Is There a Power Struggle in New England?
For almost two decades, Bill Belichick has managed to subvert the egos of his best player, his boss, and himself for the good of the team, yielding historic results. This year, though, the dynamics have been different. My story: https://t.co/H1In1GsQht
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) January 5, 2018
Late last night, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham released an extensive hit piece directed at the New England Patriots, specifically citing an apparent power struggle amongst Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft. According to the article, the rift amongst the three is so severe that this could be the last season we see them together. They have since released this statement:
Joint statement from Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady: pic.twitter.com/i555gWZIi6
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 5, 2018
If you’ve had a chance to read the article, there are clearly a lot of different details to cover. But the way I see it, there are three major points it can be broken down into. The Alex Guerrero situation, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s relationship, and the Jimmy G trade. Here are my thoughts on each:
1: The Alex Guerrero Situation
This has to be the most harmless section of the article in my eyes. While I believe a lot of it to be true, most of what has to be said in this section is stuff we already know. In a sense, we know that Belichick wanted nothing to do with Guerrero, we know that his role with the team had been increasing at a very odd rate this season, we know how close he is with Brady, and we know all of his teammates find the TB12 methods to be somewhat bizarre. So what else are you trying to tell us here, Wickersham?
Bill made a mistake by allowing this guy free inside-access to the Patriots facilities without at least making him an employee of the team in the first place. I can understand how that might cause a lot of problems amongst the training staff already in place, and maybe some unspoken pressure amongst the players as well. Who do you go to? The team doctors, or the guy who is helping propel a 40-year-old quarterback to heights we’ve never seen before at his age? While his methods are out of the ordinary, Brady has shown them to work, at least for him.
But Belichick made a mistake by letting him in, and that’s exactly why Guerrero is gone. There’s no need for an outside trainer to be on the facility when you already have a full training staff. So that part of this article is pretty factual, but is it detrimental to the relationship between Belichick and Brady? At most, it’s a small bump in the road, not something that would make Brady begin to question Belichick and his coaching styles. This leads me to the next section:
2: The Relationship Between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
For almost 20 years now, we have seen Tom Brady and Bill Belichick dominate the NFL. They will go down as the greatest of all time at their respective positions and the greatest player/coach duo of all time among all sports.
Bill Belichick is a football guy through and through. He has shown that he’ll lay into anybody if they’re doing something wrong, especially Tom Brady, who has been the one constant during his tenure as Patriots head coach. Brady has probably gotten the most criticism from Belichick out of anyone he’s ever coached, so to suggest that he was “fed up” after the playoff game against Houston last year when Belichick criticized his poor performance is complete bull shit. First of all, Brady had a terrible game that night, and he will always be the first one to own up to a poor performance. Secondly, if you think after 18 years of hearing non-stop criticism from Bill Belichick that Tom Brady would say “you know what, I’m done with this,” then you’ve got to be out of your mind. Brady has had plenty of games worse than that one, and I’m sure he’s heard far worse from Belichick during their time together. To suggest that one poor performance has caused Tom Brady to question everything that Belichick has done during his time as head coach is asinine. The reason he has 10 Super Bowls is because of who he is as a coach, and I’m sure Brady knows that.
To continue, I’m sure that Brady was upset about the Alex Guerrero situation. The whole thing was kind of weird, to begin with. He and Guerrero share a close relationship, but again, that doesn’t make me think that Brady is all of a sudden willing to go against everything that has made him who he is, that being Bill Belichick. I’m sure he was pissed when it happened, but it’s not like Brady still can’t train with the guy. He should have never been permitted that type of access in the first place. Whatever Guerrero and Belichick have against each other should be between them. If Brady were to side with some weirdo trainer over the guy who pretty much made him, I’d lose a lot of respect for him.
3: The Jimmy Garoppolo Trade
This section pisses me off the most. Apparently, while all of the Guerrero stuff was going down, Brady had been in Kraft and Belichick’s ear separately about continuing to play until his mid-40’s. Belichick, of course, was skeptical but willing to continue playing Brady as long as he was playing at a high level. That, however, came with a price, that price being a future successor in Jimmy Garoppolo.
In my eyes, Jimmy Garoppolo being traded was inevitable. This article claims that the Patriots extended him a contract during the Spring so he could remain the backup and eventually the starter, but he declined.
So where is he now? Well, he just finished the season undefeated as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers. He is 26 years old and is close to entering the prime playing years of his career. He had every right to decline their contract offer and bet on himself, especially knowing he would either become a free agent or force the Patriots hand to trade him.
The NFL is a business, and everyone knows that, especially Robert Kraft. To suggest that he forced Belichick’s hand into trading Garoppolo would go against everything he stands for. Owners should NEVER get involved in player personnel decisions like this, especially when it could mortgage the future of your franchise.
If Bill Belichick didn’t want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, then he wouldn’t have done it, plain and simple. There’s no way he was forced to do so by Robert Kraft or Tom Brady like this article suggests. He knew that with the level Brady was playing at, trading him would have been unjustified and pretty much impossible. That is what it is, and it will never change until Brady starts to play poorly. And for Jimmy, it would also be damn near impossible to retain him unless they extended him, which he already refused to do.
If they franchise tagged him, they would have to go through the same exact grueling process for 3 consecutive off-seasons. That would basically limit them as a franchise in terms of retaining other key players. And who knows if he even signs the tag? Retaining Jimmy for the alleged three more seasons that Brady has left would be incredibly unfair to Garoppolo as well, who would be 29 by the time Brady did decide to hang it up. Not that that’s their main concern, but who knows how Jimmy would feel about that? He could have very easily grown to resent the organization. At the end of the day, trading Jimmy Garoppolo was a business decision that Bill Belichick did not want to make, but by no means did he do it because he was forced to. With the way Brady was playing, it had to be done. It’s upsetting, but it’s the truth.
So my thoughts on this ESPN article are pretty obvious, other than the Alex Guerrero story, I think it’s a bunch of bull shit. Brady and Belichick have never had anything more than a player-coach relationship. They both respect the hell out of each other. Same goes with Kraft, who respects the hell out of Belichick and any decision he has made during his time in New England. Why would anyone begin to question something that has worked for 18 years and counting? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
My sources inside the Patriots deny that Robert Kraft gave Bill Belichick an ultimatum to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, and there was no “half day meeting”. I was told Belichick approached RKK with 49ers offer, RRK asked BB if he liked the deal, BB said yes, deal was done.
— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) January 5, 2018
I know Quags doesn’t agree with me on this part, but this is typically how things operate in New England. Take Toucher and Rich for who they are, but I genuinely have an easier time believing this than what the ESPN story has to say. Same goes for Jerry Thorton of Barstool Sports, who also has sources on the inside. He shared what his sources told him this morning here:
I Can Confirm the ESPN Report About the Patriots Infighting is a Pack of Lies https://t.co/QqAVNBQQ32
— Jerry Thornton (@jerrythornton1) January 5, 2018
He was right about deflategate, and I’m sure he’s right about this too. So I’m going to stand with these opinions until I’m led to believe otherwise. But as of right now, it’s all a bunch of BS to me and ESPN is 100% out to get this team yet again.
Written By: Nick Cherico (@NickCherico2)