On May 19, 2015, when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced that the team would accept the disciplinary actions by the National Football League directed against the Patriots in the so-called “Deflategate” scandal, superstar quarterback Tom Brady was watching on TV at home, ESPN reported at the time. Brady’s reaction may have altered the future of the NFL’s most dominant franchise — and with it, the future of the league itself.
The incident is reported in a new book by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge with Matt Chatham, 12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption. When Kraft made the announcement at an NFL owners’ meeting in San Francisco, Brady quickly picked up the phone and called DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players Association, according to an excerpt from the new book published by The Athletic site.
“What the f***?” an enraged Brady shouted at Smith over the phone. “Why am I not getting the support I deserve on this thing?”
While Smith assured Brady that the NFLPA’s support for Brady would not be influenced by Kraft’s decision, what was influenced by the then-73-year-old Kraft’s unexpected and startling surrender was the owner’s relationship with Brady, a relationship that Kraft as been desperate to repair ever since, according to the book’s co-author, who spoke to Boston radio station WEEI this week.
“He was p****d off, obviously,” Sherman told the station. “Kraft has supported him. He couldn’t support him there, but the Kraft family has gone above and beyond over the past couple of years to rebuild that relationship. I think that was part of the reason why Jimmy Garoppolo was jettisoned last year. That was something Kraft felt like he had to do to continue to build that relationship with Brady.”
Garoppolo started the 2016 NFL season filling in for Brady, as the future hall-of-famer sat out his four-game “Deflategate” suspension. Garoppolo completed 42 passes in 59 attempts for four touchdowns and 496 yards before he was forced out with an injury midway through the team’s second game, according to Pro Football Reference.
When Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, it was apparently with an eye to the previously unheralded quarterback out of Eastern Illinois University replacing the aging Brady, who will turn 41 on August 3 of this year. After being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, Garoppolo led the previously 1-10 team on a five-game win streak to close out the 2017 season, as Pro Football Reference records.
“Bill, beyond thinking this kid was a special football player, thought he was a special person,” 49ers General Manager John Lynch recounted, after the trade, according to CBS Sports. “And he just said, ‘You’re gonna love the player, guys respond to him.’ I didn’t know what that meant. You think you know, but we saw that right away, even when he wasn’t playing.”
A controversial repot by ESPN last year claimed that Kraft pressured Belichick to trade Garoppolo in order to appease Brady. The Patriots denied the story at the time, according to Boston TV station WCVB, but the new reports in Sherman’s book would appear to lend credence to the ESPN version of events.