The New England Patriots have ruled the NFL for close to two decades, but rumors indicate that the dynasty is starting to show major cracks and could come crashing down as Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and even owner Robert Kraft come into conflict behind the scenes.
Ever since Tom Brady took over as the team’s starter early in the 2001 season, the New England Patriots have enjoyed a stretch of success unparalleled in NFL history. The team has reached seven Super Bowls, winning five, and made the AFC Championship Game a total of 12 times including a current streak of seven in a row. Tom Brady has established himself as the best quarterback in league history and Belichick as best coach in league history, both a lock for the Hall of Fame.
But a new report from ESPN highlights major cracks in the Patriots behind the scenes, which could bring an abrupt end to their dynasty. As the report noted, tension had started to grow early in the season over the role of Brady’s business partner and fitness guru, Alex Guerrero. Though Guerrero pushed a number of controversial methods of strength and conditioning, he managed to exert his control in the Patriots training facility and many other players began seeking Guerrero’s advice rather than that of the team’s own staff.
“And so after several such incidents, Belichick explained to Brady in early September that many younger players felt pressured to train at TB12 rather than with the team, and asked the quarterback what was going on. Brady said he didn’t know anything about any such pressure, according to people briefed on the exchange, and the two men left the meeting without any resolution.”
The report noted that Bill Belichick believes privately that Tom Brady’s performance has started to decline as he reached age 40, with the Patriots coach leveling more criticism of Brady’s performances. Amid these fears of Brady’s future, Belichick pushed back against giving Brady a long-term extension and did not want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo.
Belichick was overruled by team owner Robert Kraft, sending the fourth-year quarterback to the San Francisco 49ers, where he ended the year on a five-game winning streak for a team that had started 0-9.
Others have noted a decline in Brady’s performance. As MassLive.com noted, Greg Cosell of NFL Films noted that Brady does not look like the Tom Brady of past.
“I think that Patriots offense, honestly, is not quite the same,” Cosell said on The Fantasy Guru. “I’m going to tell you what the film shows, and this is not a knock, but I’m just going to tell you what the film shows, OK? The timing of the Patriots’ pass game is not quite there yet with the precision that we’re used to seeing. Now, I don’t think it’s dramatic and I think it will improve, but I think one thing that has shown up this season is Brady has not been as ridiculously accurate with the same consistency that has defined his game throughout his career.”
The report has led to rumors that the Patriots team dominating the NFL since 2001 could be nearing a major transition. After the team’s season finale against the New York Jets, some assistant coaches shared a belief that it could be Belichick’s final regular-season game with the team. Belichick, famously tight-lipped about everything within the Patriots organization, has given no public indication that he could retire or look for work elsewhere. Brady remains focused on his future with the team as well, boasting that he wants to play into his mid-40s.