Fans and followers of 31 NFL teams aren’t going to enjoy being reminded of this, but coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are well into the legacy stage of their careers, yet are closing in on valid consideration as the all-time greatest at their respective jobs.
It’s specifically daunting to the Seattle Seahawks, who travel to New England for a Sunday night game against the Patriots.
Despite the “Deflategate” suspension that kept Brady off the field for the first four games of 2016, Belichick and Brady have the Patriots at 7-1, atop most of the league power rankings and a 7.5-point favorite over the visiting Seahawks (5-2-1).
And the last time they squared off against Seattle, the Patriots broke the hearts of Seahawks fans with a goal-line interception to seal the 28-24 win in Super Bowl LIX.
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Interesting, then, that Belichick and Brady would so heavily ladle on the syrup when asked about the Seahawks during teleconferences Wednesday with Seattle-area media.
“We are schematically different from (the Seahawks), but there’s nobody better than Seattle,” Belichick said. “Coach (Pete) Carroll and (GM) John Schneider have done a great job of putting together a championship team. … They know how to compete every week, that’s something we’ve tried to take note of from them.”
Really? Taking lessons from the Seahawks? That’s quite a compliment.
Belichick’s four Super Bowl wins with the Pats ties him with Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll, and his 23 playoff wins are the most ever. With 230 regular-season wins, he’s fourth all-time behind Don Shula, George Halas and Tom Landry.
Brady is third on the quarterback-wins list with 176, 10 behind Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
This level of sustained excellence by these two and their compatriots is extraordinary in a league that is stacked up to derail sustained excellence.
Perhaps delighted nobody asked him about correspondences with Donald Trump, Belichick genially apologized for running a little late for his call. But he wasn’t interested in sharing his thoughts on how the Patriots have been able to be so consistent — winning 13 AFC East Division titles.
“I don’t really know,” he said. “There’s 31 other teams out there, and I’m really only familiar with one. I don’t know what everybody else does. All I know is we try to do the things that are best for us … that give our players an opportunity to be successful.”
Brady missed those four games to open the season, but looks like he could be on his way to a third league MVP award. In the last four weeks, he’s thrown for 12 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and completed 73.1 percent of his passes — not only his best rate of accuracy, but on pace for the best in league history.
Brady always prepares well, Belichick downplayed, and his eye-popping statistics are a function of “team execution,” and, well, yeah, “Tom’s done a good job for us these last four weeks.”
OK, yeah, that’s a pretty good job, considering his passer rating of 133.9 is 15 points higher than the next in the league — Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
Brady said he tried to stay sharp with his mechanics and fundamentals and stay fit during his enforced furlough.
And then he credited the team’s success to just about everybody in the organization, tactfully stopping short of the equipment men and ball boys.
Although Brady is 39 and at the midpoint of his 17th NFL season, he sounded genuine when he said he doesn’t spend time considering where his career will compare with others’ when he’s done.
“I still feel like I have a lot of give and play for,” he said. “Football is great because it evolves every year and differently every year, with different players and schedules. It’s always challenging — mentally very challenging and stimulating, and physically, obviously, it’s very challenging.
“I just think I’m so engaged in what I’m doing and I love doing … I just want to keep doing my part — showing up every day just like everybody else, trying to do what’s best for the team.”
As you probably can sense, Brady is generally patient and humble in these interviews, which makes him come across as a lot more likable than one would expect of a man in possession of such an absurd abundance of life’s gifts.
When Brady said he considered the Seahawks the biggest challenge of the season thus far, it seems a fair and uninflated assessment of Sunday night’s game against a talented but inconsistent Seahawks team.
It will be a chance for the Seahawks to truly prove themselves, once again having to face the Belichick/Brady machine that just keeps winning its way toward history.