A bombshell report published today on ESPN’s website by Seth Wickersham suggests there is a growing rift between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Over the last 17 season, the iconic duo have won five Super Bowls together.
The report indicates much of the friction between the two deals with Alex Guerrero, Brady’s personal trainer. You might remember reports from a few weeks ago that Guerrero had his access to the Patriots revoked. Wickersham indicates Belichick grew increasingly frustrated as Patriots sought help from Wickersham to curry favor with Brady even as the Guerrero was giving advice that went against what team trainers suggested.
The report also indicates Belichick was ordered to trade Jimmy Garoppolo by team owner Robert Kraft against his wishes.
The reports both begins and ends with ominous statements.
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.
On Sunday, the moment -- their moment -- seemed as alive as ever, to the outside. Belichick ordered the field crew to hang thermometers in the hallway outside of the Jets’ locker room, just to mess with a franchise he still hates so much that he barely mentions his years there in the Patriots’ media guide. The game unfolded like many have for the Patriots this year, with Brady looking mortal at times and like an MVP at others. As usual, the Patriots won. It didn’t look like Belichick’s last regular-season game as the Patriots’ head coach, but several coaches and staffers later remarked to one another that it felt as if it could be.
It goes without saying that this report guarantees nothing. It is a detailed and well-sourced account of the inner workings in New England. I am sure the Patriots and their fans will turn to the old reliable, “I don’t like this story; therefore, it’s false,” logic, but there have been plenty of rumblings over the last few months of Belichick’s frustrations with Guerrero and his reluctance to trade Garoppolo.
With Belichick in his 60s and Brady in his 40s, the end to this era is clearly coming within the next few years.
For the Jets and the other teams in the AFC East, two questions have lingered for the last few years.
- What is the exact end date of the Belichick-Brady Era?
- Will the Patriots be able to maintain their level of success once it ends?
I don’t think this will have much of an impact on the Patriots postseason. It might be a distraction, but that team has turned ignoring distractions into an art form through the years.
What the article suggests is the answer to the first question might be sooner than we think. It also suggests Belichick believes the franchise’s ability to answer the second question with a yes was compromised by a trade he didn’t want to make.
The tone of the article is also largely sympathetic to Belichick, which makes one wonder whether some others in the organization aren’t happy with Brady.
This is a story worth watching.
For their part, the principals deny the accuracy of the story.