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Bill Belichick: 'It Has Been a Privilege to Coach Tom Brady for 20 Years'

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Bill Belichick is grateful for the 20 seasons he's coached Tom Brady.

Shortly after Brady announced his decision to leave the Patriots on Tuesday, Belichick released a statement sharing his thoughts on the quarterback's career in New England.

"Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between. This is a credit to Tom's consistency and what separates him. He didn't just perform. He didn't just win. He won championships over and over again.

"Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation. Tom's success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional. Nothing about the end of Tom's Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone's adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.

"Examples of Tom's greatness are limitless, going back even before he was drafted. We witnessed how he prepared when he wasn't playing, how he performed when he got his opportunity, what he did to continuously improve, his leadership, his mindset, the example he set, and, of course, the person he is. I am extremely grateful for what he did for our team and for me personally.

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"Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time."

Brady and Belichick have won six Super Bowls together and maintained a close relationship during their time in New England. The veteran quarterback will enter free agency for the first time despite the Patriots' hopes to persuade him to finish his career with the franchise. Owner Robert Kraft has deferred to Belichick in the negotiation process, and The MMQB's Albert Breer reports that, as recently as Monday, there were people within the organization hoping that a summit between Brady and Belichick would take place. However, it never happened.

"I love Tom like a son," Kraft said in a statement on Brady's exit from New England.

Brady announced his decision on social media with a note titled, "Forever a Patriot."

"Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments," Brady wrote.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, despite Brady's announcement, the quarterback has not made a decision on where he will play next season and is still exploring his options.