This football season, one of the biggest storylines to watch is life after marriage from quarterback Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick.
After 19 years together and six Super Bowl victories, the two legends will now try to forge their own paths to success.
No one quite matches the prolific partnership of the New England duo, but there have been plenty of great coach/quarterback combos in pro football.
How have those quarterbacks and coaches fared when they didn’t have each other to lean on? Who was more responsible for success while they were together?
Here’s how some of the greatest coach and quarterback pairs did together – and apart.
Tom Brady/Bill Belichick (2000-19)
Regular Season Record: 219-64
Playoff Record: 30-11
You know the story. The Goat and The Boat have won six rings, been through two cheating scandals together, and, after sleeping in separate beds for the last few years, finalized the divorce this offseason.
Belichick without Brady
Career Head Coaching Record: 54-63-0
2000-2019 (New England, games without Brady): 18-19
1991-1995 (Cleveland): 36-44
Belichick had four losing seasons with the Browns in the ’90s, with his only playoff appearance coming in 1994 (11-5). Ironically, the Browns beat the Patriots in the Wild Card that year before losing to Pittsburgh in the AFC Divisional round.
Outside of Cleveland, Belichick has a record of 18-19 with the Patriots sans the GOAT. He went 5-13 with Bledsoe as the starter in 2000 and through the first two games of 2001. He had more success with Matt Cassel (10-5) in 2008 when Brady was lost to a knee injury in the season opener and the combo of Jimmy G and Jacoby Brissett (3-1) when Brady served a four-game suspension for Deflategate in 2016. Now, what can he do with Jarrett Stidham (read: Cam Newton)?
Brady without Belichick: Win or lose, we still booze!
Vince Lombardi/Bart Starr (1959-1967)
Regular Season Record: 77-23-4
Playoff Record: 9-1
The original dynasty of the NFL, Lombardi and Starr won three NFL championships and then won the first two Super Bowls (1966-67) in existence.
Lombardi without Starr
Career Head Coaching Record: 19-11-2
1959-67 (Green Bay, games without Starr): 12-6
1969 (Washington): 7-5-2
Following Green Bay’s win in Super Bowl II, Lombardi took a year off from coaching but continued to be the general manager. He returned to the sidelines in 1969 as head coach and GM of the Washington Redskins. In his only season with the team, the Redskins had their first winning season since 1955.
Starr without Lombardi
Career Playing Record: 17-34-2
1956-58 (Green Bay): 3-15-1
1968-71 (Green Bay): 14-19-1
Starr couldn’t seem to find his footing before or after working with Lombardi. He later became the head coach of the Packers himself, and from 1975-1983 compiled a coaching record of 52-76-3 (.408).
Regular Season Record: 115-60-1
Playoff Record: 8-6
The Pittsburgh tandem has put together 12 consecutive seasons without a losing record. They won the AFC North seven times and made two Super Bowls, including a championship in 2008.
Tomlin without Roethlisberger
Career Head Coaching Record: 18-14
Tomlin’s only coaching record without Roethlisberger is in Pittsburgh games that Big Ben has missed. Most notably, Tomlin went 8-6 this past season with the combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges after Roethlisberger left the second game of the year with a non-contact elbow injury.
Roethlisberger without Tomlin:
Career Record: 29-11
2004 (Pittsburgh): 13-0
2005 (Pittsburgh): 9-3
2006 (Pittsburgh): 7-8
Big Ben had success early on in his career, though his first coach was also no slouch (Hall of Famer Bill Cowher, who drafted Ben 11th overall in 2004). Roethlisberger took over for Tommy Maddox in the third quarter of a 30-13 loss to Baltimore in the second game of 2004. He threw two touchdowns, and while it wasn’t enough to bring Pittsburgh back, it earned him the starting job. He ran with that opportunity, leading Pittsburgh to thirteen consecutive victories and the number one seed in the AFC before they were beaten by Belichick’s Patriots in the AFC championship.
Tom Landry/Roger Staubach (1969-79)
Regular Season Record: 85-29-0
Playoff Record: 13-7
Between 1969 and 1979, under Landry and with Staubach under center, the Cowboys averaged more than 11.5 wins per season, went to five Super Bowls, and won two titles. They won the division eight times and were in the playoffs in all but one season.
Landry without Staubach
Career Head Coaching Record: 165-133-6
1960-68 (Dallas): 56-63
1969-79 (Dallas, games without Staubach): 31-12-1
1980-88 (Dallas): 78-58
Landry struggled early on in his long career as the Cowboys head coach, but he was still given a 10-year extension in 1964 despite five straight losing seasons. He began building his dynasty, losing to the Packers in the NFL Championship games in 1966 and 67 before Staubach returned from his tour of duty in Vietnam and joined the Cowboys in 1969.
Post-Staubach, Landry bridged the gap to Troy Aikman, mostly with quarterback Danny White, who was also the team’s punter. The favored Cowboys lost in three straight NFC championship games and missed the playoffs altogether in four of Landry’s final five seasons at the helm.
Staubach without Landry: Never happened.
Bill Walsh/Joe Montana (1979-88)
Regular Season Record: 75-36
Playoff Record: 10-4
Perhaps the greatest threat to the Patriots as the greatest dynasty of all time, the 49ers of the 1980s won three Super Bowls and six NFC West championships.
Walsh without Montana (1979-1988)
1979-88 (San Francisco, games without Montana): 17-23-1
Walsh never coached without Montana on his roster, but before Joe Cool took over the starting role, the Niners were 2-13. Once Montana got installed as the full-time starter in 1981, San Fran went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl.
Montana without Walsh
Career Record: 42-11
1989-90, 1992 (San Francisco): 25-3
1993-94 (Kansas City): 17-8
Montana won another title in 1989, but then, after missing all of 1991 and 92, he lost his starting job to Steve Young. Eventually, Montana requested a trade and landed in Kansas City, where he finished his career under Marty Schottenheimer. He reached the playoffs in both years but never returned to the Big Game.
Chuck Noll/Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983)
Regular Season Record: 107-51
Postseason Record: 14-5
Noll and Bradshaw’s 14 seasons together is second only to Brady/Belichick, despite a rocky relationship not unlike that of the Patriots tandem. Bradshaw often wanted positive reinforcement, while Noll was a little less touchy-feely. Remind you of anyone?
Noll without Bradshaw
Career Coaching Record: 86-97-1
1969 (Pittsburgh): 1-13
1970-83 (Pittsburgh, games without Bradshaw): 25-17-1
1984-91 (Pittsburgh): 60-67
There is ample sample size (it’s fun to rhyme) for Noll, as he coached for another seven years after Bradshaw called it a career. Noll was not able to get much out of his quarterbacks, mostly Mark Malone and Bubby Brister, reaching the playoffs just twice without Bradshaw.
Bradshaw without Noll: Never happened.
Paul Brown/Otto Graham (1946-55)
Regular Season Record: 104-17-4
Playoff Record: 9-3
1946-49 (Cleveland – AAFC): 47-4-3
1950-55 (Cleveland – NFL): 57-13-1
Hard to believe, but Cleveland was the most dominant team of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), with the Browns winning all four championships in the league’s existence. They carried that momentum into the NFL, joining in 1950 and immediately winning the NFL Championship game.
Brown without Graham
Head Coaching Record: 109-87-5
*1950-55 (Cleveland, games without Graham): 1-0
1956-62 (Cleveland): 53-31-4
1968-69 (Cincinnati, AFL): 7-20-1
1970-75 (Cincinnati, NFL): 48-36
*Graham played in 45 of 54 games between 1946-49, but quarterback records for AAFC games are not available.
After an ugly exit from the Browns, Paul Brown spent five years out of football before returning to the sidelines as the head coach, general manager, and investor in the new Cincinnati Bengals. His time in Cincinnati was mediocre, with three losing seasons and an 0-3 playoff record.
Graham without Brown: Never happened.
Peyton Manning/Tony Dungy (2002-08)
Regular Season Record: 85-27
Playoff Record: 7-6
From 2002-2008, the Colts ruled the AFC South much like the rival Patriots ruled the AFC East. Dungee and Manning won five straight division titles, but only parlayed that into a 7-6 playoff record, with four of those wins coming in 2006 when the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. Despite a .759 regular season winning percentage, Indy was bounced from the playoffs in their opening game on four occasions.
Dungy without Manning
Head Coaching Record: 54-42
1996-01 (Tampa Bay): 54-42
2002-08 (Indianapolis, games without Manning): Zippo. In fact, Manning started every single game from 1998-2014 (minus the 2011 season which he missed entirely).
Dungy’s entry into head coaching could only be considered mediocre. He meandered around the middle of the pack for the majority of his tenure in Tampa Bay, with the most notable season coming in 1999 (11-5), which ended with a trip to the NFC Championship game.
Manning without Dungy
Career Record: 101-52
1998-01 (Indianapolis): 32-32
2009-10 (Indianapolis): 24-8
2012-14 (Denver): 45-12
His first few seasons in the league notwithstanding, Manning carried on just fine without Dungy. He won the MVP in his first season post-Tony, leading the Colts back to the Super Bowl. After missing a year to recover from a neck injury, Manning went to Denver and won four consecutive AFC West Division titles, made two trips to the Super Bowl, and won a championship in 2015 before hanging it up.
What Did We Learn?
Coaches Record without quarterbacks: 522-470-15 (.526)
Quarterbacks Record without coaches: 189-108-2 (.635)
Obviously, the longevity of coaches is much greater than that of quarterbacks, so there were several QB’s on this list who played for the same coach for their entire career. On the coaching side, only Tomlin and Walsh never coached another quarterback, save missed games during the careers of Roethlisberger/Montana.
When they have gone on their own, the great quarterbacks have typically succeeded, namely Joe Montana and Peyton Manning, who each won a title without their legendary coach.
The coaches without their quarterbacks have lingered around .500 records, often struggling to start their careers in the NFL or to make the transition from a legendary QB to perhaps a perennial backup. As mentioned, longer coaching careers mean that there is more room for uneven quarterback play, which I guess means that even the best coaches need a field general who can execute their system and make winning plays.
While this exercise doesn’t give much clarity as to who should get credit for these prolonged runs of success, it seems that it’s easier for good quarterbacks to thrive under other head coaches than it is for head coaches to thrive with non-Hall of Famers at the position. It will be interesting to see what the next chapters will bring for Brady and Belichick now that they’re not sharing the same sideline every Sunday.
- / 1 year ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.