Should The Hoodies Be Retired Soon?
By Cam Giangrande
One of the most interesting and intense story in all of sports continues to be the intrigue swirling around the New England Patriots. It’s a veritable who done it: who knew what, when; who gave the orders…is there a cover-up, and who’s behind it. It has become a true soap opera at Gillette Stadium over the last couple of months, and it’s the story that just won’t go away. On the contrary; it’s the story that just keeps getting bigger, like a hurricane feeding off of warm coastal waters, bearing down on all in its path.
There are so many layers and storylines. Is there a rift between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? Is there a rift between Belichick and owner, Robert Kraft? Did Kraft order Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo? Did Brady force Belichick’s hand by going to Kraft to get rid of Garoppolo? Did Belichick deliberately trade Garoppolo into a soft landing spot in San Francisco, without maximizing his trade value by shopping the third year quarterback? And, did Belichick want to trade Brady instead of Garoppolo, but was rebuffed by Kraft with a mandate that he couldn’t do it?
The scrutiny increased tenfold after ESPN writer Seth Wickersham wrote an article confronting many of those issues. An underlying issue which is at the crux of everything is Brady’s age, and just how the organization has dealt with it, and will deal with it going forward. Brady contends a main reason for his success is because of the help given by trainer/guru, Alex Guerrero; and the “TB12 Method”. Guerrero no longer has field privileges and no longer travels with the team.
There is a term called Occam’s razor which basically means when making multiple hypotheses, the simplest solution is usually the better and most accurate choice. The Occam’s razor moment in this entire issue, for me, came just after the 2014 draft. Belichick came to the microphone to explain his decision to draft Eastern Illinois QB James Richard Garoppolo with the 62nd pick in the second round.
Belichick simply said that it’s always better to be a year or two early; especially at that position. And he added a very pointed comment, highlighting Brady’s age and contract status. That is where everything began and ended regarding the way Belichick looked at Brady. Just as he had moved on from the likes of Richard Seymour, Assante Samuel, Logan Mankins, Deion Branch…etc; Belichick had found his successor to Brady, and it was Jimmy G.
The plan seemed prescient. No quarterback had ever performed at any championship level at the age of 40: Brady was 37 with two years left on his contract. Belichick’s intention was to let the rookie develop for a couple of years, and then hand the keys to the castle to him. And at age 39, one of two things would be done with Brady. Either shake his hand and hand him a gold watch upon his retirement; or if Brady wanted to still play, shake his hand and tell him he’d been traded elsewhere. Two things happened which derailed either of those things from happening. First, Brady won the Super Bowl, giving him four at the time. The second thing that happened was that Brady got a contract extension. In March of 2016, Brady got a two–year extension, taking him through the 2019 season: and at age 42. That extension was done in large part with ownership’s involvement, and not coach Belichick. Brady rewarded the organization with a fifth Super Bowl title.
Even with two additional Super Bowl titles to his resume from the time Garoppolo was drafted, and a contract extension taking his through 2019, Belichick never deviated from his plan. How do I know this? I go back to Occam’s Razor. If Belichick changed his mindset, he would have traded Garoppolo during the 2017 offseason for a boatload of draft picks. ESPN’s Adam Schefter famously stated that Belichick wouldn’t trade Garoppolo for four first round draft picks. Belichick was committed to Garoppolo and the succession plan.
So what changed? Nothing, he simply miscalculated his owner and the situation. So the question becomes, is Belichick over the hill? Why didn’t he see this situation unfolding the way it did? Everyone has talked about Brady’s football mortality, but what about Belichick’s?
WHat is Bill’s Future?
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 8, 2018
The oldest coach to win a Super Bowl is Tom Coughlin, who was 65 when he won Super Bowl XLVI. Belichick is 65 years old. How many more years does he have left marauding up and down the sidelines? Nobody knows what his contract is, or when it’s up. If he goes year to year with Kraft, could recent events have him pack up his 613 torn hoodies, and retire to his boat off Nantucket?
And what if he’s still under contract? He couldn’t just jump ship, without leaving millions of dollars on the table. In that scenario he could only go elsewhere if the Patriots received compensation: in essence, trading Belichick. But it would take more than that. In 2002, then coach of the Raiders, Jon Gruden was traded to the Buccaneers for two first round picks and two second picks; as well as eight million dollars. Surely a deal close to that would be appealing to Kraft.
The question becomes, if Belichick is under contract, does Kraft have the stomach to do what he obviously couldn’t do with Brady? The reality is there isn’t much tread left on Belichick’s tires, and this would simply be following Belichick’s own doctrine: Getting rid of someone a year or two early, and not a year or two late.