Reports from ESPN came out Friday of trouble brewing in Foxborough. The Patriots have been atop of the NFL’s pecking order since Brady took over in 2001, and the dynasty has been intact since. However, for the first time in 18 years, it may be looking like the beginning of the end for the Pats.
Over the 5 Super Bowls, the only constants for the Patriots have been the owner, the coach, and the quarterback. The rest of the pieces just don’t seem to matter, they consistently transform cast offs from other teams, low round draft picks or free agents into key pieces for their team. Though the trio of Kraft, Belichick, and Brady could very well be on its last legs, it most likely won’t hurt their chances of bringing home another Lombardi trophy this year. If there’s one thing the Patriots are very good at, it’s ignoring distractions and only focusing on what’s ahead, another super bowl.
The trio of Belichick, Brady and owner Robert Kraft have had serious disagreements as of late. They differ on Brady’s trainer, 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.
Alex Guerrero is a big issue, much larger than the Patriots have been trying to pass it off as. Recently, Belichick removed Guerrero’s personal office in Gillete stadium, and he has been vocal about how he prefers his players to receive treatment from Patriots trainers instead of Guerrero. Brady opposes Belichick’s view here, and says that “Bill’s solution is to lift more weights”. This small rift grew larger and larger during the season, as players were torn between using Guerrero’s services and pleasing Brady, or using the Patriot trainers and pleasing Bill. The main reason why tension started between Belichick and Guerrero, was because Guerrero often would blame Patriots trainers for injuries, while offering few insightful opinions of his own. This all began in 2014, the same year Brady started talking about playing into his mid 40s, the same year the Patriots won their 4th super bowl over the Seahawks, and the same year that Belichick drafted Jimmy Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois.
Jimmy Garoppolo was another clog in the trio of Belichick, Brady and owner Robert Kraft. Brady has said on many occasions that he wants to play into his mid 40s and he wants to be a Patriot for life. Kraft is on Brady’s side, and Belichick is not. On October 30th of this year, the Patriots ended up dealing Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for their second-round pick, this was forced on Belichick by owner Robert Kraft and Belichick was furious. Belichick has staked his entire career on the idea that long-term security doesn’t exist in the NFL. He is known for cutting hall of fame players, when he believes they can’t perform at an elite level anymore. Trading away Jimmy Garoppolo was something Bill would have never done, if it wasn’t for Kraft.
One of the worst things brewing specifically between Brady and Belichick, is that Brady is fed up with Belichick’s style of coaching. The future first ballot hall of famer is the most criticized person in that locker room, and can only take so much from Belichick. For example, Brady is an MVP candidate, and can not get recognized as the Patriot of the week by his head coach, it seems small, but Brady has done enough to be the Patriot of the week almost every week and he hasn’t been noticed once by Belichick. It started to get bad after last years playoff win over the Houston Texans, where Brady was 18-38 with 2 INTs. Belichick lit into him in front of the entire team in a way nobody had ever seen saying “This will get us beat” and “We were lucky to get away with a win.” Brady is completely fine with criticism, but he feels that he has done enough to not get so much grief from Belichick. Has he?
This is a huge deal coming out of Foxborough, and as all good things must come to an end, we may be approaching the end of this era faster than we think. Whether Belichick decides to retire after this season, or take his talents elsewhere where he will get full control. Or whether Brady decides to hang it up sooner than he said, or chooses to finish his career elsewhere. One thing is for certain however, amidst all of this, the Patriots are still only focused on one thing, and that’s super bowl 52 in Minnesota. Also, we won’t figure out exactly what’s going to happen to the Patriots until they either get eliminated from the playoffs, or bring the Lombardi back to Foxborough.