Please allow me to indulge myself, and put on my columnist hat for a moment, to give you my developing takes on the Patriots “dysfunction”. Hope you enjoy, and if you disagree, or just think it’s crap…let’s hear it. This is part 2, part 1 is here.
This season, for the first time we can remember, some of the Patriots’ dirty laundry was being aired. As discussed in Part 1, there is tension between the 3 main players in the franchise, and thusfar they’ve been able to work through it. But what happens next?
I’ll start by saying, I firmly believe both Brady and Belichick will be back next year, and get to work pretty much like every other year. The friction won’t go away, and it won’t until the 2027 30 for 30 “Bill & Tom”. But these guys are pros, the best there’s even been, and they’ll continue to work toward the common goal.
But with Belichick and Kraft, I don’t think that’s quite so simple. Some recent tidbits in the media point to a bit of a, ahem, Richard measuring contest between the two men, wrestling for ultimate control.
Bill v Bob
First was the Wickersham story, very clearly sourced by someone giving Belichick’s side of the story, and clearly indicates Bill isn’t completely happy with the situation.
Then, there were the weirdly placed leaks, insinuating Bill might want to coach the Giants.
Next, after John Gruden’s deal, there was a lot of talk about Belichick’s salary circulating. Then there was this somewhat bizarre story from Mike Florio, stating the Patriots coach is dramatically underpaid. It went on to compare his value to some of the league’s highest paid players- not often a metric coaches in any sport are measured against.
What’s going on?
Well, it’s my opinion- and I’m not the only one to have said it- that we’re smack in the middle of a very public, thinly veiled contract dispute.
Bill’s contract has always been dealt with on the hush-hush, but maybe the with all the shit going on this season, he just had enough, and decided to put the screws to his long time boss. He probably figures: the coordinators are leaving, there is no heir apparent at HC or QB, I’m going to strike while the iron is hot. “If they want me to stay, under these circumstances, they’re going to pay through the nose”.
Now, what I haven’t heard anyone else point out, is that Kraft is doing his share of negotiating too.
We have the Kraft quote regarding his relationship with Bill and Tom:
“There’s a lot of strong-minded people but when you have something good going, everyone’s got to get their egos checked in and try to hold it together.”
Then we have this rather passive aggressive quip, after he was informed Bill may not have enjoyed playing in Mexico City this season:
“It was one of the best experiences of the last few years,” he said. “We want to go back there. It was a great game and it’s a wonderful environment.”
When asked specifically about Belichick’s comments
“I own the New England Patriots,” Kraft said, “and it was a wonderful experience.”
Kraft has also been quoted in the past as saying Bill has multiple years left on his deal (extending beyond this season). But, when asked this week by Andrea Kremer, in an interview that aired Wednesday, that exact question, he wouldn’t answer, saying “You’ll have to wait and see”.
Kind of a folksy, throwaway line, especially if you see the video, but I think when you consider the other recent quotes, it’s somewhat telling. Kraft is, at least a little bit, firing back at his coach. Not quite as deferential as he usually is about Bill.
What happens next?
Well, I’d be shocked if Bill wasn’t back next season. But this all may mean that he’s not likely to stick around to groom his heir apparent, develop next QB, or to move on to the long-theorized “front office job” after he retires from coaching. All the things we all thought were likely. I just think, if he’s going to stick around long-term – a big “if”- there is more to be hammered out than just salary.
The dynamic has been altered, and I’m not sure they can go back.
If Belichick were still chasing Ring #5, maybe it’s something he’d just put aside and keep moving forward. But he doesn’t really have a whole lot to prove to anyone at this point. So why bother hanging around in a situation he’s not happy with?
If I’m Bob Kraft, I’m willing to let Bill draw up the blueprint for future, and hand over a blank check to find out. I want him making all of the decisions to shape the next 10 years.
But I think the more likely outcome is that Bill is gone sooner than later; one or two more seasons before he hangs up the old hoody.
Given how hard it is (or should be) to make it to the Super Bowl, we are very likely seeing this group’s last run this weekend. Enjoy it, Pats’ fans. Because when this 3-way marriage is over, we’re never going to see anything like it again.
Mike (Le Cap)