Earlier this week, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham put out an article outlining the erosion of the relationships between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft. A little while later on this very website, Ryan Homler wrote an article discussing who should go in this power struggle. It was a well thought out and nuanced take on a potentially disastrous falling out in the NFL’s preeminent organization. Inspired by Ryan’s calm and reasonable take, I am here to give a completely biased reaction from my point of view as an angry Patriots fan.
As a Patriots fan, I can’t describe how cathartic it would be to scream that ESPN has it out for us and that Wickersham is just an agent working towards our downfall. But since they don’t and he isn’t, I will instead focus on the article itself and the issues I have with it.
The issues with the article start right away, with the story of Brady screaming at offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on the sideline after missing a throw during the Pats week 13 matchup with the Bills. Wickersham saw it as a sign that the Patriots were crumbling from within, with Brady mad not at himself or McDaniels, but at his head coach and his organization.
Now there are a few problems with this.
– All McDaniels said to Brady was that he had Brandin Cooks wide open. Now I’m not a mind reader, but I have to imagine that Brady knew that, so McDaniels wasn’t really being helpful. Now that doesn’t totally excuse Brady for yelling at his coach, but it makes sense that a fierce competitor who made a mistake could be mad at someone unhelpfully pointing out the mistake without offering any solutions. It doesn’t show anything about any deeper resentments in the organization. He was mad, it happens.
-Actually, not only does it happen, it has happened. Brady got in a heated argument with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien on the sidelines in 2011. No one pointed to it as a sign of the Patriots’ dynasty collapsing. CBS color commentator Dan Dierdorf summed up how all Patriots fans feel about Brady’s outburst, saying, “tempers flare on the sidelines all the time…it’s not the end of the world.”
-Dierdorf is right, its not the end of the world, the end of the world would be trailing by 25 points late in the second half of the Super Bowl. Wait a minute, who came back from that? Oh that’s right, the Patriots, so I think they can handle a little adversity.
-Also, almost totally as an aside, but Wickersham included in the article that McDaniels father was behind the Patriots’ bench when Brady yelled “F*** you!” at his son as if it were a huge deal. Thom McDaniels was a high school head coach for 26 years and the 1997 national high school coach of the year. Now, I don’t mean to stereotype football coaches, but I suspect that he, as a football coach and a grown man, had heard that phrase before.
I’m now realizing that if I go in that much depth on everything I have a problem with in this article, it would be 25 pages long, so I’ll try to be a bit briefer from here on out.
My next big issue is people saying that Jimmy Garoppolo being drafted and developed was a sign that Belichick wanted to push Brady out as starting quarterback. The idea put forth in the article is that drafting a talented quarterback like Garoppolo in the second round showed that Belichick had lost faith in Brady.
Now, these next few admissions are going to be hard to make, but they are important. As much as it pains me to say, Tom Brady will retire someday. And despite the fact that he had the chiseled jawline and skill of a much younger man when Garoppolo was drafted, Brady was four months shy of his 37th birthday. Having and developing a talented backup behind an aging quarterback is just a smart strategy, and not a sign of pushing out the GOAT quarterback.
Third tough admission, quarterbacks get hurt. This is one of the few struggles Patriots fans have dealt with first hand in the last two decades. Having a solid backup is important, as Bill Belichick knows, having been on a coaching staff that won a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback.
Now here’s the two parts of the article that I don’t really have explanations for: the Jimmy G trade and the Alex Guerrero situation. The Jimmy G trade disappointed most Patriots fans, as we were sad to see such a handsome and talented player go for such an unimpressive return. But, it is possible that instead of a sign of internal hatred, Bill Belichick just made a bad trade. Bill Belichick mistakes are almost as rare as Browns’ wins, but they do happen.
Finally, the Alex Guerrero problem. I am on record as saying that he is a cross of a witch doctor and a Crossfit instructor. I frankly couldn’t care less if he has access to our sidelines or not. I do care if Brady is unhappy but now we come to the crux of my issue with the article. The three principle people in the article are adults. They can work with people they aren’t best friends with. Belichick and Brady have never really liked each other. This is partially because Belichick is so hard on him and partially because they have nothing in common.
Belichick, I hope, does not enjoy nude sunbathing in Italy, and Brady, as far as I know, doesn’t enjoy studying American naval tactics in World War II. But they can still work together, they are the GOATs of their respective jobs, not middle-schoolers who said mean things about each other and now can never speak to one another.
Now I would like to issue a warning to people who have seen this article as a beacon of hope that the Patriots empire was crumbling. Let me disabuse you of that adorably quaint notion. Even if the Pats were drifting apart, you know what, this article did the few things that will end that discord. You told our internal business, you said Belichick had lost control of his team and then you told us we were done.
So, now we are pissed off, and pissed off Patriots are bad news for the 31 other teams in the league. Last time you told us we were done we beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Last time you said Belichick had lost control of the locker room was when he cut Lawyer Milloy five days before the 2003 season. And then we won a Super Bowl and an NFL record 21 games in a row. And then another Super Bowl.
So watch out, because the Patriots are united, angry, and not even close to done.