July 14, 2023 12:00pm

Coaches and Quarterbacks

Coaches coach but players win.

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

Coaches coach but players win.

That’s the conclusion of our recent NFL Power Poll. We asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters who is more responsible for the staggering success of the New England Patriots in the last two decades, coach Bill Belichick or quarterback Tom Brady.

We offered up three options – 60/40 Belichick, 60/40 Brady or 50-50, an even split between Belichick and Brady. The 60/40 Brady option received 131 votes to win overwhelmingly. Thirty-three others voted for a 50-50 split in credit and only 14 voters gave Belichick’s 60/40 the nod.

“If there had been a 70/30 option for Brady, I’d have taken it,” said Bud Geracie, the sports editor of the Bay Area News Group.

“I'd go 75/25 or 80/20 for Brady,” added Rob Maaddi, a sports writer with the Associated Press. “Belichick is 80-90 in his career, including playoffs, in games not started by Brady.”

In their 18 seasons together, the Patriots won 17 AFC East titles and six Super Bowls.

“Brady gets proper credit for all those Super Bowl wins in New England,” said Nick Pugliese, the sports editor of the Palm Beach Post. “But the Patriots still needed a defense to help bring home those Lombardi trophies so you can't ignore Belichick's contributions. That's why it's 50-50.”

Brady was selected to the NFL’s Centennial Team as a player and Belichick was selected to that same team as a coach.

“I don't think there ever would have been a Tom Brady the way we know him without Bill Belichick,” said Alan Saunders, a sports writer with Pittsburgh Sports Now. “So it's hard to separate the two of them in a meaningful way. At some point in their run, that line probably crossed from coach to player.”

Both Brady and Belichick will have busts in Canton in the future.

“You need both the quarterback and coach for sustained success,” added Dave Hyde, a sports columnist for South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Why did Brady have 6 rings in New England when Aaron Rodgers only one in Green Bay?”

The final word goes to Hall of Fame wide receiver Drew Pearson, who played for a Hal of Fame coach himself in Tom Landry.

“Someone once said, `A good coach can change a game…but a great coach can change a life,’” Pearson said.

We stayed with coaching in our second question. One coach in particular – Jimmy Johnson, who has been enshrined in Canton.

But not only did he coach Super Bowl champions in Dallas, he built them. So was Johnson more valuable to the Cowboys from 1989-1993 as a coach or as a general manager? Our panel gave him 130 votes as a general manager and only 48 as a coach.

“Jimmy Johnson was a sensational motivator and tactician, but his best attribute was his eye for talent,” said Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan. “He made full use of all those extra draft picks and built the Dallas dynasty. The Cowboys were so loaded, even Barry Switzer won it all with Jimmy's guys.”

As a coach, Johnson took the Cowboys from worst (1-15 in 1989) to first inside of four seasons (12-4 and Super Bowl champion in 1992). But as the club’s primary talent evaluator, Johnson traded away Herschel Walker for a truckload of draft picks. In his five drafts in Dallas, Johnson selected 15 players who would become Pro Bowlers, three different Super Bowl MVPs and two Hall of Famers.

“Coach Johnson went 1-15 until general manager Johnson got him good players,” said Vito Stellino, a long-time NFL writer and Hall of Fame voter. “Even Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl with Johnson's players.”

Added Matt Verderame of Sports Illustrated: “For me, Johnson’s ability to coach that specific team and keep them focused makes him one of the greatest coaches of all time.”

Johnson spent four years – and four drafts – with the Miami Dolphins at the end of the 1990 decade. And he drafted two more Hall of Fame players, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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