FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick paid Tom Brady the highest compliment on Wednesday, a day after the quarterback announced his retirement.
Referring to Brady as the "ultimate competitor and winner," Belichick said in a statement: "Tom's humble beginning in professional football ultimately ended with him becoming the best player in NFL history."
Belichick, who was traveling Tuesday when Brady announced his retirement, just completed his 47th consecutive year as an NFL coach, the most consecutive seasons in history. His appreciation for NFL history is well documented.
"Tom consistently performed at the highest level against competition that always made him the number one player to stop," Belichick said in the statement. "His pursuit of excellence was inspirational. Tom was professional on and off the field, and carried himself with class, integrity and kindness. I thank Tom for his relentless pursuit of excellence and positive impact on me and the New England Patriots for 20 years."
Brady later responded to Belichick's statement via his Instagram story, writing, "Thank you Coach Belichick I appreciate being coached by you the Greatest Coach in NFL History," followed by three heart emojis.
The relationship between Belichick and Brady has often been under the spotlight, and Brady didn't mention his former coach in his official retirement announcement Tuesday, nor did he mention Patriots owner Robert Kraft or the team's fans.
Brady had done so, however, in March 2020 when he announced that he was leaving the team as a free agent. He also revisited some of those remarks around his return to Gillette Stadium in October 2021, and Belichick visited him for an extended period in the visitors' locker room after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 19-17 win.
In December, in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, Belichick had said "nobody deserves more credit for our success here than Tom does." He added that it was a tremendous opportunity for him to coach Brady, "the greatest offensive player," and former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, "the greatest defensive player."
Belichick's statement on Wednesday came after Kraft, the longtime Patriots owner, had said Tuesday: "Words cannot describe the feelings I have for Tom Brady, nor adequately express the gratitude my family, the New England Patriots and our fans have for Tom for all he did during his career."