Every member of a football team has to do its part if they want to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy and tell the world they’re "going to Disneyland!" Two vital members of any Super Bowl championship team are the starting quarterback and the head coach, a tandem and symbiotic leadership duo. Arguably no player/coach pairing in NFL history — or even all of sports history — has been as successful as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Brady is among the greatest to ever hit the gridiron, and Belichick is the only coach he’s ever had at the professional level. In 2019 those two will compete in their eighth Super Bowl together, with five wins already shared between them.
Such success on such a high level can only bring more pressure as Patriots fans and brass (among others) expect Brady and Belichick to keep winning championships. It puts a lot of stress on a relationship between what are essentially two co-workers, and one that’s already complicated. Here’s a look into the sort of father/son, sort of marriage-like dynamic between these two world class sports figures.
Belichick thinks Brady is full of hot air (or maybe not enough)
During the 2015 NFL playoffs, Tom Brady faced his biggest scandal since that time he left his pregnant girlfriend. Brady’s New England Patriots easily dismissed the Indianapolis Colts in the rain-soaked AFC championship game 45 to 7, but the team’s stellar performance just might have come from insidious means. After Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a Brady pass, an equipment manager touched the ball and thought it seemed under-inflated. From there, the NFL investigated if Pats employees had been ordered to intentionally under-air game balls; it apparently makes them easier to handle "in inclement weather," according to former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, who spoke with Sports Illustrated. Brady denied any wrongdoing, but 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls examined were indeed under-inflated, earning Brady a four-game suspension and the team a $1 million fine.
Not only did Bill Belichick deny having anything to do with "Deflategate," but he may have privately stewed over his golden boy. In his book Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time, (via 24/7 Sports), ESPN reporter Ian O’Connor wrote that Belichick had "serious doubts" about Brady’s innocence. The brusk coach demonstrated that emotion by deflecting reporters’ Deflategate questions to Brady. "I thought Bill handled it terribly, especially when it involved a guy who’d done everything to help your career as a coach, and you hung him out to dry," a friend of Brady said in O’Connor’s book.
Belichick got mad when Brady found a new coach
As a third party can upset a marriage, an "other man" could have created distance between sports spouses Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. In January 2018, ESPN‘s Seth Wickersham released an extensively researched report on life at New England Patriots headquarters. Interviewing at least a dozen team staffers and NFL insiders, Wickersham discovered serious tension between the star player and imposing coach over Alex Guerrero (above left), Brady’s trainer, business partner, and "body coach." Guerrero, who once had to pay out a large sum to the FTC after claiming cancer-curing properties of dietary supplements, created an intensive diet-and-exercise plan with Brady called The TB12 Method. By 2013, Belichick gave Guerrero full access to Patriots facilities and players, figuring that a guy who could help Tom Brady could only help the whole organization. About a year later, after Guerrero started to blame players’ on-the-field injuries on team trainers, Belichick pulled Guerrero’s access to players’ medical information.
But he was still a team consultant and Brady’s BFF, which left players torn between currying favor with Brady by working out at Guerrero’s TB12 Clinic, or getting on Belichick’s good side by consulting team trainers. According to the ESPN report, Belichick tried to hash this all out with Brady, who denied pressuring any teammates into TB12. The coach’s response: While Guerrero was still allowed to work with Patriots players at his private TB12 facility, he would no longer be permitted at Patriots HQ or on the sidelines.
Tom Brady and the guy Bill Belichick told him not to worry about
Countless people have blown up their marriages by leaving their aging spouse for someone younger. According to family members interviewed by sports journalist Ian O’Connor for Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time (via ESPN), Brady feared that his coach would similarly dispose of him before he was ready to retire. The QB’s sister Nancy Brady Bonelli seemed to agree, telling News Center (via USA Today) that her brother was convinced that "Belichick will definitely do to him someday what the Colts did" to Peyton Manning, meaning unceremoniously cut him loose.
Brady’s suspicions weren’t exactly paranoid delusions. With the #62 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Belichick’s Patriots selected a hot prospect: Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (pictured above). Clearly, Belichick was trying to plan for — or force — a future without Tom Brady. Ultimately, Brady outlasted the new guy — the Patriots traded Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. However, according to Sports Illustrated, Belichick stayed in touch, and sent congratulatory texts to Garoppolo after his first four starts as a 49er.
When Brady gets boo-boos, Belichick is not there with the band-aids
In the course of his career as a football-playing man, Tom Brady has been knocked around quite a bit. After all, football is like 90 percent violence and injuries, and not even the players as good as Tom Brady get out unscathed. In May 2017, Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, appeared on CBS This Morning and explicitly stated that Brady endured a concussion in 2016, the latest in what’s probably several. "Like he had a concussion last year," Bundchen said, "I mean, he has concussions pretty much every — I mean, we don’t talk about — but he does have concussions." That’s interesting because at no time in 2016 was Tom Brady on any kind of NFL injury list with a concussion. Bundchen basically implied that he gets concussions and they don’t get reported. Why? Well, if a player suffers a concussion, they’re required to take a break. If no concussion is reported, it didn’t officially happen, and so a player can stay on the field and win, win, WIN.
Bill Belichick addressed Bundchen’s bombshell a couple of weeks later, but his response left few satisfied. "We file our reports in compliance with league guidelines," the notoriously gruff coach replied (via MassLive). Asked how he feels about "players self-reporting concussion-like symptoms," Belichick said, "Players don’t come to me and I don’t treat them for injuries. That’s not really my job. That’s what we have medical staff for." Great, glad that’s all cleared up.
Brady’s volunteering for more family time these days
Even though he’s among the most famous and successful football-throwing men, Tom Brady still has to put in the work. He attended preseason mandatory minicamp in 2018, for example (seeing as how it’s mandatory), but earlier that year he skipped a round of voluntary offseason workouts and OTAs, or organized team activities. (Hey, if they wanted to make sure he’d show up, they shouldn’t have made them voluntary.)
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a man of few words, but pointed words. He cast just the right bit of shade Brady’s way at a press conference around the time of those workouts. "Yeah, I’m not gonna talk about the people who aren’t here," Belichick said at a press conference (via CBS Sports). "Guys who are here," translation: not Tom Brady, "are improving, working hard and those are the guys we’re going to focus on."
So why did Brady skip out on the training session anyway? He had better things to do. "Just enjoying my time with my family, bringing my kids to school, supporting my family the best I can," Brady told Sports Illustrated. "I’m never going to look back and regret spending time with my wife and my kids, and being a part of their life." So while a football team may be like a family, it’s not as much of a family as an actual family, at least not for Brady. Sorry, Coach.
All work and no play make Tom an under-appreciated boy
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick don’t have to give each other friendship bracelets or sleep on bunk beds for the Patriots to win another Super Bowl. But they at least have to maintain a fruitful, communicative work relationship. Or maybe they don’t, because plenty of players have at least implied that Belichick is a hard nut to crack. After the end of the 2017-18 NFL season, several Patriots bolted the team just as soon as their free agency hit. Dion Lewis (via TribLive) said that he’d rather play in "a place where I felt comfortable and felt wanted." Danny Amendola told ESPN that Belichick could be "an a****** sometimes," and that "there were a lot of things I didn’t like about playing for him." Nate Solder told The Players’ Tribune that playing for the Pats "can be a tough environment. It’s very businesslike, and at times it can be cold."
That echoes the seemingly implied meaning behind the words of Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen in an episode of the 2018 Facebook Watch documentary about her husband, Tom vs. Time (via UPI). "The last two years were very challenging for him in so many ways," she said. "He tells me ‘I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.’" That would suggest that Brady is decidedly not feeling appreciated and having fun at work, right?
They’re MAGA men
Despite their differences, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick do have a couple of things in common. For example, they both like attractive women younger than themselves — In 2009, Brady married supermodel Gisele Bundchen. And in his 2007 divorce proceedings, according to the New York Post, it was revealed that Belichick served as a "sugar daddy" to a woman he had 13 years on. They’re also on the same side of the political spectrum — both Brady and Belichick have professed their support and admiration for President Donald Trump. Back in 2015, Brady told reporters (via Bleacher Report) that a Trump presidency "would be great." Those two are apparently buddies, and they’ve even golfed together.
As for Belichick, Trump read a note written by the coach at a rally in New Hampshire on the eve of the 2016 presidential election. "Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable," Belichick wrote. "Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again." Well, that’s at least something. Politics are usually so divisive, but they just might unite Brady and Belichick.
If these two have a song, it’s Huey Lewis’ ‘Stuck With You’
Whatever the nature of the relationship between these two grown alpha males, one can’t argue with results. They share a professional purpose and goal of going to as many Super Bowls as possible, and in 2019 Brady and Belichick will attack the big game together for the eighth time. For that reason, and probably for that reason alone (well, along with gigantic paychecks and worldwide fame, adulation, and future induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame), Brady and Belichick will take their lumps and suffer each other and with each other. They’re like a married couple with a bunch of kids and who also run a business: They’re inextricably linked with one another.
"We have a great understanding of one another," Brady said at a pre-Super Bowl LIII event in January 2019 (via 24/7 Sports). "We do our jobs the best we know how. I know he has a lot of confidence in me. Obviously I have all the confidence in the world in him and it’s just been a great relationship for me. His goal is winning and that’s what mine is."