Their relationships are at the heart of their teams' success. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady make the New England Patriots champions. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have led the Philadelphia Eagles to four straight NFC title games and, now, to the Super Bowl.
Would you like to trace each team's success back to its beginning? You'll find that it leads to the moment Brady and McNabb stepped under center.
Belichick goes back to a game against the Colts in 2001. Brady had just replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe as the Pats' starting quarterback.
"They were averaging 40-something points a game and we were 0-2. I felt that Tom played solidly and we beat the Colts that day to go to 1-2. Then we went down to Miami the following week and got beat up pretty good. The game really wasn't very competitive. I don't think we had 150 total yards on offense," Belichick said of Brady's start.
"Then the following week we came back against San Diego when they had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. We were able to tie that game up and eventually win in overtime. Tom had a couple good drives in the fourth quarter. He had a two-minute drive at the end of the game that led to us tying it up and eventually winning it. In two of his first three games, he showed a lot of poise and production that led to other opportunities later in the year and, ultimately, to the St. Louis (Super Bowl) game," Belichick added.
A star was born. Now, three seasons later, Brady has a chance to win his third Super Bowl title in just his fifth pro season. No quarterback has ever reached those heights that quickly.
McNabb's ascent was also rapid. In just his sixth year in the NFL, McNabb has quarterbacked the Eagles to four consecutive NFC title games. After losing the first three, McNabb and the Eagles broke through in this postseason and a win this Sunday in Super Bowl XXXIX would vault McNabb to the same lofty ground Brady occupies. McNabb and the Eagles are, however, the underdog.
"Personally, we don't care. When you play this game, somebody has to be the underdog, somebody has to be the one everyone talks about. We're the ones that are the underdogs. The underdogs are the ones that shock you. It's an exciting time for us. We are going to go out there and do our job and have fun," McNabb said at Monday's press conference.
"(Brady) has something all of us as quarterbacks want and that's the Super Bowl ring. Bill Belichick has done wonders for them. They are the team to beat," McNabb added.
Reid will spend most of his effort this week delicately juggling information on bombastic wide receiver Terrell Owens, who will dominate the Super Bowl hype. Everybody wants to know if Owens will play. It was the first question Reid faced at Monday's press conference.
"(Owens) was at practice. We limited what he did but he did well and he did it with the team. He moved around pretty well. We'll see how he continues, how he does tomorrow morning, how he continues throughout the week. We did 30 plays and he did a little less than a third of those. I'll have to see how he does before we decide whether he'll play," Reid said of Owens and his attempt to overcome an ankle injury that sidelined him for the final two games of the regular season and both Eagles' playoff wins.
"He won't re-injure the leg. We checked into that. Could the same injury occur? Yes, but he won't damage it any further," Reid added.
Owens was the driving force on offense for the Eagles this season. He's the player who put them over the top, but Reid also knows McNabb is the catalyst. As Owens watched, McNabb led the Eagles to two dominant playoff wins. The Eagles are doing just fine without Owens and it's most important that he not be permitted to become a distraction. The focus must remain on McNabb. He is the Eagles' leader.
"There are a lot of things that go into making him a great quarterback and he is that. There's not one thing that makes you a great quarterback, but if you had to pick one, I'd say intelligence. He's a smart guy and he has the confidence of the guys around him," Reid said.
They are remarks that could just as easily be made of Brady. He is the Patriots' leader. He's the guy who makes it all happen.
"For our system – and for the Patriots', for that matter – you have to have the franchise quarterback. Both teams are fortunate to have that. For what we try to do, it is very, very important," Reid said.