The Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era, as commonly referred to by sports writers and fans, is the sports dynasty formed by quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who have led the New England Patriots in the National Football League (NFL) since 2000. The dynasty has also been referred to as the Patriots Dynasty.
Brady and Belichick have been considered to be the greatest in their respective positions in league history, and are considered responsible for one of the sport's longest and most dominant dynasties. Whereas the Patriots had only appeared in (and lost) two Super Bowls prior to the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots have appeared in nine Super Bowls since (more than any other franchise), of which they have won six (tied for all-time with the Pittsburgh Steelers). The team also appeared in eight straight AFC Championship games between 2011 and 2018, and have recorded the only undefeated 16-game regular season. During the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots have completed eighteen consecutive winning seasons from 2001 to 2018 and boast a .784 win percentage against their division opponents. The Patriots have played in 50% of all the Super Bowls played since 2001, and have won 33% of them.
In addition to their role in setting the Patriots' franchise records, Belichick holds the records for most Super Bowl appearances and victories as a head coach, and is tied with George Halas and Curly Lambeau for most NFL championships overall. Brady holds the records for most Super Bowl appearances, victories and MVP awards as a player in any position.
Belichick and Brady have also been credited with helping to create and sustain the culture around the team, dubbed the "Patriot Way", where there is an emphasis on personal accountability, consistent improvement, and a focus on team success over personal gain.
Before coming to New England, Belichick had a 13-year stint with the New York Giants from 1979–1990. During this period, he was the defensive coordinator during the Giants' 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Bill Belichick came to the New England Patriots in 1996 to serve as assistant head coach and defensive backs coach for Bill Parcells. The Patriots went 11-5 and earned a trip to Super Bowl XXXI, but fell to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Belichick subsequently served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the New York Jets. When their head coach, Bill Parcells, retired in 1999, Belichick resigned as his successor and went to New England, this time as their head coach. In his 18-year tenure in New England, the Patriots have missed the playoffs only three times: 2000 (5-11), 2002 (9-7), and 2008 (11-5). In 2008, Belichick coached the Patriots to an 11-5 record despite losing franchise quarterback Tom Brady in Week 1 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. However, a series of division tiebreakers put the 11-5 Miami Dolphins as the AFC East champions, making the 2008 Patriots the second team in NFL history to go 11-5 and miss the playoffs.
In 2010, he was selected as the first team head coach in the National Football League 2000s All-Decade Team. He has won the AP Coach of the Year award three times in his career, all during his time with the Patriots. As head coach, Belichick is 225-79 (.740 winning percentage) in regular season games and coached the Patriots to 40 postseason games, winning 30. From 2010-2017, Belichick coached the Patriots to 8 consecutive 12+ win seasons, an NFL record. The Patriots, since 2002, have lost more than 5 games just twice. As the Patriots head coach, Belichick has had just one losing season, in 2000. In 18 seasons from 2001 onwards, the Patriots have won 16 AFC East titles. Such dominance in the salary cap era, which limits teams in how much they can pay players and therefore forces parity, is credited to Belichick's football prowess.
Belichick is known for taking players that otherwise had lackluster or declining careers and making them productive for one or more seasons. Belichick is credited for doing this with players such as RB Corey Dillon, who gained 1738 yards from scrimmage, including 1635 rushing yards. Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss was traded to New England in 2007 after lackluster play for the Oakland Raiders, but went on to catch 23 touchdowns in 2007, setting an NFL record. Belichick drafted wide receiver Julian Edelman in the 7th round. Edelman went on to set a franchise record for postseason receptions and caught one of the most memorable catches in Super Bowl LI. Most notably, Belichick is credited with drafting quarterback Tom Brady with the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Brady would go on to help the Patriots form a dynasty that has lasted from 2001 onwards, and currently holds every NFL postseason passing record except yards per attempt and completion percentage.
Belichick is third all-time for wins as a coach. He is the longest tenured active coach in the NFL, and has won the most postseason games, at 28. He is the only coach to win three Super Bowls in four years and the only head coach in NFL history to have won 6 Super Bowls.
Brady attended college at University of Michigan, where he battled for the starting role with Brian Griese and Drew Henson. He would lead the Wolverines to the 2000 Orange Bowl, with a record 10-2 as starter during their regular season. Despite trailing by two scores twice during the game, Brady led the Wolverines to an overtime win over the Alabama Crimson Tide, 35-34. His come-from-behind victory earned him the nickname "Comeback Kid".
Due to questions about his starting ability in college and uninspiring physical statistics, Brady fell in the 2000 Draft until he was selected in the 6th round by the New England Patriots. He did not start until the next year, when franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had just signed a 10-year, $100 million contract that offseason, was injured by a sideline hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.
Brady went 11-3 as a starter in 2001, leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl against the St. Louis Rams. Despite trailing 17-3 in the second half, the Rams stormed back to tie the game 17-17 with 1:30 left in the game. With no time outs, the Patriots drove downfield to set up a 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri to win the game in the closing seconds.
Brady currently holds the NFL postseason record for appearances, wins, pass attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns. In the Super Bowl, Brady holds the record for most pass attempts, completions, touchdowns, and yards. In 2016, he helped the Patriots, who were down 28-3 in the third quarter against the Atlanta Falcons, score 31 unanswered points and win the game in overtime, 34-28. He set a Super Bowl record 462 yards passing. The following year, he broke his own record by throwing a record 505 yards in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brady currently holds every Super Bowl record in passing except for completion percentage and interceptions. In his 9 appearances in 18 years, he has come away with 6 wins and 4 Super Bowl MVPs.
In the 2000 NFL Draft, first year head coach Bill Belichick was looking for ways to improve the New England team that had not been to a Super Bowl since 1996. Belichick had been hired after Pete Carroll was fired following the 1999 season. Prior to the draft the Patriots sent quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein to scout quarterbacks for the draft. When Rehbein returned he stated that Brady is the best quarterback prospect for the Patriots system. Despite the Patriots already having a franchise quarterback in Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft.
In 2000, Belichick had a tall order, having to help a Patriots team who still had Super Bowl aspirations after losing Super Bowl XXXI to the Green Bay Packers. Belichick, however, had one of the most damning quotes on the 2000 roster. Nearly 18 years later, Belichick reminisced, "Well, I mean, I’d say first of all, the biggest difference is in 2000, a quarter of the team couldn't pass the conditioning run, so that wasn’t a very good start. We don’t really deal with that now or haven't dealt with that in a while. Yeah, I don’t think there was a lot of commitment with that group. We obviously made a lot of changes from 2000 to 2001, and a lot of the guys that we stuck with from that team became pillars of the program, the organization in later years."
The Patriots went 5-11; the last losing season the Patriots have had as of 2018. Belichick, after a loss during the season, claimed that "I can't win games with 40 good players while the other team has 53" after lots of players showed up to camp out of condition.
In 2001, Belichick made major reforms. The beginning of the culture he brought to New England, dubbed the "Patriot Way", was beginning to show with wide receiver Terry Glenn's contract holdout. The Patriots could not afford to raise Glenn's salary, and Belichick suspended Glenn indefinitely after repeated failed drug tests. Glenn did not receive a ring when the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI that year.
The Patriots started 0-1, and faced a division rival in Week 2 against the New York Jets. Late in the game, down 10-3, quarterback Drew Bledsoe rolled out of the pocket and tried to scramble down the sideline, until he was nearly fatally hit by Jet's linebacker Mo Lewis. The internal bleeding almost killed Bledsoe later that day, and the concussion alone took him out of the game. The Patriots lost the game, moving to 0-2. Backup Tom Brady started for the next game against the Indianapolis Colts, the first of 17 games in the famous Tom Brady–Peyton Manning rivalry, of which Brady has won 11, including two playoff games. The Patriots went 11-5, beat the Raiders in the Tuck Rule Game that closed Foxboro Stadium, then the Steelers on the road, ending the season with an upset of the heavily favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, 20-17.
The Patriots started off 2002 hot, winning their first three games to open up the new Gillette Stadium, but losing the next four. They ended with a 9-7 record, but a series of division tiebreakers forced the Patriots out of the playoffs. It was one of only two times in the Brady/Belichick era that the Patriots missed the playoffs with Brady as their starting quarterback.
Ahead of the 2003 season, Bill Belichick shocked the NFL world in the offseason by releasing strong safety Lawyer Milloy due to contract issues. In his replacement, he signed hard-hitting enforcer Rodney Harrison, whose career appeared to be on the decline until that point. By the time Harrison retired in 2008, he held the NFL record for most sacks by a defensive back (30.5), the first defensive player to have 30 sacks and 30 interceptions, and holds the Patriot team record for postseason interceptions, with seven.
However, many were shocked with Belichick's release of Milloy, whose job safety at the time seemed more secure than Brady's. The Patriots lost their season opener to the Buffalo Bills, who signed Milloy days earlier, 31-0. It would be the biggest loss of the Brady/Belichick era. What followed has been called one of the most successful two year stretches by a team in NFL history. The Patriots lost just three more games in 2003 and 2004 combined, culminating in back-to-back Super Bowl victories (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX). In 2004, they set the then-NFL record for consecutive victories, from Week 5, 2003 through Week 7, 2004.
2005 was somewhat of a down year for the Patriots as they finished with a 10-6 record. The 2005 season featured injuries to many key players including safety Rodney Harrison and forced for the Patriots to start 45 different players throughout the season, an NFL record. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi suffered a stroke and missed the beginning of the season before returning for the October 30th game against the Buffalo Bills. Despite the injuries, the Patriots won the AFC East for the third straight time. They defeated the Jaguars in the Wildcard, but fell to the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Playoffs, committing five turnovers.
In 2006, the Patriots came back strong, going 12-4 and winning the AFC East again. After beating the Jets and Chargers in the wildcard and divisional rounds, they squandered a 21-3 halftime lead against the Indianapolis Colts in the Conference Championship, and lost 38-34.
In 2007, the Patriots became the first team to win every regular season game since the NFL schedule was extended to 16 games. They outscored opposing teams by an average of 36-17. Brady won MVP for the first time in his career, throwing for 4800 yards and an NFL record 50 touchdowns. Wide receiver Randy Moss, traded to New England from the Oakland Raiders for a mere 5th round pick, caught an NFL record 23 touchdown passes, a record that still stands. After beating the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers in the playoffs, New England was handed their first defeat of the season by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14. Super Bowl XLII would become renowned for the miraculous play made by Eli Manning and David Tyree which would go on to be known as The Helmet Catch.
The 2008 season started off with disaster for the Patriots, when Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite the tough odds, Belichick coached the Patriots, with backup Matt Cassel under center, to a respectable 11-5 record. However, a series of division tiebreakers placed the 11-5 Miami Dolphins as the AFC East champion. The 2008 Patriots became the second 11-win team in NFL history to not make the playoffs (the other being the 1985 Broncos).
The 2009 season was important for several reasons. They started the year with a comeback against the Bills to go 1-0. Against the Tennessee Titans in Week 6, the Patriots faced the first team with a loss in their record. The Patriots beat the Titans 59-0, tying the NFL record for the largest blowout since the merger. After a string of losses, including a heartbreaking road loss to the undefeated Colts, the Patriots went 10-6 and lost to the Baltimore Ravens 33-14 in the Wild Card Playoffs. However, Brady had a comeback year, throwing for 4,300 yards and 28 touchdowns.
In 2010, the Patriots went 14-2 and won the AFC East outright. Brady became the first unanimous NFL MVP, as well as the Offensive Player of the year. With all the regular season hype, the Patriots failed to live up to it in the playoffs, losing in the Divisional Round to the Jets 28-21. As of 2018, it would be the last time the Patriots did not reach the AFC Championship Game.
In 2011, the Patriots had another strong year, finishing with a 13-3 record, winning the AFC East, and making it to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady threw for 5,235 yards, still short of the NFL single-season record which was set by Drew Brees in the same year. Against the New York Giants, Brady was pressured again and had difficulty scoring points. Another miracle play for the Giants offense made by Eli Manning on a pass to Mario Manningham led the Giants offense to take a late lead over the Patriots in the fourth quarter. The Patriots would again fall to Manning and the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI 21-17.
For the 2012 season, Brady threw for 4,827 yards and rushing for a career-high 4 touchdowns. But after beating the Texans in the Divisional round, they fell to the Baltimore Ravens in the Conference Championship 28-13.
Brady and Belichick led the 2013 Patriots team to a 12-4 record, earning the team a first round playoff bye week for the fourth year in a row even though Brady threw for only 25 touchdowns and double digit interceptions. The premier victory of the Patriots regular season came in Week 6 against the New Orleans Saints. Despite consecutive drives ending in a 3-and-out and a seemingly game-deciding interception with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots defense forced the Saints to punt with 1:13 left in the game. Brady then led the Patriots to score with only 5 seconds left, throwing to Kenbrell Thompkins in the corner of the end zone. In the playoffs, the Patriots easily made it to the AFC Championship where they would face the record-breaking offense of the Denver Broncos. In another Tom Brady–Peyton Manning rivalry game, the Broncos kept their foot on the gas, winning 26-16.
The Patriots began the 2014 season with a rough 2-2 record, including an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4. Many sports writers were beginning to call for the end of the Patriots dynasty, which had not won a Super Bowl in a decade. Still, the Patriots bounced back and went 10-2 down the stretch to finish the season 12-4. After coming back from two 14 point deficits to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round, the Patriots routed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship game, giving them their 6th Super Bowl appearance since 2001.
After throwing two interceptions and leaving his team down by 10 points in the 4th quarter, Brady led the Patriots on two touchdown drives against the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots capped off the comeback with a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. On the ensuing Seahawks drive, quarterback Russell Wilson threw a deep pass to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse that was initially deflected by cornerback Malcolm Butler. However, Kearse juggled the ball on his chest and caught it, giving Seattle a first down on the 5 yard line. Color commentator Cris Collinsworth compared the acrobatic catch to David Tyree's iconic "Helmet Catch" against the Patriots in XLII. On the next play, running back Marshawn Lynch rumbled to the 1 yard line until he was tackled by Dont'a Hightower. Later on, Hightower was credited with one of the most amazing tackles of the game, as he had to bench press a lineman off of him and dive tackle Lynch with his shoulder. On the next play, with 26 seconds left in the game, Wilson threw the ball to the right, intended for Ricardo Lockette. Instead, undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler read the route and intercepted the ball on the goal line in one of the most iconic plays in football lore. The Patriots prevailed, 28-24.
The 2015 season started off hot, with the Patriots starting 10-0. However, a series of injuries, including Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell, Dion Lewis, and at one point, the entire offensive line, forced the Patriots to lose 4 of their next 6 games. After beating the Chiefs in the Divisional round, Brady faced the vaunted Broncos defense in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots lost, 20-18.
As a result from his involvement in the Deflategate scandal, Brady was suspended for the first 4 games of the 2016 season. With backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, the Patriots started the year 3-1. With Brady back in Week 5, the Patriots lost just one game the rest of the season and dominated to a 14-2 finish. After beating the Houston Texans and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, the Patriots' 3rd highest scoring offense and 1st scoring defense faced the Atlanta Falcons's 1st scoring offense and 27th scoring defense in Super Bowl LI.
Against the Falcons, the Patriots defense couldn't stop the high-powered Falcons offense. Brady was inconsistent, off on his throws and threw an interception to Robert Alford that was returned for a touchdown, the first in Brady's postseason career. By halftime, the score was 21-3. The Falcons scored again in the third quarter to make the score 28-3, a 25-point deficit. In Super Bowls, the largest deficit ever overcome was 10 points. The Patriots scored 31 unanswered points to win the Super Bowl 34-28 in overtime. It was the first Super Bowl to go to overtime, as well as the largest deficit overcome. Brady won his 4th Super Bowl MVP for setting a Super Bowl record 466 passing yards. 30 Super Bowl records were broken or tied in Super Bowl LI.
The Patriots started off the 2017 season slow yet again, going 2-2 until going 11-1 down the stretch to win another AFC East title and first seed in the AFC. Brady became the oldest MVP in the NFL, at 40. He also became the oldest quarterback to lead the NFL in passing with 4,577 yards. After defeating the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs, they faced backup quarterback Nick Foles and the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. The Patriots tried to win back-to-back Super Bowls since they won back-to-back from 2003-2004. In a high-scoring shootout, Brady was slated to lead the Patriots to another comeback victory late in the fourth quarter when Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham strip sacked Brady and the ball was recovered by the Eagles, securing a Patriots defeat, 41-33. Brady set another Super Bowl record with 505 yards passing, breaking the previous record he had set the year before.
The Patriots drew much criticism in the early weeks of 2018, after losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the winless Detroit Lions in the first three weeks, teams who ended below .500 on the season. However, the Patriots bounced back with a string of wins, including a Sunday Night thriller at home against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs led by young phenom Patrick Mahomes, who would go on to throw over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns that season and win the NFL MVP award.
In Week 14 at Miami, the Patriots led with 7 seconds left in the game. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed the ball to Kenny Stills, who then lateraled the ball to DeVante Parker, who in turn tossed the ball to Kenyan Drake. Drake then ran the remaining 53 yards for the touchdown with no time on the clock, immortalizing the play in NFL lore as the Miracle in Miami.
For the first time in almost a decade, the Patriots finished the season with more than four losses at 11–5, securing the AFC East for a record 10th consecutive time (an NFL record and tying the Atlanta Braves for most consecutive playoff berths) and the AFC's 2nd seed behind the 12–4 Chiefs. After defeating the Los Angeles Chargers handily 41–28 in the Divisional Round, the Patriots faced Mahomes and the vaunted Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. After leading 14–0 at halftime, the Patriots fought a comeback by the Chiefs, forcing the game to overtime tied 31-31. On the next drive, the Patriots quickly moved downfield through critical third down completions to Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, setting up a touchdown run by Rex Burkhead. Belichick and Brady earned their 3rd straight Super Bowl trip and their ninth overall, more than any other coach/quarterback duo.
In Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots' stiff defense held the high-scoring Los Angeles Rams offense to three points all game, sacking quarterback Jared Goff four times and intercepting him once, allowing a 57.6 passer rating. The Patriot offense started slow, with Brady throwing an early interception. However, they came back late in the fourth quarter with a 29 yard pass from Brady to Gronkowski, capped by a two yard run by rookie Sony Michel. One Stephen Gostkowski field goal later cemented the win, 13–3. It is the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, and Brady and Belichick's sixth win together.
According to many writers and analysts, the culture that Bill Belichick upheld in New England, dubbed the "Patriot Way", helped to sustain the success the Patriots have enjoyed. Belichick has been known to be very punctual and attentive to detail in order to win. Players such as Brady, All-Pro Safety Devin McCourty, and longtime Patriot Julian Edelman are players who are known to keep the culture around New England alive. For example, Brady has consistently taken pay cuts, despite his elite performance.
In 2017, Brady's cap value was only $14 million. Moreover, the total cash spent on Brady in 2017 was a mere $1 million. When asked why he accepts pay cuts and a salary below market value, Brady replied "I think the thing I've always felt for me in my life, winning has been a priority. And my wife (model Gisele Bündchen) makes a lot of money. I'm a little smarter than you think... Actually, it's a salary cap. You can only spend so much and the more that one guy gets is less for others. And for a competitive advantage standpoint, I like to get a lot of good players around me." Brady's willingness to take pay cuts allows the Patriots to spend that money elsewhere on more skilled players.
Another example of Belichick's disciplinarian demeanor is how he handled running back Jonas Gray. In Week 11, Gray rushed for 201 yards and set a franchise record for touchdowns in a game, with four. However, he was active in only five more games for the Patriots, and was released less than a year later. Although he had a stellar debut, he was often late to meetings and practice, something Belichick does not tolerate. Instead, Belichick kept with his pounding, one-dimensional running back LeGarrette Blount for the rest of the year.
Spygate was an incident during the 2007 NFL season, when the Patriots were disciplined by the league for videotaping New York Jets' defensive coaches' signals from an unauthorized location. Videotaping opposing coaches is not illegal in the NFL de jure, but there are designated areas allowed by the league to do such taping. Because the Patriots were instead videotaping the Jets' coaches from their own sideline, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell deemed it to be in violation of league rules, stating that the act represented a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition.
After an investigation, the NFL fined Belichick $500,000 (the maximum allowed by the league and the largest fine ever imposed on a coach in league history) for his role in the incident, fined the Patriots $250,000, and docked the team their first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. After the original incident, several other allegations were made against the Patriots filming opposing teams.
Deflategate was a controversy involving the allegation that Brady ordered the deliberate deflating of footballs used in the Patriots' victory against the Indianapolis Colts in the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game of the 2014–15 NFL playoffs. The controversy resulted in Brady being suspended for four games, the Patriots being fined $1 million and losing two draft picks, and saw the NFL later change the procedure for monitoring football pressure.
For his alleged part in the scandal, Brady was originally suspended by the league for four games of the 2015 regular season, but a federal judge later vacated his suspension, and allowed Brady to resume his playing duties for the entirety of the 2015 season. However, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Brady's four-game suspension, which became effective for the 2016 regular season. After losing a request for a rehearing, Brady chose to accept the suspension. The controversy remained a topic of discussion during the 2016 season, which concluded with the Patriots winning Super Bowl LI and Brady being named the MVP of the game.
Foxboro Stadium, originally Schaefer Stadium and later Sullivan Stadium, was an outdoor stadium located in Foxborough, Massachusetts, United States. It opened in 1971 and served as the home of the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL) until 2001 and also as the home venue for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer (MLS) from 1996 to 2001. The stadium was the site of several games in both the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup which the U.S. won. Foxboro Stadium was demolished in 2002 and replaced by Gillette Stadium and the Patriot Place shopping center.
|Division championships (21)|
|Conference championships (11)|
|League championships (6)|
|Current league affiliations|
|Former league affiliation|
Championship seasons in bold