Just when it seemed like New England Patriots haters lost one of their key lifeboats, Bill Belichick indirectly provided the naysayers with new material.

The reported beef between Belichick and Tom Brady appeared to be all but dissipated, as the head coach and quarterback heaped praise on one another after the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game win. But when given the floor to continue the lovefest Monday night, Belichick opted against adulation.

When asked during Super Bowl LIII Opening Night about Aaron Donald’s spot in NFL history, Belichick made it clear he’d never put anybody above Lawrence Taylor, who the Patriots head man tabs as the “best player he’s ever coached,” per NBC Sports. As for Tom Brady, Belichick noted he’d put his longtime signal-caller up against anybody but elected not to get into the business of ranking.

So, was Belichick declining to stack Brady up against other all-time greats a shot at the Patriots QB? Stephen A. Smith sure thinks so, and he explained why during Wednesday’s edition of “First Take” on ESPN (segment begins at 1:42 mark):

Belichick comes from an old-school football background and made his name in the NFL with his above-average defensive mind. As such, it comes as no surprise he has a soft spot for Taylor, who might just be the best defensive player who’s ever lived. This probably shouldn’t be taken as a slight at Brady, and it’s hard to imagine the 41-year-old needs his head coach to pump his tires at this stage in the duo’s tenure together.

But in the culture of hot takes and spicy storylines, there’s no doubt Patriots decorators will run wild with this one.

Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports