Tom Brady pretty much confirmed earlier this offseason that he'll never be the highest-paid player in NFL history, signing a team-friendly extension in order to ensure that Peyton Manning keeps pulling away in that category.
But maybe Brady was only doing so in order to be completely sure that he'll be able to keep teaming up with the greatest coach in NFL history for the remainder of his career.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft might be biased, but he's willing to state that both Brady and Belichick are the best ever in their respective realms. That's what he told Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio on Tuesday at the owners meetings in Phoenix.
“I don’t think there’s been one in the history of the NFL — I think we’re privileged to have, probably, the finest coach and the finest quarterback, and we happen to have them at the same time,” Kraft said. “It’s going to be hard to win continuously without a good coach and a good quarterback. Next season, please God, will be our 20th season. And we’ve hired two coaches in that time — two head coaches — and we’ve had two quarterbacks start for our team in those 20 seasons.”
Now, it's very hard — if not impossible — to compare quarterbacks from different eras, and it's even harder to compare coaches. But Kraft has a point. The problem, of course, is that a classic argument has been that Brady's reputation has been inflated by Belichick or vice versa.
It's possible that they were just serendipitously in the right place at the right time, but the beautiful/frustrating thing is that these arguments and comparisons are subjective. How much credit do quarterbacks get for wins? What about supporting casts?
Don Shula won an unbelievable 328 games and had a better regular-season winning percentage than Belichick does, but Shula won only two Super Bowls. Belichick's been to seven Super Bowls (two with the Giants as a defensive coordinator) and has five total rings. How do you determine who was better? Vince Lombardi won the first two Super Bowls (and five championships in total) and was 9-1 in the playoffs. Tom Landry guided the Cowboys to 20 straight winning seasons. And then of course there's Chuck Noll, who has four rings as a head coach, more than anyone else in NFL history.
Brady has a higher career passer rating than Manning and everyone else except Aaron Rodgers and Steve Young, and he kills Rodgers (thus far) and Young when it comes to team success. But Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw still have more Super Bowl rings. The problem, as I said, is that you can't compare their stats. Montana had a stacked supporting cast and a pretty decent coach as well. Everyone of those Niners teams had at least three Hall of Famers. Brady's three New England title teams might end up with zero Hall of Famers not named Tom.
I'm not big on "quarterback wins," which is why I still go with Manning, whom I believe has done more with less than Brady has. It's a very close call, though. Same applies to the coaching race. It's hard to dispute arguments for any of the names listed above.
One thing's clear: We're living in an era that will go down as one of the greatest in NFL history.