Charley Casserly, the former Washington Redskins general manager and current NFL Network analyst, is enjoying a renaissance these days. He's going to help New York Jets owner Woody Johnson sort out the mess left behind by John Idzik and Rex Ryan.
Still, the other day he had a few minutes to discuss the wonder of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
"Tough to argue with six Super Bowls," Casserly said, pausing. "It's six, right? Oh, five? I've already given them this year."
An understandable momentary lapse. Belichick and Brady are already the first coach-quarterback combination to matriculate to five Super Bowls. Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw, Marv Levy and Jim Kelly of the Bills and the Cowboys' Tom Landry and Roger Staubach are the only duos to reach four. Two wins at Gillette Stadium in the next two weeks will land Belichick and Brady in Glendale, Arizona, for Super Bowl XLIX.
So many factors in today's NFL work against staying on top -- the best teams are punished with tougher schedules and lower draft choices, and the salary cap hurts them the most -- but the Patriots have managed to deftly defy gravity in the 14 years Belichick and Brady have been together.
This year, New England won their sixth consecutive division title; only the 1973-79 Los Angeles Rams did better. The Patriots are the first team in NFL history to win 11 division championships in a 12-year span. Belichick's 12 divisional titles overall are the most by a head coach since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. With his 12th division championship this season, Brady stayed one ahead of Peyton Manning for the most ever by a starting quarterback.
These numbers, of course, come with an asterisk. In 2007, the Patriots were caught taping defensive signals from Jets coaches during a game. Belichick acknowledged the team had been doing it -- and a former Patiots staffer turned over several such tapes, dating to the 2000 season, to the league -- but said he believed that since the information wasn't used during the same game, it was legal. The NFL thought otherwise and fined Belichick a record $500,000.
That said, Belichick and Brady have won more games together (160, 44 more than the Dolphins' Don Shula and Dan Marino, who are next in line) than any other coach-QB combo since the merger. And they both continue to climb their respective all-time victory charts. With 160 wins, Brady trails only Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning (179). In Week 16, Belichick passed the Packers' Curly Lambeau for fourth on the coaches' list of combined regular-season and playoff victories, with 230, behind Don Shula, George Halas and Tom Landry.
Continuity has been a major factor in Belichick and Brady's success, a rare commodity in today's game.
Brady has had only one head coach in the NFL; Favre, who played for four different teams, had seven. Manning, playing for the Colts and Broncos, has had four.
Another coaching list Belichick ranks near the top of is consecutive winning seasons. From 1966-85, Landry carved out 20 consecutive winning campaigns in Dallas, an astonishing feat. Belichick and Lambeau are next at 14. There is a possibility the Patriots could equal Landry's feat if Belichick and Brady, 37, opt to stick around for six more seasons. Brady recently said he hopes to play until he's 45.
For now, Brady has some work to do. No fewer than seven quarterbacks have a better career winning percentage in the playoffs -- including contemporaries Eli Manning and Joe Flacco, whose Ravens are the Patriots' next opponent. A win over Baltimore in the divisional round would put Brady at 19-8 (.703) and move him past boyhood idol Joe Montana and Flacco.
All photos used in the infographics are courtesy of Getty Images and AP Images