When you think about the New England Patriots, you can’t help but look at the relationship between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest coach-and-quarterback duo in NFL history.
From the outside looking in, it has always appeared that they have a strong bond and are on the same page as they work toward winning a sixth Super Bowl together.
But according to a stunning new report by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, the relationship between Belichick and Brady is nowhere near as solid as it seems.
The in-depth report says the Jimmy Garoppolo trade exposed a growing rift between Belichick and Brady — with owner Robert Kraft choosing the quarterback’s side.
When it came down to the future, Belichick was not on board with trading the young quarterback and leaving the team with no succession plan for the 40-year-old Brady. An October meeting between Brady and Belichick on the 13-time Pro Bowler’s future ended in a “little blowup,” according to ESPN.
Brady, who believes he has much more left in the tank, also met with Kraft several times that month to discuss playing longer.
Two weeks before the trade deadline, the owner and coach met to discuss the quarterback situation, and Kraft was adamant about trading Garoppolo. Belichick left the hours-long meeting “furious and demoralized,” ESPN reported.
Belichick reached out to San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, offering Garoppolo for a second-round pick. The deal was done.
According to the report, the trade left Patriots employees “stunned and confused.” One of the employees told ESPN that “[Brady] won.”
Now, the report said, “Kraft has confessed to people in the building that trading [Garoppolo] might have been a mistake,” and Belichick “has taken pride in Garoppolo’s 5-0 record [as a starter] in San Francisco.”
Belichick has always had a vision for his future away from football. He wanted to leave the Patriots set up for success when he retires. Without Garoppolo, the Patriots don’t have a viable option behind center once Brady is done.
According to the report, Brady and Garoppolo “were friendly, but Brady didn’t see it as his role to advise Garoppolo, even on matters as trivial as footwork.”
“Belichick began to see Garoppolo as the final piece of his legacy, to walk away in a few years with the Patriots secure at quarterback,” the report said.
“The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17-18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady,” the report read. “Garoppolo and [agent Don] Yee, [also Brady’s agent,] 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.”
While the report depicts the Patriots as a divided franchise, NFL reporter Adam Rank sees it as the annual drama that seems to come out of Foxborough around playoff time.
Oh no! The Patriots are in trouble!
Yeah, I've seen this movie before and it always ends with Mark Wahlberg hugging Tom Brady after the Super Bowl.
— Adam Rank (@adamrank) January 5, 2018
It’s not surprising that the Patriots would have a rift in the situation they faced, with perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time trying to milk every extra year he can get while an up-and-coming star is itching to get his shot.
Brady surely felt threatened by Garoppolo, and the team was put in a tough spot.
But Kraft’s decision, as reported, to side with the 40-year-old quarterback over the legendary coach could spell trouble for the Patriots going forward.
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