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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Reports insist Robert Kraft did not force Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick may not have wanted to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, but that does not mean the Patriots coach was forced by his boss to do so.

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham released a lengthy story early Friday morning that uncovers some of the alleged secrets behind a power struggle that has been brewing in New England. The sexiest nugget in the feature is the claim that Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave Belichick a “clear mandate” to trade Garoppolo two weeks before the Nov. 1 trade deadline. Wickersham was told Belichick was left “furious and demoralized” by the demand.

According to numerous reports, Wickersham either exaggerated or was misinformed about that particular exchange between Belichick and Kraft. Respected NFL reporters Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk were both told Kraft never tried to force Belichick to trade Garoppolo or gave the coach any indication there was a “mandate.” Patriots reporter Mark Daniels heard the same.

While you might be inclined to think their opinions are biased, local media outlets are reporting the same. Longtime Barstool Sports writer and radio personality Jerry Thornton said he was informed by “impeccable sources” that Kraft never forces Belichick to do anything he doesn’t want to do, and the Garoppolo situation was no different.

Some believe that Kraft told Belichick to trade Garoppolo because Brady wanted Garoppolo gone. It makes sense that Brady wouldn’t want the heir apparent breathing down his neck, especially with how intertwined the TB12 brand and the Patriots have become in recent years. Brady’s TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which is run by his personal trainer Alex Guerrero, is located just outside the team’s stadium in Foxboro.

It seems obvious that Belichick didn’t want to trade Garoppolo, but that doesn’t mean there was a “mandate.” Wickersham also reported that the Patriots tried to sign Garoppolo to a four-year bridge deal that would have paid him around $18 million annually. That’s a ton of money for a backup, but Garoppolo knew he could get far more from another team that was willing to pay him as a starter. Once he made it clear that he wouldn’t accept a contract extension, perhaps Belichick knew he had no other option.

There’s probably a lot of truth in Wickersham’s piece, and much of it states the obvious. Brady is a 40-year-old quarterback. Despite what he wants us to believe, he’s not going to be an MVP candidate in his late-40s. The end of the Brady-Belichick era is coming sooner rather than later, and the supposed issues Belichick is having with Brady’s trusted confidants may accelerate that. Does that mean the coach is going to abandon 18 years of sustained success when his team is still at or near the top of the NFL world? Doubtful, at best.

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