If there’s any lingering animosity from the way Tom Brady’s Patriots tenure ended, it wasn’t evident during Bill Belichick’s surprise appearance on Brady’s “Let’s Go!” podcast.
In the episode, which aired on SiriusXM Radio five days after Brady announced his retirement from the NFL, the legendary quarterback and head coach both expressed overwhelming respect and appreciation for each other as they reflected on the 20 seasons they spent together in New England.
One of the highlights from the reunion came after co-host Jim Gray asked Belichick a simple question: What did he see in Brady that others didn’t? The coach’s response lasted five full minutes and included a truly fascinating story about what he learned from the future Hall of Famer.
The gist: Brady saw the game better than anyone Belichick — a 71-year-old football lifer who just completed his 48th season as an NFL coach — has ever met, and the QB’s incomparable football IQ was the bedrock of their relationship.
Here’s the full transcript of that portion of Belichick’s reply, with emphasis added:
“Tom talks about how much I taught him in those meetings, but I learned so much from Tom, because I never played quarterback and I never saw the game through the quarterback’s eyes. I saw it through a coach’s eyes, and what Tom would tell me that he saw and how he saw it, it was incredible how during the game he’d come off and I’d say, ‘What happened on that play?’ and he’d go through eight things that happened. ‘The tackle flashed in front of me. This guy slipped. I saw the linebacker drop wide. The safety was a little deeper than I thought he would be. Then this guy stepped in front, and I kind of put it a little bit behind him because I saw this other guy closing.’ And then you would go back and look at the film, and every one of those things happened in the exact sequence that he explained it to you on the field coming off. I’m like, ‘This guy sees everything.’
“He sees the rush, he sees the routes, he sees the coverage, he sees the depths, and he sees a lot of things pre-snap. When we had the meetings that Tom referred to, we would go over fundamentals, we’d go over game plans, we’d go over situational football, watch other teams play through situations. And I remember so many situations that came up in games where Tom would refer back to, ‘Yeah, that’s what we talked about a few weeks ago when we watched the Detroit-Atlanta game’ or ‘Yeah, remember when they ran this play in this situation two years ago?’
“I mean, the memory and the capacity that Tom had to remember plays, situations and finer points like hard counts and getting-out-of-bounds plays and things like that, from years before in the exact same situation and time frame, was remarkable. We all have decent memories, but to be able to process it that quickly in a matter of literally seconds and split seconds on the field or during a timeout or going back on the field with however much time’s left — like, ‘Yeah, this is what we talked about. This is that situation we had in training camp. We had 39 seconds and the ball was at midfield.’
“So those are the things that I learned from Tom as a quarterback, was how to see the game as a quarterback instead of as a coach. Tom would say, ‘You know, I can’t see that. I’m not really looking at that.’ Like, OK, I’m going to stop coaching that then, because if you can’t see it, nobody else is going to see it. So let’s see how you see the game and let me learn from you, and Tom was great about that.
“We had a really good relationship, especially in the film room and talking football and all that, that I’ll always treasure and I learned so much from. Because nobody sees the game better than Tom Brady sees it or saw it, and I was so lucky to learn from him and his vision. No other coach will get that experience. I mean, it was incredible.“
In his answer to the same Gray question, Belichick also retraced Brady’s rise from a time-share starter at Michigan to a sixth-round Patriots draft pick to a Super Bowl-winning franchise icon. While reminiscing about Brady’s breakout 2001 season, Belichick said his November choice to permanently install the then-unproved signal-caller as QB1 over Drew Bledsoe was “the smartest decision that I ever made.”
“Maybe other than drafting him,” Belichick added.