You’ve probably heard by now that ESPN.com has dropped another controversial investigative report in the address bar of New England Patriots fans’ web browsers. You’ve probably even reacted to the piece, which speculates that the end is nigh for the Patriots dynasty.
If you’re a Patriots fan, you probably don’t believe a word of it. You’re probably paraphrasing head coach Bill Belichick as he’s reacted to similar pieces in recent history. “Oh, is that another story with no sources? OK, then.” Belichick even dropped a “fake news” earlier this season. That will be a popular phrase in New England on Friday afternoon.
And if you’re not a Patriots fan, then you probably HATE the Patriots. So, you’ve chosen to believe every bit of speculation and sourcing in the piece.
Quarterback Tom Brady has grown tired of Belichick’s negativity. Or he hasn’t.
Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, literally locked Jimmy Garoppolo out of the TB12 Center while seeking injury treatment. Or they didn’t.
Owner Robert Kraft gave a “mandate” for Belichick to trade Garoppolo. Or he didn’t.
Brady “changed” after growing closer to Guerrero. Or he didn’t.
Guerrero tried to “split up” the organization after having his access limited. Or he didn’t.
And ultimately, Belichick will leave the Patriots after the 2017 season concludes. Or he won’t.
And here’s the thing with that final bit of speculation: We’ll know after the season, one way or the other, if it’s true or not.
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham first hinted at Belichick leaving when he wrote, “Those interviewed describe a palpable sense in the building that this might be the last year together for this group.”
Now, clearly, Kraft isn’t about to sell the team. So, he’s probably not going anywhere. And the Patriots just traded Garoppolo so it wouldn’t make sense for Brady to leave. So, the guy to depart would be Belichick.
Wickersham furthers that notion later in the article, when he writes, regarding the Garoppolo trade, “Belichick, having always subscribed to the philosophy that it’s time to go once an owner gets involved in football decisions, left the impression with some friends that the current dynamic was unsustainable.”
Wickersham acknowledged that “those around (Belichick) know nothing of his plans,” but later questioned, “Is it possible that Belichick would rather walk away than try to rebuild the staff with a 41-year-old Brady and another year of Guerrero drama — all while trying to develop a new quarterback?”
He finished off the article by writing, “It didn’t look like Belichick’s last regular-season game as the Patriots’ head coach, but several coaches and staffers later remarked to one another that it felt as if it could be.”
So, no one knows what Belichick will or won’t do after the season, but the article described a tumultuous relationship between Brady and Belichick and Kraft and Belichick that could make the head coach want to split.
Maybe that’s true. Would he retire? Would he really go to the New York Giants after they hired general manager Dave Gettleman?
If he’s on the way out, then would offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia be interviewing for other jobs? Who’s going to take over the Patriots as head coach? Rod Rust? Brian Belichick? Alex Guerrero? That guy who illustrates the TB Times?
But we’ll see. The Patriots are still over a week away from their divisional-round playoff matchup. If they advance, they’ll play the AFC Championship Game at home. And if they advance again, then they’ll be playing Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
So, we wait for the Patriots to lose or win it all. That’s when we’ll find out if Belichick really is leaving. Until then, I guess that possibility lingers in the frigid New England air and gives Patriots fans one more thing to worry about beyond shoveling snow and wondering on what finger Brady will decide to wear his sixth Super Bowl ring.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images