Fans want to pick their greatness

by Gary Shelton on February 1, 2021

in general

Brady or Belichick? Are we still debating?./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

In the end, there can be just one. And for us, that's fine. Heck, we want there to be just one.

We want a king of the mountain. We want a last man standing. We want to assign all of the credit to one guy and hang the reason on them.

Lennon or McCartney?

Lewis or Clark?

Batman or Superman?

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Go ahead. Pick your favorite. That's the way the world works. We don't want to hear about shared credit, or mutual responsibility. We want to hoist one guy on our shoulders and parade him around the grass.

No, it doesn't make much sense, if you think about it. But we're a one-man group. No one ever chanted "Hail to the King, and to the other guy, too." We don't worry about who steered the ship, we want to praise Magellan. We don't care about who was on the other end of Thomas Edison's phone call. Just that Tommy made it.

And so it is with the latest, greatest debate in the NFL.

Was it Belichick, or was it Brady, who was the more responsible for the dynasty of the New England Patriots?

A warning: Any other answer is not acceptable. You can't answer Rob Gronkowski or Teddy Bruschi or Randy Moss or the weak AFC East or the broken rules. This is a two-option discussion. Was it the coach, or was it the quarterback?

Oh, if you've been around, you've heard forms of this question before. With the Cowboys, was it Jimmy Johnson or Jerry Jones? With the Bucs, was it Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? With Washington, was it Bobby Beathard or Joe Gibbs? With the Giants, was it George Young or Bill Parcells?

Of course, each of the men were better as a set. Without Johnson, Jones won one Super Bowl. Johnson didn't win any. Beathard was in San Diego for 10 years but never won one; Gibbs won one more. Young and Parcells never won one once they divorced.

Dungy and Gruden didn't work together. The debate between those two was who deserved credit for the 2003 Super Bowl. For that event, I'd say Gruden. But Dungy didn't inherit nearly the talent that Gruden did.

And so it goes. The truth is that winning takes a lot of people rowing in the same direction. Why we insist on a key element, a guru with all of the secrets, is a mystery. But we do.

I've always said that the Super Bowl was Gruden's, but the building of the team was Dungy's. It took both men. Jimmy Johnson was the special force in Dallas, but Jones won a Super Bowl without him. Beathard and Gibbs. as with Young and Parcells, both played their parts.

But with Belichick and Brady, you get a different element. You get a player and a coach, and the debate over which is more important.

Let's be fair. Brady won the first round. His team is the Super Bowl, and Belichick is somewhere in the basement trying to decide whether to watch the game or work on his grumpy face. But coaches last longer than players, even though Belichick is 68, and Belichick figures to have more opportunities left. Besides, if you're comparing resumes, Belichick gets a lot of credit for the titles he helped win while working for Parcells.

The real answer -- and deep down, you know this -- is that it took both men to win six Super Bowls. Neither one of them was hanging around waiting for the other guy to contribute something. Again, though, when we are comparing legacies, we want to pick this guy over that one.

It's easy to pick Brady. Belichick has never won a Super Bowl without him. But when he won his first, against the Rams, Brady wasn't the player he would become, either.

The bottom line? Both are great, perhaps the greatest ever to do their jobs. And much of the way we remember them will be as a tandem. Let's wait until both have written their final chapters before we compare.

I think it's great that Brady's move paid off for him. I think Belichick had a great run.

I also think Lennon over McCartney, Clark over Lewis, Batman over Superman, Dungy over Gruden, Johnson over Jones, Young over Parcells and Gibbs over Beathard.

But that's just me.

I could be wrong.

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