The rumblings started last night that ESPN was going to drop a piece on the New England Patriots this morning that was bigger than the bomb cyclone. And sure enough, Seth Wickersham’s piece did come out this morning and sure enough, all hell is breaking loose in Patriot Nation.
Fact is, it’s amazing that three of the best to ever do it, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Bob Kraft have been able to check their monster egos at the door and stay on the same page all this time. Miraculous really. But if something seems too good to be true, it generally is, and if this column is accurate, these three are anything but on the same page. If this column is accurate the relationships between arguably the three most important dudes in the league are fraying and this could be the beginning of the end for the Patriots.
Here’s a quick summary of the items that are touched on:
– Belichick doesn’t like Brady’s trainer
– Brady is tired of Belichick’s negative approach and is more into positive thinking at this point in his career
– Brady is bent about the fact that he hasn’t won the Patriot Player of the Week award this season
– Brady wanted Jimmy Garoppolo traded
– Kraft told Belichick to trade Garoppolo and that Belichick was “furious and demoralized” after being told that
Of course none of the big three spoke on the record for the piece. But Wickersham said he conducted interviews with more than a dozen team staffers, executives, players, and league sources, and if he did and what these sources told him is true, and where there’s smoke, there’s fire, this isn’t pretty.
According to Wickersham, a major source of the tension between Belichick and Brady is Brady’s relationship with his trainer and business partner, Alex Guerrero. And how that relationship seems to not only influence Brady, but then other players on the team as they attempt to get in good with Brady. Especially newer players who according to this piece, have to choose between the Patriot Way and the TB12 way. Have to choose between getting in with not only the greatest q.b. ever, but someone who Wickersham says has so much power in the building that he’s actually management.
Or do you post up with the hall of fame coach? One thing for Brady to work closely with his own trainer and guru who many think is whack and a quack. Quite another for Brady and that guru to pressure others to work with them; something they both deny. But you see the obvious friction here: Brady loves Guerrero; he’s more than his guru: he’s the godfather of one of his kids. And Belichick doesn’t like him and prefer that his guys go to his team doctors. And the players are caught in the middle having to choose a side. Sounds pretty healthy. And not at all dysfunctional.
But the fact that Belichick has his concerns about Guerrero isn’t news. A few weeks ago, he stripped Guerrero of his sideline privileges and greatly reduced his involvement with the team. At the time, that seemed like a kind of weird story, but nothing too enormous. This report, though, would make it seem more like a symptom of the tension between Belichick and Brady, a tension that has increased of late because Brady has reportedly grown tired of Belichick’s criticism. And most bizarrely, Brady is irritated that he hasn’t won the Player of the Week award this year.
On the one hand, that seems utterly ridiculous. A guy with five Super Bowl rings, 4 Super Bowl MVPs, and 2 league MVPs is pissed because he hasn’t won the equivalent of the student of the month award at your kid’s elementary school?!?
But on the other hand, I get it. If you’ve already got tension in that relationship and the boss isn’t giving you an award that you feel you deserve, I can see how that would bother you. You’re telling me Brady’s got a better shot at winning the league MVP than he does of the Patriots Player of the Week? That is kind of crazy. And really ridiculous.
Then there’s the whole Jimmy Garoppolo issue and why he was traded? Was it because Brady went to Kraft and pushed for it? Was it because Kraft told Belichick to do it? According to Wickersham, Kraft had a very long meeting with Belichick before the trade deadline, a meeting that left Belichick “furious and demoralized,” and ultimately ended up with Jimmy going to San Francisco for a second round pick. And more importantly, that quote, “Belichick having always subscribed to the philosophy that it’s time to go once an owner gets involved in football decision, left the impression with some friends that the current dynamic was unsustainable.” In other words, if this guy is going to start doing more than scratching checks and showing up when it’s time to get his picture taken, and is going to start telling me which q.b. to play and which to trade. It’s time to get the hell out of here.
But did that ever really happen? And did Brady ever pressure Kraft to trade his backup? I wasn’t there, so I don’t know, but I doubt it. Because I doubt he had to. I’m sure Garoppolo didn’t want to leave New England. But I’m even more sure he wanted to start and knew that wasn’t going to happen with Brady telling anyone who would listen that he was going to play into his mid-40s. Garoppolo wasn’t about to throw away prime years of career waiting for this guy to retire.
So what are we to make of all of this? Are they coming off the rails and is this the end of the dynasty? Or is there just another bump in the road, and a distraction like deflate gate, spy gate, and something the Patriots will all rally around and use as premium fuel in route to another ring. I’m going to say it’s both. Because it’s something in between. I know this. It’s not nothing. While all of it might not be accurate, you know some of it is, when this get this kind of intel from this kind of reporter. We already there were existing issues between Gurerrero and the Hood. And the fact that ESPN got anybody from inside that building to say anything at all, much less all or most of that, tells you something is rotten in Foxboro. Because for all the talk about the Patriot Way over the years, talking about the Patriot Way has never been the Patriot Way, and the fact that people are doing now, tells you something isn’t right. Is that something enough to torch what’s left of the dynasty and cause a breakup of the big three.? Maybe not. Just don’t tell me there’s nothing to see here. Because there is. And like any other car wreck off to the side of the road, you’re going to stop and stare.