Sunday’s AFC Championship will provide an interesting coaching battle — and one that Bill Belichick inadvertently had a hand in setting up.
According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, Belichick gave Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone a “glowing recommendation” during the team’s coaching search, which apparently had a hand in landing him the job.
Interesting nugget I picked up: Patriots coach Bill Belichick was consulted during Jaguars’ search last year, and gave Doug Marrone a glowing recommendation. Went a long way with Jax. A year later, he’ll face him for the AFC title.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 17, 2018
Marrone’s hiring last season came as something of a surprise to outsiders, but it’s less surprising now after hearing about this. Now they’ll meet for a spot in the Super Bowl, so it’s safe to say Belichick was onto something.
Bill Belichick and Eric Decker had a missed connection on their postgame handshake attempt Saturday night.
After the New England Patriots’ 35-14 win over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC divisional playoff game, Belichick and Decker exchanged pats. Belichick then went for the handshake, but Decker had already walked past him. Once Decker realized Belichick wanted to shake his hand, he tried to go back, but the window of opportunity had closed.
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) January 14, 2018
It was that sort of night for Belichick, who failed to catch his challenge flag when he tossed it:
Bill Belichick is the epitome of "going through the motions" pic.twitter.com/D0KTJ33cFj
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 14, 2018
At least this missed handshake isn’t as bad as what’s happened to Tom Brady in the past.
The big three of the New England Patriots are planning to try to work out their issues after the season.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said on NFL GameDay on Saturday that owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady plan to meet after the season to clear the air in a bid to relieve the tension between them.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 13, 2018
Rapoport noted that, while the reports of tension are real, there is little reason to believe that there will be any breakup of the Patriots. Brady plans to retire as a member of the organization, while Belichick himself has no plans to leave, as he has said publicly. The fact that there are talks planned is a clear indication that everyone involved wants to fix the issue and stay where they are.
The initial story has certainly caused an uproar, but the Patriots are pushing aside the distraction. It sounds like the report is factual, but it doesn’t mean the end of the Patriots as we know it.
Tom Brady may amaze people when he looks like the same player at age 40 that he did 10 years ago, but the New England Patriots quarterback has changed plenty over the years. The 30-year-old Brady would never have allowed a filmmaker access into his private life during the offseason, let alone when he is trying to add a sixth Super Bowl to his Hall of Fame career.
Mark Leibovich of the New York Times learned this week that Brady has been filming a five-part documentary with filmmaker Gotham Chopra that will begin airing later this month on Facebook Watch, Facebook’s mobile video platform. In the series, entitled “Tom vs. Time,” Brady allows Chopra into his Massachusetts home, on family trips to Costa Rica, on a summer trek to China with his son Jack and even on a trip to Montana that No. 12 took with Patriots wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. Brady also allowed camera crews to join him on his commute to and from Gillette Stadium.
But for those of you who want to believe that some sort of rift has developed between Brady and Bill Belichick, the documentary series may not convince you otherwise. As Leibovich notes, Brady is rarely shown anywhere in the Patriots’ facilities, and he is shown working with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels several times — not Belichick. Here’s more:
It is unclear if Brady has even told his coach about the project. The Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the team was nominally aware that a Brady documentary was in the works, and tried to be helpful in providing credentials on the few occasions Chopra sought access to home games. Beyond that, the answer of how much Brady’s bosses were informed about “Tom vs. Time” remains shrouded in some Patriot-esque mystery.
This takes on some added resonance in light of an ESPN report last week describing deep tensions between Brady and Belichick, the twin pillars of the N.F.L.’s 21st Century dynasty. No doubt “Tom vs. Time” could provide more grist for the distraction mill that N.F.L. teams avoid so strenuously, nowhere more so than Bunker Bill, this famously locked-down football enclave between Boston and Providence.
In addition, Belichick is almost completely absent in the series. His offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniel, rather, is portrayed as Brady’s ever-present coaching foil, making cameos via speakerphone (or video chat) as Brady pores through game film and brainstorms ideas for new plays for upcoming games.
What could that mean? Probably nothing at all. Belichick hates anything that could be viewed as a distraction, and it seems unlikely that he would want to take part in a documentary during the season. Although, the same could once be said of Brady.
Brady explained to the New York Times why he agreed to take part in the series.
“We thought it would be fun to record what an off-season of training looks like for a 40-year-old athlete,” he told Leibovich via text message.
Chopra initially thought he would just be filming during the offseason, but Brady agreed to let him stick around after the season began.
“Tom is not a sentimental guy, necessarily,” he said. “But I do think, as we talked, he was sort of discovering parts of himself. It’s like therapy. It’s the process of saying it and giving voice to it.”
On Tuesday, Brady addressed some of the claims made in ESPN’s recent article about an alleged power struggle in the Patriots organization. He insisted his relationship with Belichick is as strong as ever. Whether Belichick’s absence from Brady’s new documentary contradicts that is open for interpretation.
If Bill Belichick did decide he wanted to leave the New England Patriots after his 18th season with the franchise, the level of interest in the five-time Super Bowl champion would be unprecedented. But what price would teams be willing to pay?
Reports have indicated that Belichick is still under contract with the Patriots for several more years. That means any team that wanted to hire him would have to compensate New England with draft picks. How many draft picks? One NFL executive told Gary Meyers of the New York Daily News that Patriots owner Robert Kraft would not take anything less than three first-rounders.
“You think Robert Kraft became a millionaire and runs the best organization in the league and he’s just going to lay down and say, ‘We’re going to let you have him?’” the executive asked. “Three No. 1 draft picks.”
That price seems steep even for Belichick, especially since the future Hall of Famer is 65. Meyers reported last week that Belichick sees an opening to coach the New York Giants — a team with which he has a lot of history — and wants to do that before he retires. And with the G-Men in search of a new coach after a three-win season, Meyers’ source insists “age doesn’t matter.”
The biggest compensation package for a head coach came in 2002, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent the Oakland Raiders two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million for Jon Gruden. When Belichick infamously bailed on the Jets after 24 hours in 2000, the Patriots gave New York a first-round pick. And in 1997, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue served as an arbitrator when the Jets balked at the Patriots’ asking price of the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft for Bill Parcells. The package ended up being third- and fourth-round picks in 1997, a second-round pick in 1998 and a first-round pick in 1999.
As you can see, trading three first-round picks for a head coach seems excessive. But this could be the greatest coach in history we are talking about, so Kraft wouldn’t make a franchise-altering move like that without being paid handsomely — even if Belichick ends up wanting out.
For what it’s worth, Belichick tried to address the rumors about his future this week.
A lot of what was written in ESPN’s piece about the supposed power struggle within the New England Patriots organization had to do with the relationships between Bill Belichick and the people he works with. According to the head coach, all of those relationships remain strong.
Yes, that even goes for Alex Guerrero.
While speaking with WEEI’s “Dale, Holly & Keefe Show” Monday, Belichick said he has a “great” relationship with Tom Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. And while he wasn’t asked about where things stand with him and Brady’s personal trainer, he tried to put all the talk about a rift with Guerrero to rest, too.
Belichick @DaleHolleyWEEI: "I feel like I have a good relationship with Alex [Guerrero], too."
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) January 8, 2018
More Belichick via @DaleHolleyWEEI on Alex Guerrero: "I think we're talking about a lot of inaccuracies [in the ESPN story]. I respect Alex and I think I have a good professional relationship with him."
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) January 8, 2018
In his lengthy story, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham also reported that Belichick has become good friends with Roger Goodell and met with the commissioner recently. Belichick said there is no truth to that and that he has not seen Goodell since they crossed paths in November.
Belichick via @DaleHolleyWEEI on report he met Roger Goodell last week: "That is absolutely not true." Says last time he saw Goodell was in Mexico City.
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) January 8, 2018
Belichick has already refuted many of the things Wickersham reported, including the claim that makes Patriots fans more nervous than any other. It’s hard to imagine there are no issues at all between him and Guerrero given all we know about the situation, but it’s certainly possible reports about the rift have been exaggerated.
One of the reasons Bill Belichick has been the most successful coach in NFL history is that he is able to focus on the present and never the future, but the leader of the New England Patriots made an exception on Monday.
During his scheduled press conference, Belichick was asked if he plans to be back with the Patriots in 2018. While he would typically give some sort of cookie-cutter answer like “we’re just focusing on today,” Belichick broke character for a moment to address his future with the team.
Belichick on whether he has any interest in the Giants job: "Right now my interest is trying tod o the best I can for our football team to get ready for Saturday night against Tennessee."
Plan to be back with the Patriots next season?
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) January 8, 2018
One of the biggest takeaways from ESPN’s bombshell story about the Patriots’ alleged power struggle was Seth Wickersham reporting that people within the organization believe this could be Belichick’s last season in New England. Reports have already indicated that there is no way the 65-year-old leaves, and Belichick has confirmed that.
Belichick worked as an assistant coach with the New York Giants from 1979-1990, and Gary Meyers of the New York Daily News reported last week that the five-time Super Bowl champion wants to coach his former team. For what it’s worth, even Wickersham already seems to be backtracking from his report that Belichick could leave the Patriots after the postseason this year.