New England duo Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are chasing history again at Super Bowl LI as they look to secure a record-breaking ring with the Patriots that would allow them to decorate each of their digits on one hand.
Quarterback Brady may already be considered the best to ever play the position, but a fifth championship victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Houston today, which would give him one more than Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, would surely settle any argument once and for all.
It is a similar situation for his head coach Belichick, who won two Super Bowls as a defensive co-ordinator before guiding New England to four victories in the showpiece, the joint most of any chief along with ex-Pittsburgh Steelers boss Chuck Noll.
“To hopefully be in a position to win our fifth would be off the charts,” Pats owner Robert Kraft said this week.
“We’re just lucky to have had the confluence of situations where we wind up with the best head coach in the history of the game and the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. Keeping them together and keeping a great team around them, it’s pretty special.
“To have the drive, they’re very special people. Egos can get in the way and I’m very pleased with the way they and our whole organisation and team checks those egos at the front door, no matter how big they are or how important they are. They do what they have to do to put the team in the best position to win.
“I remember when I came into the league originally and I learned that when you have division from within, that’s the biggest enemy that gets in the way of winning. I can really say that these guys put the team first all the way.”
In a game populated by brash personalities, Belichick is certainly devoid of an ego with a humdrum public persona that was again evident when he was quizzed about his legacy.
“I really don’t think about any of that,” he said.
“I just try and think about how we can prepare, compete and preform our best Sunday night against the Falcons. That’s a thing for you to write about. I’m just trying to get ready to coach the game and our players are getting ready to coach it.”
With Brady 39 and Belichick 64, the opportunity to become even more successful than their illustrious peers may not come around again. In Brady’s case, only a few quarterbacks have played into their 40s and though there is no evidence of decline yet, the drop-off was swift for Peyton Manning when he bowed out a Super Bowl winner at 39 last February.
“To be an older player and have the mental experience and then to also feel great physically, I think it’s a great benefit for me,” Brady claimed. “Hopefully I can keep going. I don’t see any end in sight.”
Perhaps nothing sums up Brady’s success and longevity more than the statistic that he has played in six Super Bowls already, while the entirety of Atlanta’s active roster combined has been in just five.
“Tom has had a great career, he has been so consistent for so long and done such a great job,” said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
“It’s impressive, but it’s about one game. This is about our team and their team and what we’re going to do Sunday. It’s going to come down to execution and those things, and we’ll feel really confident and really good about ourselves and our game plan going into it.”