A new ESPN report about potential trouble inside the New England Patriots organization is loaded with details about petty disagreements and untrustworthiness that seem to point to a lot of strife inside the organization seen as the class of the National Football League.
Seth Wickersham’s report dropped early Friday morning and goes into detail about the disagreements between quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft that some think may spell the end of the trio in New England in some form. It’s a fascinating look at the franchise, and while it draws no strong conclusions it is loaded with intrigue and speculation, much of it reportedly coming from inside the organization itself.
The report starts with an incident many talked about in early December, when the Patriots played the Bills and a frustrated Brady yelled at offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Though everyone in the organization dismissed the incident, the Wickersham piece suggests that it was a symptom of months of frustration between Belichick, Brady and others at Patriot Place.
The report also suggests a serious source of conflict is Brady’s workout plan with his trainer and advisor Alex Guerrero, who has had some legal troubles, and was famously barred from the team facility earlier this year.
One of the more interesting moments of a fascinating look at the inner workings of one of the most successful franchises in NFL history is the impact an outside source, Guerrero, had on the team. As a surrogate for Brady, who some referred to as “sir” inside the organization and was often thought of as “management,” his actions seemed to indicate to people when they were or were not wanted.
That includes Brady’s feelings about backup quarterback Jimmy Garappolo, which were not exactly warm.
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. Garoppolo played well in 2016, starting in place of the suspended Brady, and 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. But after Garoppolo was knocked out of his second start with 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, Garopollo told the staffers, and that night ended up visiting team trainers instead. Guerrero vehemently denies ever refusing to see any player, and Garoppolo was eventually treated at TB12 — but it was two weeks after he showed up for his original appointment, and only after a high-ranking Patriots staffer called TB12 to inquire why Garoppolo hadn’t been admitted.
Garoppolo was eventually traded to San Francisco, of course, but not before a series of meetings between Brady and Belichick and Brady and Kraft about the fiture of the franchise, which ended with a “little blowup” between Brady and Belichick. Essentially, the slow decline of Brady’s abilities under center has surprised the Patriots, who were forced to trade Garoppolo when his free agency and Kraft himself demanded Belichick do so.
The report seems to suggest that even if the Patriots win another Super Bowl this year, big changes could be coming for New England this offseason. Which means that no matter what denials the team issues following the report, it’s going to be a very interesting offseason.