If you are one of the many Patriot fans who does not believe Seth Wickersham’s report ‘For Kraft, Brady and Belichick, is this the beginning of the end?‘ and you do not want to be convinced otherwise, I suggest stop reading here. Yes, the Patriots are the best team in the NFL and are probably going to win Super Bowl 52. The playoffs are going to be great and Tom Brady is going to make history by being named MVP at age 40.
Now, if you have been paying attention to this team this season, the reporting by Wickersham should really not be a surprise. The outline of everything he said has already been out there and talked about in the Boston media. That is why I was taken back when so many people were upset about the article and were so quick to dismiss it.
Let me start off by identifying the only people in this piece that matter, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Jimmy Garoppolo and Alex Guerrero. These 5 people have everything to do with the current power struggle in Foxborough.
Before we dive into the details, after reading the piece, who out of those 5 that come out looking bad? It is Brady and Guerrero. And believe me, that was no mistake. The reason for it is because it is clear that this was Belichick’s camp feeding Wickersham information. They informed him in order to paint Brady as the one who is causing the problems in the organization and Bill as the victim. Brady is the one who brought in Guerrero into the Patriots and has created this problem between what the coaching staff wants and what Tom and Alex want.
With that being said, I 100% believe that there was peer pressure felt by players on the Patriots roster who thought that they could get into Brady’s goodwill and gain his ‘trust’ by visiting TB12 and working with Alex. Edelman does it. Gronk does it. Amendola does it. It is no different than Edelman and others moving to LA during the offseason to be close to Brady to get the chance to work out with him and gain his ‘trust’.
Having to gain Brady’s ‘trust’ is nothing new to New England pass catchers. For years people in the media have talked about how certain guys have gained his trust and certain guys who don’t work out in New England haven’t gained it. So it just makes sense that when you see ‘Tom’s guys’ working with Alex, you would think that doing the same would earn you extra brownie points and more time working with Brady. Willie McGinest, who worked with Alex before Tom, said just as much the other day.
Tom isn’t putting pressure on guys to work with Alex, but there is pressure to get the edge and get more time working with Brady that is obviously put on Patriot players.
The next big part of the report is the Garoppolo decision. I think that it is very clear that Bill Belichick liked Jimmy Garoppolo a lot and wanted to keep him in New England. Like Wickersham said, Bill saw the future in Jimmy. It has been reported for years now that Bill Belichick did not want to be Bill Parcells. He wanted to leave the Patriots in a situation that they could succeed and obviously that means having the next Quarterback in place. Bill thought he had that in Garoppolo. Bill wants the Patriots to be successful when he leaves not only for his own legacy but also for his children’s. Both of Bill’s sons are on the coaching staff in New England. When Bill walks away from football, his 2nd hand man at the time, should it be Josh McDaniels or someone else should Josh leave, will become the next head coach. As long as Bill’s guys are on the staff, so will his children. If the Patriots do not succeed post-Belichick, the staff will be let go and a new head coach and new staff will be brought in just like how it is for teams firing their coach every year. So, if Bill’s sons want to be able to work for the Patriots and have the opportunity to move up through the organization, the Patriots have to be competitive after Bill retires.
This is why Bill wanted to keep Jimmy. He believed that he had found the next guy and that Jimmy was the future of the Patriots, not Tom Brady. And when Jimmy turned down the bridge deals that the Patriots were offering him, Bill knew that Jimmy wanted the one thing that they could not promise him, playing time. This is why I believe that Bill was ready to move on from Brady after this season and move onto the next era of the Patriots with Garoppolo at the helm. The Packers did it with Brett Favre. The 49ers did it with Joe Montana. And Bill was ready to do it to Brady just like how he had done it with Drew Bledsoe. Because even though Brady is the greatest Quarterback of all time, Bill was prepared to do what he has always done, and that is to move on too early rather than too late. Bill wanted to bank on the next 10+ years of Garoppolo instead of the next 3 of Brady.
The only problem with Bill’s plan is that Robert Kraft was never going to let it happen. Because even though Kraft said this spring at the NFL Annual Meeting that he would leave the decisions to his coach, he was never going to let Bill make the tough decision.
“I don’t have the right demeanor of our coach,” Kraft said. “I charge him to handle all football matters. We’re privileged to have the greatest quarterback in the history of the game (Tom Brady), and it looks like he’s playing pretty solid. He’s off the charts, in my opinion, and we’re lucky to have him. That’s the most important position on the team, needless to say. I don’t think anyone can say you have too much depth at that position. I charge him to make those decisions, Bill, and I’ll leave that with him.”
Kraft wants Brady to retire as a Patriot. After everything Tom has done for the organization, Kraft wants to show loyalty to him. Because Tom has done more for the Patriots other than just winning Super Bowls and becoming the best Quarterback in NFL history. Tom has been loyal to this organization by taking less. Brady has taken less money than the market has dictated for the organization to make the team better. Brady has taken less for years so that they could put together these teams to win the past 2 Super Bowls. So when it comes to the decision to keep Brady or trade him, Kraft is going to show his loyalty to Brady and keep him. Brady is like a son to Kraft. They have a loving relationship that is known. And Chris Carter described it well in the first 3 and a half minutes of this video.
Kraft was never going to let Bill trade Brady because Kraft wants Brady to retire as a Patriot, plain and simple. So when Bill kept Jimmy after the draft, and he kept him once the season started, and he kept him after the failed bridge deals, it meant one thing, Belichick wanted to keep Jimmy over Brady. And when the last chance to trade Jimmy came up, Kraft told Belichick that Brady wasn’t going anywhere and therefore Jimmy had to be traded. I am not going to say that I believe he demanded Bill to trade Jimmy or he mandated it like it was said in the article. However, I truly believe that Kraft told Bill that Brady is the teams future. Which meant that Jimmy was not. Because they were never going to pay Brady and Jimmy both starting Quarterback money. They would have had to franchise Jimmy which would have cost around $22 Million in real money. If you know a thing or two about the NFL salary cap, you know that there is funny money in all of these contracts. That there are ways of getting anyone under the cap by either guaranteeing a certain amount and with certain bonuses. However, with the franchise tag, you can’t do that. It is $22 Million in real, hard cash. The Patriots were never going to pay him that while also paying Brady.
Therefore, Kraft forced Bill’s hand to trade Jimmy which he obviously did not want to do. Bill Belichick is the most powerful coach in the NFL who has control over the whole 53 man roster besides Tom Brady. Because just like Wickersham reported a Patriots staffer told him, in the power struggle between Belichick in Brady, Kraft chose Brady. Brady had won the battle between him staying or leaving.
Now, this brings us to where the three most powerful men in the Patriots organization are today. Bill Belichick is no stranger to a good grudge. Believe me, he has many of them with many of people. So it is not out of the question to think that when Bill was “furious and demoralized” after being told he had to trade what he perceived as the Patriots future, he did something that he never does, and that is not getting the best value for an asset. Bill knew how much was being offered for Jimmy during the summer. He knew that multiple teams would have been interested in trading for the young Quarterback. However, Bill did not care about getting the best package back for Garoppolo. He didn’t even make him available to multiple teams to wager for him. No, he called Kyle Shanahan, who he liked and knew Jimmy would succeed with, and wanted to give Jimmy to him. He called and didn’t ask what they would give us for Jimmy, no, he called and said give me a 2nd round pick. Bill was not interested in getting the best value for Jimmy, he was interested in putting the Quarterback that he thought was the next guy in Foxborough in a spot where he would shine. It makes sense that Wickersham reported that Bill is proud of Jimmy’s success so far in San Fransisco. It is because it is a middle finger and an “I told you so” to Robert Kraft. It shows that Bill identified and drafted another franchise Quarterback, something that is no easy feat. That he didn’t just get lucky by passing on Brady 6 times in the draft before taking him with the 199th pick.
And now here we are, Belichick doesn’t have Jimmy and Brady doesn’t have Alex. Kraft chose to keep Brady instead of listening to Bill and moving onto the future with Garoppolo. And this is the exact turmoil that Wickersham reported that makes some Patriot staffers believe that might lead to the break up of the three. And when he says the break-up, he is referring to Belichick leaving. Kraft and Brady aren’t going anywhere, that is the whole point. But he is talking about Bill no longer coaching the Patriots. Now, this is where I disagree with the piece. Bill isn’ going anywhere. While Bill might not be happy with not being able to make the biggest football decision in organization history, he is still in the best situation he could possibly be in. He controls the ’52’ man roster. He is one of the highest paid coaches in football. He employs his children on the coaching staff. He is in a place where he has built a legacy. Bill isn’t going to go somewhere new where he would have to start all over. He is too old for that. He isn’t going to go somewhere that has a better team/owner/quarterback situation where he is right now. And let’s not forget the fact that he is still under contract. So no, while I do think Bill Belichick was upset, I do not think he is leaving after this season.
That is what I believe. I understand if you want to look at the report and think that ESPN is trying to take down the Patriots right before the playoffs. That is understandable based on their history. However, like I said, if you have been paying attention to this team and the reporting that has been done this year, this article really should have not have been a surprise. Most of it was already reported and speculated.
Everyone knew that the Brady/Belichick dynasty would eventually come to an end. And it will. But it will not be after this season. Brady is going to be the Quarterback here for a couple more years and Belichick isn’t leaving for another team. The only way I see this ending soon is if Bill retires. And if he decides he is ready to end his career, then I think it has to do with a lot more than him being upset about Jimmy.
In the meantime, this is only going to bring the locker room together. Like Brady said yesterday while speaking to Jim Gray on Westwood One Sports.
“Adversity makes us stronger.”
And just like the Patriots said in their joint statement from Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
“We stand united.”