By Michael James
The Tribe Sports
Watch closely now, dear New England Patriots fans. Something is amiss in Joyville, and it’s quite possible that the only person privy to this knowledge is the one and only Bill Belichick.
Whether you realize it or not, the fate of your franchise is not in the hands of its owner, Robert Kraft, no matter the name on the deed. It’s not in the hands of your 40-year-old quarterback, Tom Brady, who has orchestrated the vanquishing of all contenders to his throne.
One man only holds the key to a dynasty that could very well come crashing down as soon as the finish of the final game played this season by the New England Patriots, whether that is at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game or in Super Bowl LII.
See – and this is only a philosophical theory, based solely on one man’s opinion and observations – but the fact is, Bill Belichick, whether you believe it or not, feels that he has been maligned by the only two men capable of doing so. And while at the moment you read this, Brady and Kraft are under the impression that things will continue business as usual, wouldn’t it be something if New England’s evil genius decides to take his ball and go home?
As in immediately?
While professional NFL analysts twist and turn their theories into plausibilities that Belichick will remain several seasons more and go down only when the Good Ship Brady lays anchor for a final time, no one is considering that Belichick isn’t seething enough at being directed to trade his future – quarterback Jimmy Garappolo – to call it a day and leave the New England Patriots’ cupboard absolutely bare.
So why isn’t this possibility being considered? After all, wouldn’t this be just like Belichick to do what no one else sees coming?
I am in no position to say that this will absolutely happen. However, you Patriots fans are more familiar with Belichick than most after 18 years together. But, be honest: like most of the world, you don’t really know him at all.
Bill Belichick, at 65 years of age, has deliberately lived himself into a corner where his sole value lies in his Hall of Fame acumen as a football coach. Almost everyone who can be considered endeared to him is also indebted to the same.
Bill Belichick has made no effort to be loved, or liked, even, by anyone except those closest to him. He can best be described now as a man who truly seems to just want to be left alone.
The defining characteristic of his life has been to be in complete and absolute control. And whether you believe the blockbuster expose’ of trouble in paradise penned by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, the fact is that journalists don’t get to write such stories that are false and remain employed.
There was truth to Wickersham’s discovery of turmoil between Brady, Belichick and Kraft wherein a cardinal rule of Belichick’s tenure was broken – that no owner get involved in the decisions concerning how he runs his team.
Again, despite New England sports fans’ default setting to disbelieve anything negative spoken or written about their team, Wickersham’s piece isn’t much different from the shocking book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, written by Michael Wolff.
Wolff was allowed inside the White House, just like Wickersham was allowed to get close to many who matter in the Patriots’ organization. Though few, understandably, went on record – who, after all, is going to willingly throw their job away? – the story was the thing. And they definitely told Wickersham of the breach in the hull caused by Tom Brady’s distracting close relationship to his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero.
According to reports, the Guerrero situation and Brady’s desire to play on until his mid-40s resulted in Kraft forcing Belichick to jettison not only Brady’s heir-apparent – Garappolo – but also to send packing third string quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, both essentially for nothing.
Under contract, and under protest, Belichick ultimately played the good soldier and did the bidding of the Kraft-Brady alliance, but, make no mistake, he is not the kind of man that will accept such a betrayal lying down.
Since that time, what has Belichick done that you’ve never seen before? He not only took it upon himself to make sure that Garappolo landed in the hands of a friend in San Francisco, 49ers head coach, Kyle Shanahan, son of his friend, former NFL coach Mike Shanahan, but he also spearheaded the dismantling of his own staff to ensure assistants Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions) and Josh McDaniels (Indianapolis Colts) got head coaching jobs of their own.
Now, before you look back to 2005 and say, “Well, he did the same thing with assistants Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis,” you need to remember that Belichick wasn’t on the phone actively helping to ensure those two men found the perfect landing spots. He also wasn’t encouraging them to go.
Going into what could be the final game of the season for the New England Patriots, what Belichick has done, in actuality, is to leave the cupboard empty should he call it quits after the final gun – a move that would undoubtedly stun the football world and one that would never be forgotten.
Such a devastating power play would leave Kraft and Brady alone with no head coach, no true viable prospects, and all of next season to confirm that Belichick and his system alone were the true catalysts of the organization’s success over these halcyon seasons.
While, of course, it is true that this might not happen, even still, who holds all the cards right now? Not Kraft. Not Brady.
Only Bill Belichick.
Some pro football observers once believed that the New York Giants were the prime desired landing spot for Belichick. That possibility was shot down with the hiring of Pat Shurmur. Others believe that Kraft’s money will smooth things over, but what more is needed financially by a 65-year-old man (Belichick turns 66 on April 11) who has earned tens of millions from the organization even over the past few seasons?
To those pontificating over the few teams that might be willing to give Belichick the total control and power he craves, why are they not considering that he really has proven all he needs to prove and won’t simply hang it up? As in right now?
And who’s to say that Belichick won’t show up in his pro football birthplace of Detroit as a “consultant” to Patricia or play that role to McDaniels in Indianapolis?
Whatever is in the head of the recalcitrant, ornery, crotchety Belichick remains a secret – as do most things – to all but himself.
But make no mistake, in Game of Thrones parlance, Winter is Coming. Long, cold postseasons of Patriots football drought and famine, lay just over the horizon.
Hell Hath No Fury like a Scorned Belichick.
Watch The Hoodie closely these final games, dear New England Patriots fans.
Much sooner than you ever imagined, in an act of ultimate revenge, this could be the last of Bill Belichick you will ever see.
Michael James has spent more than 20 years in sports journalism as a general assignment reporter with the Detroit News, an NBA beat writer for the New York Daily News and as head writer for ESPN’s Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith.