Tom Brady or Bill Belichick? Robert Kraft once again tries to settle debate about who built Patriots dynasty

Robert Kraft had fielded this question before.

As the New England Patriots failed to win a postseason game the past five years and eventually failed to win nearly every game this season, the narrative only grew louder.

Was the six-championship dynasty a product of quarterback Tom Brady or head coach Bill Belichick? How much credit does each deserve?

As the Patriots and Belichick announced their split Thursday, the team owner weighed in.

“Why I love the NFL and why I think it’s great for young people to play it [is] it’s a great lesson in life,” Kraft said in his second news conference of the day. “I don’t think there’s any other sport, any other experience, that’s as much team-based and collective-based as football. I don’t think either one of those two would have accomplished what they accomplished if they weren’t together.

“I think they’re both the best at their professions. And we were lucky to have them together for two decades.”

The question will never merit a clean or simple answer. The infinite variables that contribute to NFL success and failure lend themselves to competing narratives about the root of any trend.

Brady’s ability to win a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay without Belichick will undoubtedly follow this conversation. Could Belichick win another? He'll have plenty of suitors if he chooses to keep chasing that goal at 72 years old and beyond.

Brady retired (for the second time) after the 2022 season. He posted to Instagram on Thursday thanking Belichick.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have played for the best coach in the history of the NFL,” Brady said alongside a photo of the two in a smiling embrace. “He was a great leader for the organization, and for all of the players who played for him. We accomplished some amazing things over a long period of time, many of which will be hard to replicate. [He] worked every day to help us achieve the ultimate goal, in the ultimate team sport.

“And although we were successful, some of the greatest lessons I learned were in the moments where we faced the most challenging adversities. He set the tone for the organization to never falter in the face of adversity, and to do what we could do, and what was in our control, which was to go out and DO OUR JOB.”

Brady credited Belichick with his historic success: “I could never have been the player I was without you Coach Belichick. I am forever grateful. And I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose next.”

Belichick is expected to continue coaching at the highest level, joining a market in which a full quarter of NFL teams (eight) currently have openings at head coach. The Atlanta Falcons have been heavily linked to Belichick.

Expect Belichick to weigh the caliber of a roster, the need to rebuild and the ability to oversee personnel as he considers his next stop. His sweeping personnel control factored into his departure from New England.

No coach in NFL history has surpassed Belichick’s six Super Bowl titles or his 31 postseason victories.

Belichick’s 333 all-time wins, including in the postseason, rank second only to Don Shula’s 347. His 302 regular-season wins rank third, behind Shula (328) and George Halas (318).

“What Bill accomplished with us, in my opinion, will never be replicated,” Kraft said. “And the fact that it was done in the salary-cap and free-agency era makes it even more extraordinary.

“It'll be difficult to see him in a cutoff hoodie on [another] sideline, but I will always wish him continued success — except when he's playing our beloved Patriots.”