The New England Patriots have been last in the NFL in real money spent over the past five years. The reason for that, it appears, is because Bill Belichick was planning to win a championship with Jimmy Garoppolo after Tom Brady retired or moved on, and they were saving money to sign the young QB to a huge deal (after franchising him for a season). The apparent plan was simple, albeit ruthless: put the franchise tag on Garoppolo after this season to keep both him and Brady on the roster for another year, then move on from Brady and give the heir apparent his huge deal.
The only issues? Tom Brady is a god in New England and is in business off the field with Patriots owner Bob Kraft, a relationship that has itself raised eyebrows. It seems that Kraft told Belichick straight up that releasing or trading Brady wasn’t going to happen, at least not any time soon.
How else do you think Stephon Gilmore ended up with $40 million guaranteed? The Patriots already had a #1 corner and Gilmore clearly isn’t worth that much. I believe the money had been put aside for Jimmy G’s franchise tag (and the signing bonus for his future long-term deal), so once Kraft instructed Belichick to hold onto Brady, they had to spend it somewhere. The massive contract offer came out of nowhere, just a minute into free agency. It’s almost like Belichick said, “Fuck it, we might as well throw the money at an important position.”
Are we really supposed to think it’s a coincidence that just days after the Garoppolo trade, Belichick told Tom Brady’s personal training guru Alex Guerrero to pack his sh*t and leave? In 2014, he reportedly told his training staff they had to deal with Guerrero because he was Brady’s guy and that there was nothing they could do about it. Reports out of New England suggest that Guerrero had overstepped his boundaries in criticizing Patriots team doctors, but it feels like Belichick was pissed at having to trade Garoppolo and stick with Brady, so he told Brady’s best buddy to beat it. Kudos to the Patriots for being so professional that they’ve been able to keep a lid on all of this.
(Sprinkled throughout this piece, you will find quotes that best illustrate the Patriots’ situation.)
“If you feel like you’re the only sane person left on the planet, does that make you crazy?” – Will Smith in I, Robot
It feels like most everyone is missing the larger story when it comes to the Patriots trading Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2018 second-round pick. The question isn’t whether they got enough (no) or whether he is the real deal (yes), but more like why he was traded in the first place. Based on the evidence and the timeline of events discussed above, it’s pretty clear that Belichick traded him against his own wishes. Or at a very minimum begrudgingly, after he felt his hands were tied and had no other choice than to try to get something for him. Bob Kraft’s desire to please Brady may have put a permanent crack in the foundation of the Patriots, which could lead to a premature end to the Patriots dynasty.
It sounds like an overreaction, but don’t underestimate the ego of Bill Belichick. According to a recent ESPN article, he told people he wanted to win with Garoppolo, and I would bet anything that it pisses him off to no end when people talk about how lucky he was to end up with Brady, as if Belichick didn’t have a huge hand in molding Brady into the guy he is now.
“They’re not in the market of getting rid of 25-year-old quarterbacks. Jimmy Garropolo is not going to be traded!” – Adam Schefter
“It’s definitely not something we wanted to walk away from, I felt like we rode it out as long as we could. Over a period of time, we explored every option possible to try to sustain it. But at this point, felt like we had to make a decision. It’s a very complex situation on multiple levels.” – Bill Belichick
“Does he look like a man beaten by Jacks?” – Rounders
One thing that seems clear is that Belichick’s original game plan was NOT to trade Garoppolo at the deadline this year. He refused to even take calls on him before the draft, when he would have gotten far more lucrative offers than a single second rounder. He also traded third string QB Jacoby Brissett right before the start of the season. Why would he do that if he thought it was a possibility that he might have to trade Garoppolo at the deadline?
It doesn’t make any sense, and EVERYTHING Belichick does makes sense even if you disagree with it (except for drafting Jordan Richards – that made no sense). Many people have suggested that Belichick was counting on Garoppolo signing a bridge deal to remain in New England as a backup while Brady played out his final few years, but Garoppolo was apparently never going to do that, and since Belichick was close to him and dealt quite a bit with his agent (Don Yee, who also represents Brady and Edelman), he would have known that.
All reports indicate that Garoppolo wanted to play ASAP and the only thing that would have kept him in New England sitting behind Brady was a franchise tag, and only then because he wouldn’t have a choice. Sure, the $20+ million for a single year’s pay would be nice, but he is a super-competitive kid who badly wanted to be on the field. Plus, he will get $20+ million per year for a lot longer than one year this offseason from San Francisco. He was never going to sign (for example) a two-year, $25 million deal to sit around and hope that Brady would be done by the time the deal was up. Belichick would not miscalculate by so much about something so important.
“I’m thrilled to be here.” – Jimmy Garoppolo at his 49ers introductory press conference
“Allegedly, your situation, for you, would be concurrently improved if I had $200 in my back pocket right now.” – Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting
Brady camp 3 days ago felt privately TB could be traded by Bill after 17. This was a Kraft decision to make it clear Brady finishes as a Pat
— Ryan Burr (@RyanBurr) October 31, 2017
“This game is rigged, man. We like them little bitches on a chess board.” – J.D. Williams – aka “Bodie” – in The Wire
Tom Brady was ready to be let go by the Patriots. His camp was ready for it. Belichick was ready for it. Brady’s own dad has been ready for years. Everyone was ready for it besides Bob Kraft. The miscalculation by Kraft here is that Brady is 40. Even if he is superhuman, he has five more good years maximum. It could also be a lot less. And while Belichick is already 65, he could coach another ten years with no problem (especially if he continues to work with and promote his sons, both of whom work for him now).
By siding with Brady, Kraft isn’t doing his own son and heir apparent, Jonathan Kraft, any favors. Jimmy G may have 12-15 good years left, and Bob Kraft/Brady/Belichick could have eventually given way to Jonathan Kraft/McDaniels/Garoppolo, giving the Patriots the type of sustained success that is totally unheard of in pro sports.
“An unbelievable opportunity came our way in the midst of a tough season. I do want to thank the New England Patriots. It’s refreshing to find people where you cannot belabor things. You bring something up and come to a quick resolution. You don’t grind people out. And that’s what we were able to do.” – John Lynch
“We thought about it for about ten minutes” – Kyle Shanahan
“Rule #22. You have a wedding and a reception to seal the deal. Period. No overtime.” – Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers
It sounds like Bill Belichick was pissed off and just called the 49ers because he has personal relationships with Lynch and Shanahan. I can imagine him saying something along the lines of, “Garoppolo for your second rounder in 2018. You have 15 minutes.”
“Brady camp continued Bill is 100% business and if he thinks he would be more likely to win with Jim G than TB then Tom would be out. Period” – Ryan Burr
“The question is, and this is the only question, who thinks that they can do what you do better than you?” -Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed
“If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.” – Bill Parcells upon leaving the Patriots in 1997
“…for the new expansion team in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Aztecs. I just signed Willie Beamen as my Starting quarterback.” – Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday
Considering all this, Bill Belichick may be on his way out of town sooner than anyone realizes. Every Patriots fan I know has at least wondered whether he would be happier finishing up his career back in New York with his beloved Giants, and that was before the Garoppolo situation. He’s basically a normal, down-to-earth guy, and Brady increasingly appears to be anything but, at least judging from his recent statements on non-football-related topics. Could the Garoppolo trade and the subsequent banning of Guerrero be the beginning of the end of the relationship between Belichick and Brady, a relationship that wasn’t as close as advertised to begin with?
It feels hard to imagine, but if that is the case, it would be nice to see a Niners-Pats/Brady-Garoppolo Super Bowl before then. Either way, changes are coming soon, and now, for the first time in nearly 20 years, it feels like it will no longer just be rainbows and unicorns at Gillette Stadium.