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Tom Brady was an anonymous sixth round draft pick out of Michigan and considered little more than a depth player. The franchise won its first Super Bowl after the 2001 season, led by Brady’s improbable rise from backup to star. Their 160 regular season wins are the most of the Super Bowl era, well ahead of Miami’s Don Shula and Dan Marino (116). Asdifferent as they appear when addressing the media Brady is perpetually smiling and Belichick is visibly dour, even during a week when they were grilled by the media for using underinflated footballs during last week’s AFC championship game they share some core traits. They’re both competitive and consistent, attacking each opponent with the same approach.”Coach hasn’t changed much,” Brady said of Belichick. “I think he’s so consistent and I think we as players know what we can count on with him and he always talks about consistent, dependable players and we have the most consistent, dependable coach.”Belichick, 62, is something of a football savant, the son of a college coach. He played the game at Wesleyan before embarking on a career in the NFL. Fifteen years later, Belichick has not deviated from his coaching style, whether it’s a Sunday in October or the Super Bowl.”I think he’s kind of the same,” receiver Julian Edelman said. “He brings in the same approach every day. You know what you’re going to get with what he presents that day his keys and all of his stuff. He tries to keep it even keel and that’s one of the reasons why each and every week we ignore everything (outside) of our little office and just worry about what we have to do and it usually prepares us for the games.”Said Brady: “Every day we show up to work knowing what to expect, and he expects a high level of concentration from us. He wants us to go out there and perform at our best every day, and when we don’t he lets us know. He motivates us in different ways and he’s always trying to get the best out of us. He holds everybody accountable, certainly holds himself accountable, and I’m very fortunate to play for him.”One way he holds players accountable? With impromptu quizzes. If Belichick is passing a player in the hall, he might ask a question about the next opponent. “We’re all held to a very high standard on what we know, how much we know, and I think it shows our coaches, but it also shows each other, that we’re preparing and we’re doing the things that we need to be doing to be ready to play.”Edelman said those unexpected questions force players especially young players to prepare, on and off the field. Early in his career, Edelman felt anxious when he saw Belichick approaching.”When I see him in the hallway now I still just kind of walk I don’t have anxiety, but you’re always being tested with him,” Edelman said. “You could be walking down the hallway and he’ll say, ‘Who’s the opponent, what (are) his strengths?’ . When you’re usually asked a question or something, it’s around the team. You don’t want to be ‘that guy’ that doesn’t know the answer or says the wrong answer. You go to play the game with these guys and they’re looking to the left and right and you’re in that huddle you want them thinking and knowing that you’re as prepared as best as possible. Having that accountability, being dependable, being consistent all of those things, it’s his way of doing things. It’s weird, but it works.”But playing for Belichick is not easy. Players say they know what to expect and Belichick’s demonstrated success goes a long way with players, but they also understand the demands.”I just have to say it’s an honor to play for an organization like this,” said guard Dan Connolly, who joined the Patriots in 2008 after two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Coach Belichick is my coach. He asks a lot of us, and we come to work every day and prepare to work hard. It’s a good organization to play for.”Belichick also keeps a consistent public persona. He’ll praise his opponent, he’ll talk about the next game without dwelling on the last game, he dismisses superficiality and is happy to talk about the minutiae of the sport he loves. He does advertisements for trendy UGG boots; Belichick lives in a hoodie. Maybe the most competitive guy in the locker room.”He is so competitive,” said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, a teammate since 2004. “That’s the first thing I always see. And everybody always asks me, ‘How is Tom?’ I don’t think there’s anybody else in this locker room that is more competitive than Tom. I mean, I don’t care if it’s a conversation, I don’t care if it’s practice, I don’t care if it’s seven on seven, I don’t care if it’s game day, I don’t care if it’s in the film room. He wants to be at his best.”On the field, that competitive nature manifests itself through emotional outburst. Brady can appear demonstrative, screaming at teammates. He celebrates touchdowns like a kid who’s never been in the end zone before.”He’s very emotional,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “He has a great ability to lift the players around him to their best. He’s our leader and we love playing for him.”Not playing with him, but playing for him. “It’s easy for me to go to work to see that guy do it. And he demands the same thing out of us, so I think a lot of the things he does he doesn’t realize how it affects everyone around him. He doesn’t have to say much. When he’s here in this building, he’s working. When he’s home, he’s working.”A lot of the guys don’t understand that. That’s the type of person that he is. He’s going to give you everything he has. I mean, I don’t care how he’s feeling mentally or physically but he’s going to put his best on that field and you have to love that. You have to respect that. And that’s what I love and respect about Tom.”Wilfork said Brady also sets a delicate tone in practice. It’s competitive and serious, but fun. “And I think the only way to do that is to have some of your guys go out there and make practice upbeat. “He wants us to go out there and perform at our best every day and when we don’t he lets us know. He motivates us in different ways and he’s always trying to get the best out of us. He holds everybody accountable and certainly holds himself accountable.”In 2000, Bill Belichick was trying to resurrect his coaching career as he was handed the keys to the team by owner Robert Kraft. Tom Brady was an anonymous sixth round draft pick out of Michigan and considered little more than a depth player. And the Patriots were less than two years removed from nearly relocating 100 miles south to Connecticut’s capital city.
It took two seasons for Belichick and Brady to turn the Patriots and the NFL upside down. The franchise won its first Super Bowl after the 2001 season, led by Brady’s improbable rise from backup to star. There would be three titles in four years, a new stadium in 2002, and the label as the NFL’s model franchise.
And the faces of the football renaissance were the coach and the quarterback. More than a decade later, nothing has changed.
The Patriots are one win away from their fourth Super Bowl title in the Belichick Brady era, needing to defeat defending champion Seattle next Sunday in Glendale, Ariz. They are already the most successful coach and quarterback duo in NFL history, reaching six Super Bowls (Tom Landry and Roger Staubach in Dallas, Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh and Marv Levy and Jim Kelly in Buffalo all reached four).
They have won an NFL best 20 postseason games together. Their 160 regular season wins are the most of the Super Bowl era, well ahead of Miami’s Don Shula and Dan Marino (116). They have won six AFC East titles in a row and 11 in 12 seasons.
After all these years, not much has changed for the future Hall of Famers. As
different as they appear when addressing the media Brady is perpetually smiling and Belichick is visibly dour, even during a week when they were grilled by the media for using underinflated footballs during last week’s AFC championship game they share some core traits. They’re both competitive and consistent, attacking each opponent with the same approach.
“Coach hasn’t changed much,” Brady said of Belichick. “I think he’s so consistent and I think we as players know what we can count on with him and he always talks about consistent, dependable players and we have the most consistent, dependable coach.”.