Any level-headed Patriots fans with a sense of reality can see that the end of the incredible Patriots dynasty is coming to an end. There are only two questions: how would it happen? And how soon?
Seth Wickersham, an ESPN senior writer, well known for his informative and well articulated sports investigative work, has uncovered some interesting details that could bring upon the end of the Patriots dynasty as soon as this offseason.
It’s clear that there are three important cogs to the 17 year run of success the franchise has flourished through: head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft. The power struggle between the trio is real.
The power struggle revolves around two people: the former Patriot quarterback and current 49er franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady’s personal health guru Alex Guerrero. Let’s start with Garoppolo.
I thought trading Garoppolo was a huge mistake, and there was a cloud of uncertainty around the whole situation. Why did Belichick decide to trade him in October instead of the offseason? How come he only got a second-round pick, when there were reports saying that (multiple) first-round picks were on the table? How come he only called the San Francisco 49ers that October day?
We did get some answers, thanks to Wickersham, as he writes, “Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trading deadline, Belichick met with Kraft to discuss the quarterback situation. According to staffers, the meeting ran long, lasting half the day and pushing back Belichick’s other meetings. The office was buzzing. The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him.”
Belichick, who has always been against team owners making big team personnel decisions, had his hands tied and was frustrated. The list of quarterbacks Belichick has drafted is not impressive whatsoever: Rohan Davey, Kevin O’Connell, Ryan Mallett among other non-impressive options.
The truth is, it is incredibly hard to find the next franchise quarterback, and Belichick knows that better than anyone. So when he struck gold with Garoppolo, it was painful to hear the owner force his hand.
However, it did not seem as if Kraft acted on his own on this decision. Wickersham suggests there was a clear dislike between Brady and his understudy, “But after Garoppolo was knocked out of his second start because of a shoulder injury, he set up a visit at TB12. As he later told Patriots staffers, when he arrived, the door was locked. He knocked; nobody was there. He called TB12 trainers but nobody answered. He couldn’t believe it, Garoppolo told the staffers, and that night ended up visiting team trainers instead.”
The tension seemed obvious between Brady and Garoppolo but this instance is telling. Many of Brady’s teammates were visiting Guerrero at the TB12 Sports Clinic, and the one that was denied access initially was Garoppolo.
Speaking of Guerrero, let’s transition to that part of the story.
Guerrero started to divide the Patriots locker room to ‘Belichick guys’ and ‘Brady guys’. Those who preferred Belichick would seek advice and medical treatment from the team’s training staff, while the others would go to Guerrero.
After Belichick initially gave Guerrero free rein in the building and access to medical records, Bill quickly learned this was a mistake, when Guerrero started to tell Patriots players that the team doctors do not have their patients’ best interest at heart.
Guerrero started blaming Patriots team doctors for some of the injuries sustained by Patriots players, as well as giving conflicting advice. Wickersham writes, “One player visited TB12 under what he perceived as pressure, and declined to allow Guerrero to massage his injured legs. Instead he asked to keep treatment limited to only his arm, out of fear that one of Guerrero’s famous deep-force muscle treatments would set back his recovery. The Boston Sports Journal would report on another player who was told by Patriots trainers to do squats but later instructed by Guerrero to not do them.”
What I found was shocking, was that Brady as well, was advocating that the team doctors were not giving the players the best treatment, telling teammates that “Bill’s answer to everything is to lift more weights”.
Brady and Belichick have had recent blowouts that are noteworthy as well. Belichick is known for being the most ruthless head coach out there, and that is what his success is built upon: accountability.
So when Brady turned in one of his worst, if not his worst, postseason performances last year against the Houston Texans, where Brady went 18 for 38, 287 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and an ugly passer rating of 68.6, Belichick lit him up.
Wickersham writes, “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, ripping Brady for carelessness with the ball. ‘This will get us beat,’ he told the team after replaying a Brady interception. ‘We were lucky to get away with a win.’”
While Brady has maintained a high level of play throughout most of the 2017 season, the season-finale against the New York Jets was the first game Brady did not throw an interception in about two months. Not only has his decision making been worse, but his accuracy has been inconsistent at times.
The last tidbit I find about this whole situation to be noteworthy is that both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia look to be as good as gone this offseason, taking head coaching jobs elsewhere.
I do not find the Patricia part interesting, as much as McDaniels leaving. The end for Belichick seems to be near, as near as it has ever been, yet McDaniels seems poised to be a head coach for another franchise.
If Garoppolo was still here, I think McDaniels stays and waits it out, considering his family is settled nearby, he appreciates the Patriots organization, and he knows that ownership and management is solid.
Now that Garoppolo is on the opposite coach, and the Patriots are devoid of young talent, McDaniels seems to be anxious to find a job elsewhere.
Every good thing has to end, and usually there is not a happy ending. Ask Michael Jordan, or Wayne Gretzky, both the greatest at their respective sport, but both did not spend their entire career with the franchises they are attached to.
As long as Kraft is the owner of the Patriots, Brady will retire a Patriot. Belichick? That part is very uncertain.
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