback. And don’t forget they did have an undefeated regular season which came to an end when David Tyree’s helmet suddenly developed Velcro on a pass from Eli Manning.

Here’s a list of the top running backs that Belichick and Brady have had during this run: Kevin Faulk, Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, and LeGarrette Blount. Not exactly a who’s who of the position.

Let’s list wide receivers: Terry Glenn, Troy Brown, Deion Branch, David Givens, Reche Caldwell, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Julian Edelman. This is a better list, but outside of Moss there is nobody who is all-time great. They have had some solid tight ends with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Benjamin Watson. But, Gronk can’t stay healthy and Hernandez is on trial for murder.

You could make the argument that Peyton Manning’s skill players such as Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Dallas Clark, Marcus Pollard and Marshall Faulk were better than anyone that Brady has ever had. Yet, every time the Colts faced the Patriots they got stonewalled – and that’s where Belichick comes into the equation.

How many times have the Colts been haunted by names such as Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Vince Wilfork, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, and Rodney Harrison? No matter what the Colts thought they could do, the Patriots would dictate a different outcome. Belichick did it with these guys. Somehow he was always three steps ahead of Manning.

In 2009, I know Patriots fans whined when Belichick went for it on 4th & 2 from his own 28. But he wasn’t wrong. If they get that first down, they hold on to the ball and win the game. If they give it to Manning, they lose the game. It didn’t matter where Manning had the ball on the field. Belichick had the ultimate respect for Peyton and it proved valid.

Look at how Belichick has taken away Andrew Luck’s passing options the last few years. He puts bracket coverage on T.Y. Hilton and lined his best corner opposite Reggie Wayne. The Colts can’t run the ball, so Luck is forced to go to his tight ends or squeeze passes into impossible windows. Then, the Patriots turn around and run the ball down the Colts’ throat with discarded running backs like Blount and Jonas Gray.

In this year’s divisional round against the Baltimore Ravens, he had receivers reporting that they were ineligible. Who does that? The Ravens were confused and John Harbaugh almost blew a gasket. And look at what they did to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

The Legion of Boom was taking away everything deep so the Patriots wore out Edelman with short pass after short pass. When the Seahawks lined up on the goal line, Malcolm Butler knew what was coming the second he saw the formation and made a life changing interception. How? They had practiced against that formation during practice.

The point of all this is that Belichick is a tactical genius and has the ultimate weapon with one of the best quarterbacks of all time executing his game plans. Where would Joe Montana be without Bill Walsh? Where would Roger Staubach be without Tom Landry? Bart Starr without Vince Lombardi? Bob Griese without Don Shula? All of those quarterbacks were really good, but the added element of a terrific coach took them to new heights.

You may think that Belichick is the devil and Brady his complicit pawn, (and maybe he is, I don’t know – I would have thought the devil had a better wardrobe) but Belichick & Brady will go down as one of the all time great pairings in NFL history. I can’t deny it, as much as I want to.

Unless the Colts can figure out how to beat them, there will be no end to their torment as the little brother getting the noogie from the big brother. None of this means that I’ve been hypnotized by the Evil Empire. I am, however, acknowledging my respect for them. Now I just want the Colts and Andrew Luck to figure out how to go out and kick their…

Josh Strychalski is a featured columnist for the Indiana Sports Report. Follow @joshstryke and @IndySportsRep on Twitter

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