On Thursday night, it was reported that Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com was reportedly dropping a bombshell article detailing the dysfunction and reported ‘rift’ between amongst the New England Patriots empire:
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
The rift was between the team’s longtime quarterback Tom Brady, it’s longtime head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.
According to interviews with more than a dozen New England staffers, executives, players and league sources with knowledge of the team’s inner workings, the three most powerful people in the franchise — Belichick, Brady and owner Robert Kraft — have had serious disagreements. They differ on Brady’s trainer, body coach and business partner Alex Guerrero; over the team’s long-term plans at quarterback; over Belichick’s bracing coaching style; and most of all, over who will be the last man standing. Those interviewed describe a palpable sense in the building that this might be the last year together for this group.
The first potential sign of a rift came when Brady’s trainer Alex Guerrero began giving advice to Pats players, telling them to not listen to Belichick and team doctors:
“In August, receiver Julian Edelman blew out his knee, costing him the season, and there was “hypersensitivity” among players, in the words of a Patriots coach, over who would take his place. New players felt the surest way to earn Brady’s trust was to join Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and others by seeking advice from Guerrero at his TB12 clinic — and not team doctors, which Belichick preferred.”
Early on in the 2017 season, Belichick wanted to discuss these issues with Brady regarding Guerrero:
Guerrero often would blame Patriots trainers for injuries, while offering few insightful opinions of his own, and Belichick quickly realized inviting him had been a mistake. And so in 2014, he eliminated Guerrero’s access to those meetings while keeping him on as a team consultant. That was the same year Brady and Guerrero decided to market their business as revolutionary; the same year that Brady began to speak unwaveringly about playing into his mid-40s; and the same year that Belichick drafted Jimmy Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois — the first sign that Belichick was invested in a future that did not include the quarterback who had changed his life and legacy.
Another issue between the coach and quarterback came during Belichick’s brutally honest film sessions and how Brady began getting frustrated at the way Bill was criticizing Brady’s performances:
People close to him believe that it started after last year’s playoff win over the Houston Texans, in which Brady completed only 18 of 38 passes and threw two interceptions. Belichick lit into him in front of the entire team in a way nobody had ever seen, ripping Brady for carelessness with the ball. “This will get us beat,” he told the team after replaying a Brady interception. “We were lucky to get away with a win.”
The criticism has continued this year, as Brady has been hit a lot and battled various injuries. Atypically, he has missed a lot of practices and, in the team’s private evaluations, is showing the slippage of a 40-year-old quarterback even as he is contending for MVP and is as deadly as ever with the game on the line.
At the same time, as his age has increased, Brady has become an advocate of positive thinking. Belichick’s negativity and cynicism have gotten old, Brady has told other Patriots players and staff. He feels he has accomplished enough that he shouldn’t have to endure so much grief.
And then, there was the whole Jimmy Garrapollo situation and how Bill Belichick didn’t want to trade Jimmy G but was forced to after a meeting with owner Robert Kraft:
Belichick understood how much Brady had meant to the franchise, and had always insisted privately that he wouldn’t move on from Brady unless he could convince the coaching staff of it. But the reality was that no quarterback has ever played at a championship level into his 40s.
And complicating matters even more was that Belichick didn’t want to trade Garoppolo. He had passed on dealing him last spring, when Garoppolo was in high demand. In early September, Belichick did trade third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. “If we trade Jimmy, we’re the Cleveland Browns, with no succession plan,” one person inside the organization said earlier in the year. The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17 million to $18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo and Yee rejected the offers out of hand, for reasons that remain unclear, and the Patriots knew they couldn’t make any promises to Garoppolo about the timing of a transition at quarterback without it getting back to Brady.
Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trading deadline, Belichick met with Kraft to discuss the quarterback situation. According to staffers, the meeting ran long, lasting half the day and pushing back Belichick’s other meetings. The office was buzzing. The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him. Belichick was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job.
Whether or not Brady actually went directly to Robert Kraft to force Jimmy G out the door wasn’t mentioned in this article, but Brady’s reaction to the trade was interesting:
Brady, though, seemed liberated. Kraft hugged Brady when he saw him that week, in full view of teammates. A few days later during practice, some players and staffers noticed that Brady seemed especially excited, hollering and cajoling. Brady was once again the team’s present and future. His new backup, Brian Hoyer, was a longtime friend and not a threat. The owner was in Brady’s corner. “He won,” a Patriots staffer says.
Belichick, Brady and Kraft were reportedly schedule to meet in December to “clear the air” but that meeting as not taken place which leads many to believe that Belichick’s tenure in New England could be coming to an end soon.
You can read the full piece here.