ESPN released a lengthy article detailing the supposed unraveling relationship between the Patriots' big three: Brady, Belichick, and Kraft. It's filled with equal parts reasonable points, unsubstantiated claims, and wild speculations.
There are two main culprits causing the alleged demise of the team, Jimmy Garoppolo and Alex Guerrero. Jimmy G, Brady's back up since he was drafted in 2014, had been slated to take over under center whenever Brady's aging body finally gave in...except it never did. This is thanks in part to culprit #2, Guerrero, Brady's personal trainer/dietitian/spiritual (read: cult) guidance.
Garoppolo started two games during Brady's deferred deflategate suspension last season and performed admirably before being sidelined by injury. Third-string QB Jacoby Brissett took over for the remaining games of the suspension. Brissett was traded to the Colts during this year's preseason, leaving Jimmy G as the rightful heir to Brady's throne. The only problem was that Garoppolo is coming up on his contract year, and after his short, but impressive performance last season, is slated to fetch a lot of money on the open market. It's expected he could make somewhere approaching the $20 million per year range. Meanwhile, Brady is looking as good as ever. The Patriots were stuck between a rock an a hard place. They couldn't justify franchise tagging Garoppolo and paying him $20 million to sit the bench. The team also couldn't simply cast the cornerstone of their franchise aside in favor of their shiny new toy. The article cites differing opinions on the team's quarterback of the future as a point of major contention. Belichick apparently wanted to keep Garoppolo, while other executives, notably Kraft, demanded the team side with Brady. Brady, it is claimed, felt threatened by Garoppolo, to the point it affected his attitude towards Jimmy and the team. In the end, Jimmy G was dealt to the 49ers, where he has performed exceptionally well. In return the patriots received only a 2nd round pick.
The second person of interest in the Brady-Belichick relationship murder case is Alex Guerrero. I put even less value in this stock than the Garoppolo debacle. Tom Brady is very close with Alex Guerrero. Because of this, Belichick allowed Guerrero access to team facilities, the sideline during games, and the ability to treat other players that wanted to try his training/lifestyle regimen. This year, Belichick thought Guerrero, who is not an employee of the team, was overstepping some boundaries and becoming a distraction, so he revoked his access to team facilities and the sidelines. He did, however, allow Guerrero to continue working with any Patriot's players that still wanted to work with him. The article claims that players felt, "Guerrero gave them the impression that Belichick would no longer allow them to work with him. In the view of many Patriots, it was an example of Guerrero trying to split the organization by turning players against Belichick."
You think Guerrero is the one pulling strings. Ha! Belichick is the ultimate puppet master. To think any players, including Tom Brady, would be more loyal to Alex Guerrero than Bill Belichick is outrageous. I don't buy this for a second.
One of the most ridiculous parts of the piece surround Belichick's coaching method towards Brady. The article claims, "Brady always knew the hits were coming during Monday morning film sessions -- 'The quarterback at Foxborough High could make that throw,' Belichick often would say after replaying a Brady misfire -- but he could take it... [but] Brady is less fine with it this year. 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."
To claim that Tom Brady, a 17-year veteran of the league, who was worked with the same head coach for his entire career, is just now becoming sensitive to his criticism is ridiculous. Tom Brady plays with a bigger chip on his shoulder than anyone else out there. When he enrolled at Michigan, he was 7th on the depth chart. He fought his way up the ranks and earned the starting job as a junior, starting every game for the next two years culminating in wins in the Citrus Bowl (1999) and Orange Bowl (2000). What was his big payoff for working hard to establish himself as Michigan's QB1 and leading his team to two bowl wins? Getting passed on 198 times in the 2000 NFL draft including 6 quarterbacks selected by other teams in front of him. At the start of the 2000 season he was fourth on the Pats' QB depth chart (teams normally only keep 3), meaning he was hanging on by a thread to stay on the active roster. The rest is history. Suddenly you're telling me the player who has clawed his way, tooth and nail, to the top, while flashing the middle finger to everyone who ever doubted him, can't handle criticism? Laughable.
Sure, I'm sure Brady and Belichick have had their fair share of disagreements over the years. You don't amass 5 Super Bowl victories, 7 AFC Championships, and 15 division titles over 17 years on a relationship made of sunshine and rainbows. But you know what? Iron sharpens iron. If a 13-3 season, with the #1 seed in the AFC and an MVP caliber year for Tom Brady is what we get with the team leadership in "turmoil" then sign me up for another.
Image Source: (USA Today)