FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Regardless of whatever else might happen in their lives, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are forever joined at the hip.
If that point was still debatable, the debate ends for good on Feb. 5 when the two of them walk into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as the first coach-quarterback tandem in history to appear together in five Super Bowls. That's an average of nearly one every other year since they came together in 2000, Belichick a failed head coach trying to rebound and Brady an unwanted sixth-round draft choice with a chip on his shoulder and plenty to prove.
Within a year they were wedded, after Drew Bledsoe was severely injured early in what appeared to be another failed season and history books began to be re-written. Now, they will trot out under the Super Bowl lights a fifth time, something Lombardi and Starr never did. Something Noll and Bradshaw never did. Something Landry and Staubach never did. Something not even Walsh and Montana, Brady's boyhood idol, ever did.
It is true Lombardi and Starr, Noll and Bradshaw and Walsh and Montana were all undefeated in their tandem appearances while Belichick and Brady are 3-1 going into Super Bowl XLVI, but none of the others could stay healthy, happy and hearty long enough to make five appearances together over what is now an 11-year span.
If they lose, of course, one can argue their feat does not compare to Noll-Bradshaw's unblemished 4-0 record, but we are not talking about winning four times in six years, a burst of dominance unlikely to repeat itself. We're talking about more than a decade of dominance, something no tandem but Paul Brown and Otto Graham came close to matching, and they did it back when one postseason victory made you a champion.
"There's no quarterback I'd rather have than Tom Brady,'' Belichick said, not long after Brady said he "sucked pretty bad'' following a touch-and-go, 23-20 win over the Ravens in the AFC championship game in which Brady threw two interceptions and finished with a 57.5 passer rating.
"He's the best. He does as much for us in so many ways on so many different levels. I'm really fortunate that he's our quarterback and for what he's able to do for this team.
"Anything that's associated with winning I'm proud of. If that's more than somebody else, I don't really care about that, but it's nice to be able to win with him.''
Brady's five conference championships tie him with John Elway for the most by a quarterback, and Belichick's five leave him one behind Don Shula, but Shula needed five different quarterbacks to do it.
Brady's 16 playoff wins tie him with Montana, a record he can break with a XLVI Super Bowl victory and two better than Bradshaw. A win also would tie him with Bradshaw and Montana with four Super Bowl titles and tie him and his coach with the Noll-Bradshaw juggernaut that dominated the 1970s.
"It's incredible,'' Brady said about returning to the Super Bowl with Belichick for the fifth time. "When I was a kid growing up, I was a 49er fan, so I got to watch a lot of Super Bowls. You pinch yourself to get this opportunity.
"I'm privileged to be part of an incredible organization, to play for a great coach and with a great group of teammates.''
His coach knows the same is true for him because neither could have done this without the other. In fact, one could argue the only duo more dynamic than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick was Batman and Robin ... except the Gotham City duo never made it to a Super Bowl.