Tom Brady and Bill Belichick appeared to privately bury the hatchet after Brady’s Bucs defeated the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in 2021.
Now, there can be no doubt that it’s all love between the all-time greats at this point in their careers.
The famously reticent Belichick joined Brady’s first star-studded episode of the “Let’s Go!” podcast, which also included former rival Peyton Manning and Patrick Mahomes, since Brady announced his retirement last week.
As interesting as his talks were with all the guests, Belichick’s segment was on another level entirely. As he so often can be when he’s not standing at a podium, the longtime coach spoke with the earnestness of a man who simply loves talking about football — and great football players — more than anything in the world.
For instance, Belichick’s comments about getting tough on Brady in meetings (and Brady’s encouragement of it) were both enlightening and humorous, especially when the coach explained the effect it had on other players, and his awe at Brady’s ability to process details on the field felt like the most powerful praise he’s uttered about any player not named Ed Reed.
But the crown jewel of the conversation came early with Belichick’s unreserved praise nearly bringing Brady to tears.
“The greatest player. The greatest career. A great, great person,” Belichick said of the iconic player he drafted in his first season as head coach of the Patriots. “I guess it has to end at some point, but it’s the greatest one ever. Congratulations, Tom.”
When asked about what Belichick did to bring out the best in Brady by co-host Jim Gray, a choked-up Brady simply responded, “It’s more what did he not do to bring out the best in me. … I couldn’t imagine a better teacher to say, ‘Hey, this is how you’re going to play quarterback in the NFL.’”
The eventual Hall-of-Fame quarterback also took a moment to douse the hot-take conversations that tend to spring up about Belichick and Brady’s relative importance to the Patriots’ dynasty and their relationship more broadly.
“For me, there’s nobody I’d rather be associated with,” Brady said. “… I think it’s always a stupid conversation to say ‘Brady vs. Belichick’ because, in my mind, that’s not what a partnership is about.
"In my view, people were always trying to pull us apart. I don't think we ever felt like that with each other. We never were trying to pull each other apart. We actually were always trying to go in the same direction."
Belichick even gave examples of how he learned from Brady how to see the game from a quarterback's perspective rather than just as a coach.
"Tom would say, 'I can't see that. I'm not really looking at that,'" Belichick recalled. "Okay, I'm going to stop coaching that then, because if you can't see it, nobody else is going to see it. Se let's see how you see the game and let me learn from you, and Tom was great about that."
(It would've been great if that knowledge had carried over more to putting Mac Jones in position to succeed last year, but at least Belichick found someone in Bill O'Brien that can fill that void for Jones in 2023.)
Whatever others say, Belichick and Brady know they couldn't possibly be what they are without one another (as if that should need to be said). Their ability to work together -- sometimes through disagreements and a somewhat tumultuous exit from New England -- created the most dynamic duo in NFL history.
Aside from publicly showing the admiration Brady and Belichick have for one another, the talk also felt like as clear a sign as ever that Brady really might be done for good as a player.
Sure, there’s always that chance he could get the itch to chase glory once more with the 49ers or another playoff team when the juices start flowing in the fall. But bringing Belichick on, in particular, hit almost as hard as filing retirement papers with the league office — as if taking that step with his former coach was something Brady had to do to truly put his career to rest.
Brady’s short retirement video last week felt more real than last year’s lengthy statement. This podcast seemed like added confirmation and closure together.
Now, all that’s left is to see how Belichick and the Patriots choose to honor the greatest player they (or we) have ever seen.