ESPN Dropped Their Bombshell Article Detailing The Dysfunction & Rift Between Belichick, Brady & Their Power Struggle
On Thursday, there were rumors that ESPN was planning on dropping a powerful piece about the rift between QB Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft, with the biggest rumor being Brady forced Kraft to trade away Jimmy Garoppolo. Unfortunately that part wasn’t mentioned in the piece, but Brady’s reaction to the trade was—and it seemed to tell us all we needed to know about their relationship.
Brady, though, seemed liberated. Kraft hugged Brady when he saw him that week, in full view of teammates. 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.
The biggest issue between Brady and Belichick involved Brady’s trainer, who would be banned from the sidelines late in the 2017 season, and a power struggle erupted as a result.
Brady and Guerrero’s training beliefs introduced an unspoken pressure in the building, with players wondering where they should work out. In August, receiver Julian Edelman blew out his knee, costing him the season, and there was “hyper-sensitivity” 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?
As Brady gained power, so did Guerrero, who became an even more divisive force in the building. 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. Brady would tell teammates, “Bill’s answer to everything is to lift more weights” — a claim that many staffers and players felt was unfair, given the team’s dedication to soft-tissue science and a healthy diet.
And so after several such incidents, Belichick explained to Brady in early September that many younger players felt pressured to train at TB12 rather than with the team, and asked the quarterback what was going on. Brady said he didn’t know anything about any such pressure, according to people briefed on the exchange, and the two men left the meeting without any resolution.
Brady is less fine with it this year. 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 like 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.”
The criticism has continued this year, as Brady has been hit a lot and battled various injuries. Atypically, he has missed a lot of practices and, in the team’s private evaluations, is showing the slippage of a 40-year-old quarterback even as he is contending for MVP and is as deadly as ever with the game on the line. Injuries to his shoulder and Achilles have done more than undermine claims that the TB12 Method can help you play football virtually pain-free. Subtle changes have at times hampered the offense and affected the depth chart. On a fourth-quarter play against the Los Angeles Chargers, for instance, Brady had a clean pocket and a first read open deep, possibly for a touchdown. But Brady got rid of the ball quickly over the middle to receiver Chris Hogan, who had nowhere to run and was hit hard, injuring his shoulder. He missed all but one game of the rest of the season. “Tom was trying to get it out quick,” a Patriots staffer says. “As fragility has increased, nervousness has also increased.”
At the same time, as 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.
We may very well be witnessing the end of an era with the New England Patriots, and it could all come crashing down at once.