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There’s trouble in Foxborough

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ESPN’s latest piece talks about Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and some unrest in the Patriots facility. Where have we seen this before?

New York Giants v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

As advertised, ESPN posted a story on the New England Patriot’s 2017 season and what may be the beginning of the end of the Patriots dynasty. I’m going to strongly suggest everyone reading this to read the article then come back here. It’s extremely eye opening on so many levels, but I’ll sum things up the best I can.

The main focus on the article is on Tom Brady and his book/fitness franchise TB12. Basically, TB12 is an alternative sports medicine program at best and a religious cult at worst. The trouble with all of this stems from Tom Brady’s trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero who began as a welcome trainer—though an alternate source—-that eventually imposed his will on the Patriots roster. This got so bad that there was a sort of psychological thing where either you went to Brady’s TB12 or did what Patriots coach Bill Belichick wanted and that was hitting weights. As you can imagine, both philosophies clashed with each other. So much, that it makes sense now why Belichick cut back Guerrero’s role in 2017.

But what gets interesting is the focus on Tom Brady’s then-backup and current San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. There were reports that Garoppolo couldn’t get on a plane fast enough to Santa Clara, yet in the media, both were complimentary of each other. It seemed like—at least then—there was a different dynamic than you saw with Joe Montana to Steve Young or Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, but it was the exact opposite:

And Brady is famously unhelpful toward his backups -- or, at least, a threat like Garoppolo. 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.

Still, it seemed like the two were supportive of each other. The article continues to say that Garoppolo had some issues with his shoulder injury, and like other teammates, went to TB12 to get rehab:

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.

The article later went into the circumstances surrounding the Garoppolo trade. While they didn’t say anything about Brady demanding Garoppolo to be traded, there are hints that Brady was agitated on several things (and relieved once Garoppolo was out). Whether Garoppolo’s play and grooming to be the future added to this are up to interpretation. Either way, Garoppolo was the guy. He was the Steve Young to Brady’s Joe Montana. And this is how the trade went down:

And complicating matters even more was that Belichick didn’t want to trade Garoppolo. He had passed on dealing him last spring, when Garoppolo was in high demand. In early September, Belichick did trade third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. “If we trade Jimmy, we’re the Cleveland Browns, with no succession plan,” one person inside the organization said earlier in the year. The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17-18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady.

There you have it. The contracts discussed and Garoppolo saying, “nuh-uh” to all of it. This is very similar to the Steve Young contract disputes as discussed in his autobiography. Young at one point, wanted out of San Francisco unless he were to be starting. The 49ers told him to be patient, but as Montana kept coming back year after year, Young was having the arguments with management in his desire to play. Once they gave him a contract and made him the ‘clear’ starter, Montana was still in the picture thanks to then-owner Eddie DeBartolo not wanting to depart with the face of the franchise. Young would make an ultimatum that one of the two had to be traded.

As I said in a post months ago, the Brady/Garoppolo situation mirrors this very same dynamic, but with one difference: they kept Brady. No one expected Brady to be playing this long (as the article says, Brady was going to be done in 2018, but winning the Super Bowl put a stop to that). Similar to coaches wanting to go with Young but owners wanting to stick with Montana, this is very similar:

And complicating matters even more was that Belichick didn’t want to trade Garoppolo. He had passed on dealing him last spring, when Garoppolo was in high demand. In early September, Belichick did trade third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. “If we trade Jimmy, we’re the Cleveland Browns, with no succession plan,” one person inside the organization said earlier in the year. The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17-18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady.

And then Kraft stepped in during a meeting to discuss the whole QB situation:

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.

49ers fans have been quoted as “lucky” to get Garoppolo in a trade—and they definitely are with what the team gave up to get him. On the flip side, it also shows how good of a decision it was to pursue Kyle Shanahan, because had Kyle Shanahan not been with the team, this may not have happened:

One morning in late October, Belichick texted San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and asked him to call. Belichick had long admired Kyle’s father, Mike, who not only had been one of the NFL’s smartest tacticians but had also personally defended Belichick to commissioner Roger Goodell during the Spygate scandal. At the combine this past February, Kyle, weeks into the 49ers job after being the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, met with Belichick for hours to learn from his team’s humiliating Super Bowl loss. Belichick believed that Garoppolo would excel under Shanahan, and when he and Shanahan connected on the phone, Belichick offered the quarterback for a second-rounder.

A lot have speculated the Garoppolo steal was because of Belichick looking out for John Lynch, a former player. This may be on Shanahan for a “thank you” to his dad for looking out.

I highly encourage everyone to read this article in full before we discuss it, because it’s awkwardly eye opening on the downfall of the current dynasty. As always, we can take these things with a grain of salt, but we can all rest assured it led to one good outcome.