2013 Tom Brady & Bill Belichick, Meet ’97 Jordan & Phil Jackson

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Updated: January 12, 2014
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I get inspiration for stories from out of nowhere most of the time, something just clicks in my head and an idea pops up. I got the idea for this story while watching the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts last night. 

The entire game I couldn’t help but think how great a job Tom Brady and Bill Belichick did with this Patriots team to get them to another AFC Championship. On offense Brady lost his top 4 receivers from last season with the departures of Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, and having Rob Gronkowski for only 7 games. And on defense Belichick lost a lot of important pieces.


At one point during the season Brady was throwing the ball to players I’m sure he never even heard prior to that game’s kick-off it was so ridiculous. He had two rookie receivers in Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, Austin Collie and two poor man’s version of Wes Welker in Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Look at that receiving core and tell me that anyone in their right mind outside of Boston had Brady in another AFC championship game. 

The job he did with these receivers is nothing short of miraculous. And far as his running backs go, both LaGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley had really good seasons, Ridley and Blount both rushed for over 700-yards and 7 TD’s a piece on the season. The crazy part is Blount was traded away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for peanuts because he was supposedly a distraction to Greg Schiano’s team. That distraction rushed for 166 yards and 4 touchdowns last night. Pure magic by Belichick getting Blount and Talib Aqib from Tampa.


So again looking at this offense on a depth chart prior to the season I would not put my money on the Patriots getting the AFC Championship game, no way in hell. And on defense Belichick lost three of his best players for the season with the losses of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and his defensive rock Vince Wilfork. The Patriots also lost Adrian Wilson at safety and Tommy Kelly on the defensive line. 

I just kept on thinking during the game that this team was doing accomplishing a lot with people who weren’t household names and world-beaters. Then I recalled a conversation I had with a brilliant basketball friend of mine Leo Royer a few months back. 

In a debate he was having with some basketball fans he reminded them that there may not be anyone to ever win a championship with less than what Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan had to work with on some of those Chicago Bulls teams. 

I never paid attention to it much until last night and I started to think about some of those Bulls teams, and then my mind went to the 1996-1997 team that won the Championship, and other than Scottie Pippen, who on Earth did Jordan win 69 games with?

So I pulled up that roster and the stats from that 1996-1997 season and had a good laugh about it. On that team their were only three players who scored in double figures: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc.

Keep in mind in that starting 5 were also Luc Longley and Dennis Rodman, Rodman couldn’t score to save his life and as a center Longley averaged 9 points a game. Where Rodman did excel and is legendary for was his ability to rebound and pulled down 16 rebounds per game that season but only scored 6 points per game. Longley averaged 6 rebounds per game.


If you look up and down that roster you’ll find a bunch of Ron Harpers (6 points 3 assist 3 rebounds) Steve Kerr (8 points 1 assist) a guy named Bison Dele that I don’t remember for the life of me (7 points 3 rebounds) and Robert Parish…think about that, the Bulls had Robert Parish on that team. He must have been about 60 years old. Robert. F’n. Parish. C’mon! 

Which Team Did More With Less In These Two Seasons?

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With that roster the Bulls finished first in offense with 103 points per game and 6th on defense giving up only 92.3 points per game. They managed to win 62 games. Amazing. Their playoff record that season was just as scary. They won 3-0 in the first round against the Washington Bullets, 4-1 against the Atlanta Hawks, 4-1 against the Miami Heat in the conference championship round, and finally they won 4-2 against the Utah Jazz to win the NBA Championship. 

Magic Jordan is the greatest player of all-time and Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches ever, but what they were able to do with that team in ’96-97 was nothing short of remarkable.


The Patriots can pull off that same feat if they win two more games. I have the Patriots playing the Seahawks in the Super Bowl and although the Seahawks have the deeper roster, I would not pick against Hoodie and the Golden Boy if that match-up were to happen. Two more games and all the accolades and awards and admiration for Brady and Belichick will be through the roof. 

But for me the ultimate praise for any team is one that’s comparable to what the Chicago Bulls were able to accomplish during anyone of their 3-peats. And that comparison is nothing to scoff at.


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