New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft officially made the decision to move on from Bill Belichick back in January — presenting it as a “mutual parting of ways” between two “amicable” parties.

Kraft and Belichick stood up on a dais at Gillette Stadium, much like the latter had after every home game for two-plus decades, looking surprisingly light in what was a pretty heavy moment for fans. Kraft compared the split to that of a good marriage that had run its course, and though he was emotional, he made no bones about giving his now-former head coach credit for the organization’s success. Belichick was somewhat jovial, cracking a joke to kick things off and describing the day as one of “gratitude and celebration.”

It seemed the split could actually be what the duo described it as: amicable. But if we’re using the benefit of hindsight, it wasn’t.

It’s actually been the opposite.

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Kraft and Belichick’s split was announced January 11, just day after the eight-time Super Bowl champion coached his last game with the Patriots. It took almost no time for the subtle digs against one another to start coming out. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated published a report that day, both containing inside information that seemingly came directly from Kraft’s camp. Seth Wickersham and Wright Thompson of ESPN published a story one day later, containing sources from both sides.

It’s not a stretch to say Belichick and Kraft each saw their reputations take a hit coming out of those stories, as they seemingly dodged blame for the unraveling of the “Patriot Way” and seen subtle shots be fired in the direction of each other through unnamed sources that seem to have a rooting interest. Kraft, specifically, has been butchered for how “The Dynasty” docuseries on Apple TV+ portrayed Belichick as a villain. Belichick’s former players rightfully came to his defense for the perceived unfair treatment. It’s been pretty ugly, but didn’t stop there.

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Wickersham, along with Don Van Natta Jr. and Jeremy Fowler, published another report Wednesday that seemingly made things worse. Kraft, according to the report, hindered Belichick’s candidacy for multiple head coaching gigs by sharing his displeasure with the “arrogant” coach. Belichick has done a better job of hiding his annoyance with the entire thing, but he just plays the game a bit better. You don’t read “sources close to Belichick” quite as often, but he’s got folks (remember those players we talked about?) defending him directly, and indirectly.

Wickersham’s original report alongside Thompson also deflected things away from Belichick, painting everyone from Jonathan Kraft to Jerod Mayo to Robyn Glaser as enemies.

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The truth in all of this?

Kraft and Belichick, the duo who helped construct the greatest dynasty in sports, are flawed human beings who have allowed their egos to become the driving factor in a messy split. In this story, there is no hero. Kraft and Belichick, no matter which side you’ve decided to pick, look equally petty.

Belichick said January 11, “I will always be a Patriot. I look forward to coming back here.”

He likely will be back, and when he is there’s hope Kraft will be standing outside Gillette Stadium ready to present him with a red jacket. It’ll be a great day to finally close this chapter of football history, but it won’t come without memories of an unnecessary mess they made following their inevitable split.

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Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images