Tom Brady is great. No arguments. Call him the "Greatest of All-Time!!!!!" and slap a couple more exclamation points on it if you're into that sort of thing.
But, c'mon. Must we tear Bill Belichick down to build Tom Brady up to an even greater height?
This is, believe it or not, a team game.
When Brady left Belichick and the Patriots after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl wins, he had a choice of many QB-starved teams to sign with. He didn't pick the Jets. He didn't pick the Jaguars. He didn't pick any team that wasn't as loaded with talent as the one Jameis Winston was dragging down in Tampa.
The fact Brady is playing in his 10th Super Bowl while Belichick went 7-9 is considered by some to be an open-and-shut case that Brady carried Belichick for two decades.
That's an oversimplified look at the ultimate team game.
Brady and Belichick were great together.
Two of Brady's Super Bowl wins came when Belichick had the No. 1-ranked scoring defense in 2003 and 2016.
Brady's first Super Bowl win came 19 years ago when Belichick's defense held the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" offense to 17 points.
And, while we're talking complementary football, Bill and Tom might both want to thank Adam Vinatieri for kicking the game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired in that game. And for the 41-yarder he kicked with 4 seconds left to beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl two years later.
Brady's last Super Bowl win came two years ago. His opponent was a Rams team averaging 32.9 points per game and sporting young offensive guru Sean McVay as head coach.
The Rams scored 3 points and only lost by 10.
By the way, do you know how many Hall of Fame defenders Belichick has used to win his six trophies? One. Ty Law.
This is not meant to diminish Brady's greatness, even at age 43. It's only an attempt at stating the obvious that apparently isn't so obvious – Super Bowls aren't won by one player.
Two weeks ago, Brady played well in the upset of the Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. But he also threw three interceptions.
His playoff record when throwing three interceptions, by the way: 3-1.
"It's complementary football," Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said. "When the offense makes a mistake, we have their back. When we make a mistake, they have our back."
Brady's three interceptions came on three straight possessions from the middle of the third quarter until the middle of the fourth quarter. The Packers turned the first one into a touchdown and a 28-23 deficit.
"It don't matter what Brady threw," Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "He can throw 10 picks. As long as we can stop them, we're fine. That's exactly what we do."
Here's what presumed MVP Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's No. 1 scoring attack did with Brady's fourth-quarter picks:
Two three-and-outs. Minus-5 yards net. Total time of possession: 2 minutes, 46 seconds. Rodgers' stat line: 1 for 4, 5 yards and two sacks, compliments of Shaq Barrett.
Still think Brady got here by himself?
"It's just a mentality [defensive coordinator Todd Bowles] and a lot of the staff harps on us to step up and do," David said. "Get the offense the ball back."
Mission accomplished. In three road playoff wins, the Bucs have six takeaways. Brady has turned them into six touchdowns. All three touchdowns in a win over New Orleans came off turnovers.
Yes, issues formed between Belichick and Brady that caused the quarterback to chart his exit.
Yes, Belichick booted Brady's trainer/BFF, Alex Guerrero, from the sideline and the team plane years ago.
Yes, there were reports that Belichick wanted to trade Brady, not Jimmy Garoppolo, to the 49ers back in 2017. Yes, owner Robert Kraft stepped in and sided with Brady.
But in Belichick's defense, Brady was 40 years old. He had just won his fifth Super Bowl. And Garoppolo had been Brady's successor-in-waiting for three years.
Don't fault Belichick for not knowing the full extent to which Brady's TB12 witchcraft would keep working its Benjamin Button reverse-aging voodoo.
Even after that 2017 dustup, Brady and Belichick went to two more Super Bowls in two years. They lost a 41-33 shootout with Nick Foles and the Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium and then won the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever.
Two years later, Brady's Bucs team is better than Belichick's Pats team, which was plagued from the get-go with eight COVID-19 opt-outs before the season even started.
"He was an incredible coach and mentor for me," Brady said of Belichick this week. "I've had a lot of those in my career, but obviously he's at the top of the list.
"I'm incredibly grateful for what he's meant in my life as a coach. I loved my time there. He was everything you could ask for as a player."
In other words, the mountain was big enough to hold two all-time greats. No need to go knocking one of them off.