Bill Belichick: Tom Brady 'as tough (to defend) as any quarterback there is or ever has been'

As commonly as Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is called the G.O.A.T., his former coach in New England isn’t one to loosely throw out the “greatest of all-time” compliment for anyone.

In his own way, however, Bill Belichick did just that on Wednesday, calling Brady the toughest quarterback to defend in the history of the game. The legendary coach and legendary quarterback will clash Sunday for the first time since they parted ways with six Super Bowl titles between them, as the Patriots (1-2) play host to the Bucs (2-1) at 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC).

“He’s as tough as any quarterback there is or ever has been. Enough said,” Belichick said. “His numbers are incredible. He’s about to pass the all-time passing record, he’s done more than any other player at that position, in whatever measurement you want to take, whether it’s yards, completions, touchdowns, championships, you name it. So put anything out there you want, it can’t get any tougher than him.”

Belichick’s Patriots are 8-11 since the club moved on from Brady following the 2019 season, while the three-time MVP paid immediate dividends for the Buccaneers in the form of the Super Bowl LV title — Brady’s seventh. The Patriots turned to Cam Newton to replace Brady in 2020 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and are now helmed by rookie Mac Jones.

“Nothing Tom does surprises me, he’s a great player. Works hard, takes care of himself,” Belichick added. “He’s talked about playing till 50, if anybody can do it, he probably can.”

Belichick shouldn’t have any trouble preparing his defense for the Bucs’ passing game this week — he’s plenty familiar with his own, and he sees no real difference in how his former quarterback is attacking defenses with his new team.

“Totally, 100%. It’s the offense he’s run his whole career. Well, as it evolved here,” Belichick said. “The running game is the running game, the running game’s different. But the passing game’s the passing game. It’s pretty similar. I mean, you could call in almost every play — from the flair control to the protection — similar to the way we do it.”

Belichick said his relationship with Brady has “always been good,” dismissing any notion that it ever became contentious toward the end of Brady’s 20-year run with the club. Brady, of course, has had nothing but niceties to say about Belichick in return. Still, the spectacle of the two competing on opposite sidelines will make for appointment television on Sunday night.

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