It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but sports media personalities have been predicting the end of Bill Belichick & Tom Brady’s run with the New England Patriots for almost as long as the two have been together.
This September will make 16 years since Tom Jackson claimed the Patriots “hate their coach” and that was before they saw a single snap in their fourth regular season together. Considering the Patriots went on to win the next two Super Bowls, one might think they would have learned early on that giving these guys motivation wasn’t a great idea, but people who cover sports for a living are notoriously thick headed and rarely change their minds about anything, regardless of what happens in reality.
To the chagrin of many, every single report of the Patriots’ demise through Super Bowl LIII has proven premature.
Of all the reports about windows getting slammed shut, and model wives breaking up the band, few have had as much of an impact on Patriots coverage than Seth Wickersham’s article from January of 2018: http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/page/hotread180105/beginning-end-new-england-patriots-robert-kraft-tom-brady-bill-belichick-internal-power-struggle
It’s a fantastic piece filled with quotes from people “inside the walls” of Gillette Stadium who were willing to put everything on the record except their names. One might wonder how trustworthy such reporting is, but fear not! Wickersham has been a member of not one, but TWO Pulitzer Prize winning teams, and several noble journalists who wouldn’t dream of carrying water for the NFL like Peter King went to bat for Wickersham and his reputation.
You can trust his work, caller!
Wickersham’s story paints a picture of a once proud franchise with a storm brewing from within; disagreements, pettiness and resentment abound between Belichick, Brady & team owner Robert Kraft, over a variety of conflicts including but not limited to:
-Brady being upset about Belichick not giving him enough credit in 2017, in particular, not having been awarded the Patriot of the Week honor when Brady felt he deserved it
-A tug of war between Belichick, Brady, and the quarterback’s “body coach” Alex Guerreo, with Brady supposedly steering players in the personal trainer’s direction for treatment against the wishes of the team medical staff, (which would coincidently benefit Brady’s TB12 Sports Medicine Clinic)
-Kraft forcing Belichick to move Jimmy Garoppolo against the head coach’s best wishes
-Belichick leaving friends with the impression that the dynamic that existed at that point within the Patriots was unsustainable
WOW – the Patriots were a MESS at the end of the 2017 regular season.
Or were they?
In the almost year and a half since Wickersham’s article came out, NE has gone 5-1 in the playoffs. The single loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in a hard fought Super Bowl LII, was devastating, and would have set back many other franchises. But NE bounced back a year later with an amazing 2018 playoff run capped off with a Super Bowl LIII win over the Rams in a defensive masterpiece that set a Super Bowl record when they held the 2nd highest scoring offense of the season to less than 10% of their average PPG for the regular season.
That doesn’t FEEL like a team that was coming apart at the seams, but maybe Wickersham’s article was ‘right at the time?’
Maybe the Patriots DID lose Super Bowl LII because of the supposed dysfunction behind the scenes.
Maybe the stories about Belichick and Kraft are right. Maybe the head coach only benched Malcolm Butler because he resented the way Kraft forced him to move Jimmy G.
I mean, all we’ve heard for the last 20 years is how arrogant Belichick is… I suppose it’s possible he was upset enough to piss away a chance to win an unprecedented 6th Super Bowl as a HC, but not so upset that he wouldn’t come back and coach the next couple of years, right? It sounds ludicrous and asinine, but it IS possible I suppose.
It’s also possible, and far more likely in my opinion, that the Patriots simply lost Super Bowl LII to a better team.
Maybe the Eagles were a team of destiny that year. I mean, yeah, Nick Foles, WAS a backup quarterback like so many Patriot detractors like to point out, but he also put up an absurd QBR of 141.4 against the #1 defense in the league two weeks prior in the NFCCG. NE held him to a significantly lower rating of 106.1 in LII… but that’s still pretty damn good against a lot of the guys who performed the way they did against Atlanta in LI & L.A. in LIII with the notable exceptions of Dont’a Hightower who was on IR and of course, Butler who was on the bench.
Here’s the thing that no one wants to admit about Malcolm Butler: the guy got torched in LI, and he did not have a great year in 2017.
You don’t have to take my word for it, Butler himself suggested they had reason to bench him when he spoke about the practice week leading up to LII against Philadelphia:
“Preparation is the best way to win. And maybe they didn’t see 100 percent, mentally or physically, Malcolm Butler that they usually see.’ (http://www.espn.com/blog/tennessee-titans/post/_/id/26447/malcolm-butler-refuses-to-be-defined-by-his-super-bowl-moments)
It’s possible that benching Butler was the right decision, and they lost anyway. We’ll never know.
One thing I feel pretty strongly about: as arrogant as Belichick may be, I’m hard pressed to think he’s arrogant enough to do something that wouldn’t put him in the best possible position to win that game.
Feel free to disagree.
Despite the insistence of insiders emboldened by Wickersham’s report that the S.S. Patriot was taking on massive amounts of water, the ship stayed afloat after that loss and throughout the 2018 off season, navigating its way around glaciers of OTA no shows, rumors of the star tight end running off to join the circus or some shit and yes, more reports of current and former Patriot players hating their coach.
All the while, Kraft, Belichick and Brady maintained there were no cracks in the armor and they were as dedicated to winning together as ever.
A year ago at this time, the local football news was an endless barrage of literal nonsense. Despite Brady being under contract, and specifically telling Jim Gray shortly after LII that he would indeed be back for the 2018, the media crapped themselves for a few days last spring over a report that Brady had not yet agreed to return to the team in 2018. They were literally making stories up.
The local scribes were crawling over each other’s soulless bodies to get that next Alex Guerrero / TB12 nugget of information. No matter how benign it may have been, it was still a way to discuss the Foxboro soap opera they so desperately wanted readers & viewers to believe existed and mattered.
People who got paid to cover sports were writing thinkpieces about how Rob Gronkowski’s most recent “69 LOL” post on Instagram was a thinly veiled shot at both Bill the GM AND Bill the HC, while anonymous fans had to take matters into their own hands and start breaking stories themselves, like Edelman’s PED violation and impending suspension.
SOMEHOW the team, and therefore, the region survived the most tumultuous offseason ever and moved on to the 2018 regular season which had it’s own low points. Among other things, that star tight end who decided against a future rolling around on the floor with clowns was showing his age on the field and a pair of devastating late season losses against Miami and Pittsburgh looked to be the final nails in the Patriots’ coffin.
Despite those factors and the holy trinity still resenting each other (as evidenced when Belichick didn’t give Brady an “atta’ boy” that one time he was coming off the field), the team still managed to secure the second seed, and more importantly a bye for a playoff run that turned out to be one of their most impressive & dominant.
The divisional round was nothing short of a clinic, (thanks for coming LAC), as was the first half of the AFCCG. Amazingly, they did what everyone said they couldn’t do, and won the AFCCG on the road, at Arrowhead Stadium no less. Cue the aforementioned defensive dominance of the Rams, and Brady & Belichick’s relationship seems stronger than ever and people can realistically ask each other “imagine if they win #7?” without putting the cart before the horse.
Sure, winning cures all, but maybe there wasn’t as much there to be cured as we were led to believe. There’s going to be tension at any place of employment after 17 years, let alone such a high pressure environment with larger than life egos and salaries involved. I believe there was and almost certainly still is some tension in Foxboro, about Guerrero & otherwise; but I also believe these guys are professional enough to work through that stuff, and know that what they have is too special to get derailed by insignificant crap.
Maybe Kraft really did force Belichick’s hand in moving Jimmy G, or maybe as suggested elsewhere, he held onto his backup for as long as humanly possible to make sure his #1 was good (it had to be one or the other, there was no way they could have kept both QBs and been competitive in 2018).
Remember Brady was in the midst of an MVP winning season when Jimmy G got traded. Sure, Belichick gambled away what was possibly another great franchise quarterback & opted to hang onto the most accomplished QB in the super bowl era to see what more they could do together… that doesn’t sound like the easiest of decisions. I’m glad I didn’t have to make it, and in the short term, it would appear he made the right one.
I believe Seth Wickersham does have sources inside Gillette Stadium… I’m not saying Josh McDaniels is one of them, but what I am saying, is that many people, including me, think Josh McDaniels is one of them.
Looking back almost 18 months later, it would appear the events Wickersham wrote about, if they even really happened, weren’t nearly as significant as they were made out to be.
His tales of dysfunction and those from the writers who trampolined off his work for months* were at best grossly overexaggerated. The Patriots went on to appear in the next two Super Bowls, adding an amazing 6th title to their trophy case and are still the class of the league.
Does that sound dysfunctional to you?
The icing on the cake for Patriots fans, is the recent implosion of two other powerhouse franchises in the NFL. Both the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs in 2018 and have had potential franchise derailing drama behind the scenes this offseason.
What’s most humorous about the situations those teams are in as compared to New England’s: There’s no shortage of former teammates ready to bad mouth Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger ON THE RECORD. Considering Wickersham can’t get anyone to go on the record about the Pats, it’s probably fair to question the validity and / or motivation of his sources. (it’s also not the first time he’s had to rely exclusively on anonymous sources when writing about New England… weird, right?)
Tension was indeed tearing apart not one, but two premier teams in the NFL last 18 months. Neither one was the team Seth Wickersham spent two whole months in 2017 researching and portraying as such in his article.
I would say it was time well spent, Seth, but it wasn’t… you blew it.
*Seeing Tom Curran go all in on this story as passionately and forcefully as he did last year was… something… and that’s all I have to say about that.
For the last 18 years, the city of Boston has had on average, one championship parade every 18 months between the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics & Bruins.
Now, thanks to the Bruins’ recent sweep of the Hurricanes, we have seen on average, one championship appearance per year in the same amount of time:
9 for the Pats, 4 for the Sox, 3 for the Bruins and 2 for the Celtics.
12 titles and 18 championship appearances in 18 years is nothing short of absurd, not to mention there have been 28 appearances in the respective conference / league championships which works out to about one every 8 months. (It’s actually a little MORE frequent if you can believe it, the math works out to less than 7 months & 3 weeks, but the larger point stands: we’re spoiled AF)
This level of contention is ridiculous and it will not last forever.
If you’re a Boston sports fan, you would be wise to take stock of and appreciate this moment for what it is. (Hardcore Celtics fans get a pass right now… tough year, guys)
If you spend your time letting the local sports talk tell you how dumb you are for enjoying this, you are doing yourself a tremendous injustice. No other fan base has experienced what we have over the last 18 years, so why let such intentionally toxic & blatantly condescending assholes like Fegler, Postman Callahan or any of the other circus clowns tell you what your opinions should be?
Look, if listening to b, c and d list personalities undermine this success makes you feel good, go for yours. There are all sorts of weird fetishes out there, so who cares if people like being spoken down to & made to feel stupid, right? If golden showers are your thing, have at it.
Personally, I don’t hate myself enough to tune in. We have it too damn good to let awful people gaslight us into thinking this isn’t good enough or we should have it better. Objective criticism is fine, but 98.5, WEEI, NBCSNBoston (or whatever they call themselves nowadays) aren’t bringing objective criticism to the table. What they are bringing is endless negativity choking the enjoyment out of something that’s supposed to be entertaining, and yes, enjoyable (at least when they win at the rate we’ve seen).
Sorree, it’s just not my thing.
We are fortunate fans here. The owners of all 4 teams are motivated to win titles and, as Cam Neely said when the Bs raised the banner in the fall of 2011, give their teams the “resources” to pursue those titles.
With this in mind, it’s reasonable to think there are more successes to be had with these teams, but don’t let the desire for that next title, or the lament for the titles they haven’t won overshadow the unprecedented success we’ve witnessed here since 2001.
While it still could get better for us (LFG, Bruins), I’m hard pressed to see how any other city will have as good a 20 year run involving all 4 of their teams as Boston is still in the midst of. Never say never, but I would be shocked to see this replicated.
Sports fans from other cities hate us, and rightfully so. Some will go their entire lives without seeing a fraction of the success we have and in such a short amount of time to boot. Truth be told, there are times when the hot takers & their fans have me hating Boston too, but like Mittens Volin said about Bill Belichick, “You can’t let [them] win.”
A couple of years ago, the baseball old timers were waxing nostalgic for the Impossible Dream Team of 1967 – a Red Sox team that unexpectedly had a great run to the World Series… that they lost. It was the greatest thing to happen to the Red Sox in decades.
Think about that: One World Series APPEARANCE stands out as the signature moment in several decades worth of baseball in this town.
If that doesn’t put these last 18 years in perspective for you, I don’t know that anything will.
If I’m lucky enough to live into my 70’s or 80’s, I have little doubt that when discussing sports at that age, these will be the good old days that I pine for. I don’t know how common it is to recognize something like this while it’s still going on, but I think that if I didn’t appreciate this moment while I was in it, 80 year old me would look back at 2019 me, and shake my head at how stupid I was for not realizing what was going on around me at the time.
Turn off your radios, people… what we have going on here is damn special and once it’s gone it will be gone forever.
I had a couple of thoughts this week that I wanted to share, and I decided to call it the Friday Night News Dump. Granted it’s an op-ed and not exactly breaking news, but like with everything else having to do with the Boston sports media, it stinks. So the rest of the headline applies.
The recent eulogies on Twitter from various media ‘personalities’ for disgraced libelist* Jon Tomasi were surprising to see earlier this week, and left me wondering how the Mark Twain of Boston sports had come to his *obviously* very unfortunate and untimely demise.
Lo and behold, I came to find out the fiction specialist hasn’t moved on from this earthly plane, he isn’t even sick… he is simply moving on from WEEI.
So why the outpouring of support, love and respect from other supposed ‘journalists’?
Was he suddenly & ‘unceremoniously’ terminated like what’s-his-shits was from NBCSN? Was he stepping away from “journalism” to tend to a family health issue, or dedicate his life to a charitable or otherwise noble endeavor?
Nope, not even close… as first reported by @ironhead334, (suck it, Chad Finn) it was Tomasee’s choice. He wants out of WEEI. https://bjbsjournal.com/2019/03/21/tomase-to-leave-weei/
This career move should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, because all rats know when to flee a sinking ship, but that’s a story for a different day.
So why the big stink over someone who wanted to leave one place of employment for another, and got exactly what he wanted?
All this vomit inducing praise for a guy with his track record got me thinking about reputations and legacies, or, more specifically his & Belichick’s reputations and legacies when it comes to the infamous retracted story of NE taping the Rams’ SB XXXVI walkthrough.
The media are quick to tell you these allegations, whether true or not, cast a shadow over Belichick’s legacy, but why don’t they cast a shadow over the guy who made the mess to begin with? They should after all, it was Tehmasi’s error and poor judgment alone that led to him dumping a gasoline can of lies onto a structure fire that had been more or less knocked down by that point.
The local writers can wax nostalgic all day long about the infinite joy & insight that Timohsea’s ‘unique style of writing’ has brought them over the years, but there’s no glossing over his misdeeds. Tomasei, in his own words made a ‘devastating leap of logic’ and rushed his story to print as he didn’t want someone else to beat him to it. https://www.concordmonitor.com/Sports/Patriots-Blog/Tomase-confirms-reality-is-upside-down
Let’s not overlook that he also rushed to get this story out the day before the Patiots played the Giants in the biggest game the NFL had ever seen as they went for 19-0. The risk he took in running with that story was well worth it.
That he rushed a half assed and unconfirmed story timed to cause maximum damage and causing irreparable harm to people’s reputations, because HE wanted to be the man to do it shouldn’t sit well with anyone, but for some reason it only further endeared him to his peers… weird, right?
Now, I ain’t no experienced highfalutin finger wagging moral authority on these sorts of things, at least not like Chad or Peter King are. I’m relatively new to this game, but I am pretty sure that from a journalistic standpoint, what he did was incredibly reckless, unethical and irresponsible.
Tomasii ball washers will tell you “he apologized” (he really didn’t) or he “paid the price” but from where I’m standing, it doesn’t look like he came out of the ordeal any worse for the wear. If anything, his career benefited from this debacle.
His apology was as half assed & mealy mouthed as it gets, and professionally, he’s as valued now among his peers as anyone in the industry. This was clearly on display earlier this week when everyone was crying and moaning over someone going from one job to another… by choice.
Do people deserve a second chance? Absolutely, and if the guy had shown an ounce of genuine remorse and if he and his peers were more forthcoming in clarifying the facts of the situation, maybe fans might have moved on, but that’s not at all what happened.
Tomasey is as unrepentant as ever, still alleging in recent years that rampant cheating is the norm in Foxborough despite having no evidence to back this up, and despite not being welcome at Gillette Stadium. He’s not even allowed in the facility anymore, but he wants you to believe he has better sources then the guys that are ‘in the trenches’ day in & out.
That strains credulity to say the least, but the media just chuckles and wipes his ass for him anyway, because “JOURNALISM!”
There was no shortage of stories about the alleged walk through video leading up to Super Bowl LIII, and this is 11 years removed from the retracted story. (Pro Tip: if you use the word ‘alleged’ then there’s no need to issue an apology or retraction, and the stupid people reading your column or watching your show will believe the tape exists. Sports fans are dumb, right guys?)
Yesterday some genius pointed out to me on Twitter that “people believe NE taped the Rams’ walkthrough” (no shit, Sherlock, that’s the problem) and the media love this. They like having this story out there because it suits so many of their narratives. It’s good for their bottom line, so why would they refute it when that clearly wouldn’t serve their interest?
If they defended the truth half as passionately as they defend each other, maybe this story would have gone away, but they don’t, and that, as they say in the industry, is a bad look.
Long story short… if the bullshit story about the non-existent Rams walkthrough video is going to haunt Belichick’s career, then it should damn well haunt Jon Tahmahsey’s career. I for one will never forget what he did, not as long as it keeps getting brought up in regards to Belichick.
Remember all of this when Belichick retires, and they tell you: “whether you like it or not, that allegation is a part of Belichick’s legacy.”
Remember all of this when they refuse to hold responsible the guy who never should have run the story to begin with.
Remember all of this when they tell you “he apologized” or “he’s paid his price” because those are just more lies on top of the lies they tell you every freakin’ day. They genuinely hate and look down on their audience… don’t believe me? listen to 5 minutes of any show on either sports talk station – the contempt they have for their audience is palpable.
These journalists can protect each other all they want, but the facts speak for themselves, and the fact is, Jon Timacee is an unrepentant liar who at the end of the day isn’t even a decent writer. His work is the epitome of vanilla and like so many other untalented people in this market, he relies on antagonizing his audience to get a reaction.
If Tehmausie wasn’t a controversial personality (see Marck James), his peers wouldn’t give a shit about him, but the fans hate him, so he’s celebrated. He’s celebrated, because at the end of the day, this is what the Boston Sports Media is all about: “Fuck the fans.”
One more thought about Chad Finn, the supposed Boston Globe media columnist:
It’s sad that he’s getting scooped at this point in his career by amateurs who are only interested in breaking the balls of the local media. And by sad I mean hilarious, he deserves every second of it.
Chad will have you believe he’s a man of the people and cares about things like ethics, or decency, but then he’ll write a glowing puff piece about Michael Fegler.
It will start off innocent enough. “The hot takers are winning, you guys” he’ll tell you as he lures you in. He’s just like you, tired of the sensationalism, and wants to return to simpler times when all that mattered was the love of sports and simpler pleasures like collecting baseball cards.
What he WON’T do is call a spade a spade. Chad is too busy hand washing Fegler & the Wood’s SUVs out in Wellesley to give you an honest assessment of a man who celebrated Roy Halladay’s death just to get that precious reaction from the listening audience… nice look there Chad, but hey, at least you got a sweet shout out from the Wood.
Yikes. Happy birthday Fegler, indeed.
You’ve whitewashed Fegler’s toxic nonsense, you whitewashed Minihane’s firing from WEEI, and this week you whitewashed Tumasea’s checkered past.
Why? Because “Boston isn’t a city, it’s a family”, you guys.
*Credit again to @ironhead334 (#ootg)