Key Takeaways from ESPN’s Bombshell on the Patriots

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, arguably the top investigative journalist covering the NFL, dropped another bombshell early Friday on the unraveling of the Patriots dynasty. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Robert Kraft may be sports’ most successful triumvirate but internal forces, including Brady’s suspicious business partner Alex Guerrero and his own insecurity about aging, have turned The Patriot Way into what may soon become The Patriot Implosion.

There is so much incredible reporting and detail to unpack and I strongly urge you to read the piece in its entirely. Below are some of the major takeaways with some additional reaction in spots.

– The catalyst for most of these issues can be traced to Guerrero who once claimed one of his supplements could cure cancer. It was Guerrero  that convinced Brady to transform from megastar athlete into international brand. The piece portrays Brady as an otherwise decent human who could not resists Guerrero’s cult-like dangling.

– A lot of players were disturbed by this line from Brady’s TB12 book.

“When athletes get injured, they shouldn’t blame their sport,” Brady wrote. 

Guerrero and Brady essentially suggest that following the TB12 plan of drinking 5 million gallons of water daily and doing pliability exercises can help prevent injuries from football.

– Guerrero, part-trainer/part-businessman/full Brady confidante, put a TB12 Performance Center right next to the Patriots training facility, leading to a lot of player clients. When it comes to rehab, Guerrero’s methods have been at odds with the more traditional Belichick style, and when Julian Edelman was hurt, potential replacements were at a crossroads:

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’s methods continued to present conundrums for Patriots players to the point where Bill Belichick revoked his privileges to roam freely around the facility. (Though Belichick reportedly told Guerrero that players were free to seek out his treatment.)

 – New players often address [Brady] as “sir.”

– Brady met with Kraft in October to reaffirm his long-term plans to keep playing. Brady also met with Belichick. Belichick was fine with him playing as long as he was the best QB on the roster but still saw the future in Jimmy Garoppolo. Belichick then met with Kraft before the trade deadline.

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 was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job. 

A staffer on Brady: “He won.”

Baffling from a business perspective that Kraft would be more loyal to a 40-year-old QB than a head coach who could continue atop the coaching mountain for another 5-7 years and had established a real succession plan.

– Brady was hardly a mentor to Jimmy Garoppolo (and was reportedly happy to have the non-threatening Brian Hoyer as his backup)

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, Garoppolo told the staffers, and that night ended up visiting team trainers instead.

– Brady is upset that he has yet to be named “Patriot of the Week” by Belichick this year.

– Wickersham insinuates that the end of the dynasty could come this offseason, especially as coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia are hot coaching candidates. Belichick’s offer of a second rounder makes a little more sense if he is on his way out. Why would a disgruntled Belichick care about leaving a new head coach with an optimal draft situation? He’s still bitter about the Jets, after all.

– When you have a saga and Bill Belichick is the most sympathetic figure, you know there is deep trouble.

The Patriots as we know them, as all kids and many adults only know them, may be ending. This is unreal.