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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick arrived in New England together, one an overlooked sixth-round pick out of Michigan and the other a failed head coach during his first stint in Cleveland.
Over the more than a decade, they've learned together. Grown together. They've won together.
Now, as Brady approaches yet another milestone - 50,000 yards passing, which he could accomplish on Monday night in Kansas City - his relationship with his coach made Chiefs coach Andy Reid reflect on the years he spent with his own franchise quarterback in Philadelphia.
Over the course of 11 years, Reid and Donovan McNabb won nearly 100 games together.
"I think it's important. It's hard to have a lot of success in this league if you don't have a good, solid quarterback playing back there," Reid said. "I was very fortunate to have Donovan for all those years, and I know Bill would say the same thing, he's lucky to have Tom."
There are plenty of memorable coach-quarterback combinations scattered across history. Don Shula and Dan Marino ushered in an era of pass-happy offenses in Miami. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana refined them in San Francisco. Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr in Green Bay, Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh - all of them left their mark on the NFL landscape, winning a bunch of titles.
Yet perhaps none of them has been quite as successful as Belichick and Brady. They've won 150 games together, and their winning percentage tops just about any list you could put together. They've prepared for 18 postseason games together, five of them Super Bowls, and three times celebrated a world championship with a parade.
"They've just been a good match," Reid said. "I think both of them would tell you that. They work very well together. They've done it for a number of years. And they've had a lot of success."
Of course, there's that all-true-saying that all good things eventually come to an end. Some people believe that could be happening to Belichick and Brady. After turning 37 in August, Brady is off to one of the worst starts of his career.
He has completed a career-worst 58 percent of his passes, averaged just 210 yards passing per game, and his inability to stretch defenses with the deep ball has become glaring. It doesn't help that New England's retooled offensive line has put him under duress. Longtime assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia retired at the end of last season after 30 years with the Patriots, and Dave DeGuglielmo took over the offensive line.
That change, combined with the trade of veteran Logan Mankins, has resulted in a front five that resembles supermarket turnstiles. He's been sacked seven times, and hit or hurried a league-leading 44 times.
"It's not just one thing on our offense," Brady said. "We're trying to identify the things that we need to do better, and then certainly go out there in practice and try to do them better. It's not really one area, it's all areas. That's what is going to hopefully make the most effective team we can be in November, December, just by working hard, continuing to correct mistakes."
After all, that seemingly mundane Belichick-Brady recipe has been successful so far.
"We need to do everything better offensively. It's not any one problem," Belichick said. "It's a number of lack-of-consistency issues, lack of execution. We have to do a better job on everything."
The Chiefs could be the tonic to get better. They're missing four starters to injury, including a pair of Pro Bowl players in linebacker Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry.
"They have a good front. They're big inside. They're fast on the edge. They've got good depth. We're going to have to block all of them," Belichick said. "It will be a challenge for every guy. It will be a challenge for our receivers to get open, for our running backs to find holes and space in the running game. We're going to have to do a good job with 11 guys. Coaching staff, we're all going to have to do a good job. It's a good defense. They have a lot of good players."
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