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Bill Belichick vs. Tom Brady: Which guy would you take to start a franchise?

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady both arrived in New England in 2000. Since then, well, the Patriots have pretty much owned the millennium.

Now preparing for their seventh Super Bowl appearance in the last 16 seasons, Belichick and Brady already have led New England to four Lombardi Trophies and 14 division titles. Since the 2001 season, when Brady took over as the starting quarterback, the Pats boast a .766 regular-season winning percentage (196-60) and a .727 postseason mark (24-9). It's this kind of staggering success that leads many to consider Belichick and Brady among the best ever at their respective posts (coach and QB). But which individual is more valuable? It's an interesting thought excercise ...

If you were starting a franchise and you could get 15 prime years out of Belichick or Brady, would you rather have the coach or the quarterback?

It's the coach for me. Bill Belichick's ability to adjust personnel and game plans -- not only week to week, but throughout a game -- is rare in this league. A lot of head coaches can't do it. However, Belichick has been doing it for what seems like forever. I'm taking Tom Brady here. That's not because Bill Belichick isn't one of the best coaches in NFL history -- it's because Brady helped him earn that stature. As much as people talk about the success Belichick has enjoyed when Brady's been unavailable, the fact is the coach has never won a playoff game in New England without his future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Patriots went 11-5 in 2008 (the year Brady was lost to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1), but didn't reach the postseason. They also went 3-1 without Brady at the beginning of this season (when the QB was serving a suspension related to Deflategate) before he returned to play at an MVP-caliber level. Now consider what Brady has done in the playoffs. He has more career postseason wins than any quarterback ever (24), more Super Bowl appearances (seven) and he's now chasing his fifth Lombardi Trophy.

Bottom line: It's hard to find a coach as brilliant as Belichick, but it's even more difficult to find a quarterback as extraordinary as Brady. Top-notch quarterback play is vital to winning in the NFL -- and to winning a Lombardi Trophy. But I am taking the future Hall of Fame coach over the future Hall of Fame QB because the head man has his hands on everything. While the QB affects the offense, the coach affects offense, defense, special teams, who is on the roster, how players are used and game management -- as well as the motivation and discipline of the team. Bill Belichick's the answer. Just look at the things Belichick has navigated the Patriots through in this year alone -- any of which would have derailed the season for most teams -- and you know why: the suspension of the franchise quarterback, the injury to the backup quarterback, the trade of a top defensive player at midseason, the injury of the most important player outside of the franchise quarterback, the use of newly acquired targets to mask that loss.

None of this takes away from Tom Brady's greatness, but Belichick does this year in and year out -- and almost regardless of the circumstances they face, the Patriots get to the playoffs as a true contender. Belichick is the mastermind of the NFL, and nobody has been able to replicate what he's done in New England. Even coaches under him aren't even close to as successful on their own as they are under his umbrella. Good head coaches eventually are run out of town -- within, at most, 10 years of taking the position -- but Belichick has spearheaded the league's winningest franchise since 2000, and he'll be the head coach there until he decides to retire. I would start my franchise with Bill Belichick. Finding a franchise quarterback is the most difficult task in roster construction -- at least that's what we've always heard -- but the right head coach sets the tone for an entire organization. I can name several Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks who weren't franchise guys. Head coaches? It gets a little more difficult. Most importantly, it was Belichick who put Tom Brady in the lineup -- and kept him there, even when other coaches might've gone back to a healthy Drew Bledsoe. Also worth noting: Belichick won two rings as a defensive coordinator before he ever started his head-coaching career.

Over this hypothetical 15-year period, Belichick could not only win now, but set up your franchise for the future. Having a guy like Brady for 15 years could provide enormous success, but stop a GM from drafting and grooming a quarterback for the post-Brady era. (Although Belichick has taken care of that, too.) Belichick is fantastic as a coach. He's not afraid. He has a great offensive and defensive mind and isn't afraid to let big-name players go if he finds a better fit. We've seen the Patriots have the same results despite the different roster looks. Then you have to take into account what he's doing as the general manager.

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