Belichick was a surprise addition to the “Let’s Go!” podcast on Monday night with Brady and co-host Jim Gray, the first episode since Brady announced his retirement from the NFL after 23 seasons. And if you knew nothing of Brady's awkward 2020 exit from the New England Patriots, you might assume that Brady and Belichick have been the closest of allies and maybe even good friends.
Even knowing how their divorce played out, it was hard not to come away thinking there was once again genuine and mutual appreciation between the two longtime partners -- especially on Belichick's end, heaping praise on his former QB. On a star-studded pod that featured the likes of Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski and even Oprah Winfrey, the Belichick-Brady bouquet tossing was the feature attraction.
"We had a really good relationship, especially in the film room and talking football and all that," Belichick said. "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."
Rarely do you hear Belichick this unfiltered. It was a caliber of praise that Belichick typically reserves for this week's opponent, long snappers or Navy football. Brady reciprocated the adoration and doubled down on the idea that these guys weren't as combative with one another as many suspected.
"I think coach Belichick and I developed an amazing relationship, really from the moment I was draft," Brady said, clearly getting emotional while talking. "I had someone that really saw something in me that not a lot of other people did. …
"He loves the sport, he loves teaching, he loves coaching, he loves competing, and nobody's done it better than him. And I think what a blessing for me -- there's no way I have the success I've had personally without him, and I'm very grateful for that."
For anyone who appreciated either competitor's greatness, the podcast was as good of nostalgia as you can find out in the wild. Both men truly appeared at peace with their relationship and with the current direction of their lives. Perhaps owner Robert Kraft's olive-branch offer for Brady to retire a Patriot wasn't as forced an idea as it felt.
Belichick boiled down one aspect of what made Brady so good for so long: He saw everything on the field.
"Tom talks about how much I taught him in those meetings, but I learned so much from Tom," Belichick explained, "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."
Belichick also said that Brady invited hard coaching and wanted to be ripped in meetings so that he could improve and be pushed to greatness and also so that his Patriots teammates could see he wasn't receiving special treatment from Belichick. The coach's inspiration for how to treat his star quarterback came from college basketball of all places.
"Players, they always come back and say, 'Hey, the first meeting, Belichick got on Brady. … Like, Christ, if he's gonna talk to Brady like that, I better be straight. I know what's gonna happen to me,'" Belichick said. "… And actually, where I got that from was coach (Bobby) Knight. Because coach Knight told me that's what he did with Michael Jordan on the (1984 U.S. Men's) Olympic team. He said, 'You know what Michael? I'm gonna rip your ass. Because I can't rip some of these other guys without ripping you.' And Jordan said, 'Hey, bring it on, 'cause I need that and that'll help me with my teammates.' And it was kind of a similar thing with Tom. He told me he appreciated it."
It worked. Together, they were among the most successful coach-player combos -- not just in NFL history, but in sports history. They won 249 total games, regular season and playoffs, the most by a QB-coach duo. They won 17 AFC East titles in a 19-year span. They participated in 41 postseason games and nine Super Bowls together, winning six of them.
And yet even with Belichick ultimately deciding to let Brady walk in free agency in 2020, a process that started more than two years earlier when Brady didn't receive another long-term extension, the quarterback decried those who tried to divide the two men and the team. It almost felt like a message to the world: We're at peace now.
"I think it's always such a stupid conversation to say Brady vs. Belichick," Brady said. "Because in my mind, that's not what partnerships are about. Coach couldn't play quarterback, and I couldn't coach. … Coach says it a lot: 'Do your job.' He asked me to play quarterback. He didn't ask me to coach."
As Brady looked back on his career -- for the second time, although he insisted on the podcast that this retirement is "for good" -- it was hard for him not to acknowledge just how much his first coach meant to his career.
"It's more what did he not do to bring out the best in me," Brady said. "We spent a lot of time together. He started to begin to teach me what football was all about, how to study defenses when I started to play.
"I couldn't imagine a better teacher to say, 'Hey, here's how you're going to play quarterback in the NFL.'"