ESPN's Seth Wickersham has a piece out today that details a growing power struggle up in Foxborough between the New England Patriots' legendary head coach Bill Belichick and its legendary quarterback Tom Brady, with legendary sneaker-wearer Bob Kraft caught in the middle.
Wickersham is no stranger to the Pats. In 2015, he and Don Van Natta laid out how the NFL's handling of the Deflategate controversy was supposed to be owner-backed retribution for the Patriots' previous -gate scandal, Spygate, which had been covered up by the league. That is to say, Pats fans hate this guy, and that will be the what they hang their hat on. Lucky for you, good reader, you are not a Pats fan and approach this story with a more discerning (and, my god, downright gleeful) eye. So, I say to you today—January 5th, the 12th and final day of Christmas—let us unwrap this sucker and find the best parts.
Is it that Tom Brady comes off as a Grade-A nutjob, completely snowed over by his snake-oil salesman health guru? This obviously is not breaking news—I mean, we have a post here from exactly one year ago today about a pair of magic pajamas Brady wants you to buy for, like, $100, which he says will help your body recover while you sleep thanks to the "far infrared waves" in them. He has gone off the deep end. He's also reportedfly bringing a lot of Pats players along for the ride, not all of them what you would call willingly.
In August, receiver Julian Edelman blew out his knee, costing him the season, and there was "hypersensitivity" among players, in the words of a Patriots coach, over who would take his place. New players felt the surest way to earn Brady's trust was to join Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and others by seeking advice from Guerrero at his TB12 clinic -- and not team doctors, which Belichick preferred. Guerrero says he wasn't pressuring players to adopt his approach. "Players have always decided to come or not come on their own," he says now. But according to multiple sources, players openly discussed with Patriots coaches, staff and trusted advisers whether to follow Brady or the team, leaving them trapped: Do we risk alienating the NFL's most powerful coach or risk alienating the NFL's most powerful quarterback?
That's all well and good, but maybe it's not your cup of tea. Perhaps you prefer this tidbit about the growing fragility, both physically and mentally, of one of the all-time great quarterbacks:
[A]s his age has increased, Brady has become an advocate of positive thinking. Belichick's negativity and cynicism have gotten old, Brady has told other Patriots players and staff. He feels he has accomplished enough that he shouldn't have to endure so much grief. Patriots staffers have noticed that, this year more than ever, he seems to volley between unwavering confidence and driving insecurity. Brady has noted to staff a few times this year that, no matter how many game-changing throws he makes, Belichick hasn't awarded him Patriot of the Week all year.
This, I gotta tell ya, is pretty good stuff. There is something that makes my spirit soar thinking about this man who has literally everything you could possibly dream of—even magic fucking pajamas, man!—getting salty about not getting some made-up employee of the week award. "Brady has noted to staff a few times"—inject it all directly into my veins right now.
Moving on from the appetizers to the main course, maybe you are a big fan of the allegation that Brady seemed to absolutely despise his former backup quarterback, the debonair Jimmy Garoppolo. Consider this:
The two quarterbacks were friendly, but Brady -- like Joe Montana to Steve Young and Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers -- didn't see it as his role to advise Garoppolo, even on matters as trivial as footwork, as nobody had helped him during his climb.
[A]fter 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.
And then there's this, reportedly after Brady spoke with Bob Kraft about his future, and then Kraft spoke with Belichick and made it clear he had to trade Garoppolo, which really bummed the coach out, but not so much the quarterback:
A few days later during practice, some players and staffers noticed that Brady seemed especially excited, hollering and cajoling. Brady was once again the team's present and future. His new backup, Brian Hoyer, was a longtime friend and not a threat. The owner was in Brady's corner. "He won," a Patriots staffer says.
No human, crazy wellness freak or otherwise, is immune to insecurity, so it's hard to knock Brady for wanting to get rid of his heir apparent. It's a feeling that reaches all the way back to Greek tragedy. But the boyish and apparently not so subtle joy Brady exhibited after is delicious in its pettiness.
Still, there is perhaps no single better paragraph in this whole thing than an otherwise throwaway line buried in all of this nonsense, but one that will surely begin to gnaw at Pats apologists like a pebble inside their shoe:
Now 76 years old, Kraft ultimately will attempt to broker a solution. He has paid both Brady and Belichick tens of millions of dollars, won and lost some of the greatest games in NFL history with them, and has stood by both at their lowest moments. He apologized in front of a room of owners for Spygate. And he stood by Brady during Deflategate, even after he backed down and accepted the NFL's penalty. Kraft did so even though many staffers in the building believed there was merit in the allegation, however absurd the case.
It's…it's beautiful. Simply magnificent. People inside the building know something was up. They know it, just like we all know it. I love it. I absolutely love, love, love it. That is my favorite part of this whole thing. What's yours?