Misery, thy name is Bill Belichick.
Saddled with a 1-2 record, riddled with a roster springing leaks all over, and now, peppered by questions about the upcoming game against Tom Brady, the Patriots coach has landed in full exasperation mode.
It’s only Monday, and Belichick is already tired of a narrative that has six more days to gather steam. He pretends the exasperation is born of repetitiveness, but that is just a crutch, couched in an indefensible insistence that he doesn’t want to rehash an old issue. The truth is, he never actually hashed it in the first place.
Which is why it isn’t going away, not as NBC is running sappy “Sunday Night Football” promo ads set to music by Adele, not as talk radio across the nation is captivated by the can’t-look-away reunion, not as various Brady confidants spent last week taking shots at the way Belichick handled the departure of the future Hall of Famer, not as Belichick has to deal with the obvious reality that Brady’s post-Patriot life has been demonstrably better than his own post-Brady one.
These are the defending Super Bowl champs riding into Foxborough Sunday, and this is one of the NFL’s most prolific quarterbacks leading the way, the one Belichick let get away after the 2019 season.
While the long view someday will cast the two men as equal partners in the greatest dynasty in NFL history, the current one has them trading narratives about what, exactly, led to their divorce. Belichick the general manager is still trying to redirect the conversation away from the personnel decisions he made that left Brady feeling unfulfilled and underappreciated, putting the onus instead squarely on Brady. It is his usual modus operandi.
Asked during his weekly appearance on WEEI if he wanted to re-sign Brady after the 2019 season, Belichick said: “He looked at his options and made a decision. We weren’t as good an option as Tampa, so I mean you’d have to ask him about all of that, but it wasn’t a question of not wanting him. That’s for sure.”
As if Belichick, coach and GM of the Patriots, had no say in making his team an equally good or better option as Tampa Bay, no way of making the only franchise Brady had ever played for, the one team owner Robert Kraft repeatedly wished Brady would retire from, as attractive as the new team down South. Please. With no further explanation — something Belichick has no interest in providing — that simply doesn’t make sense.
Belichick’s assertion also contradicted the words of both Tom Brady Sr., who insisted on a recent episode of Tom Curran’s podcast that “Belichick wanted him out the door” and trainer Alex Guerrero, who told the Herald that the breakup of Belichick and his most famous client and friend was “a Bill thing” that came as a result of Belichick’s inability to “evolve with age.” As Guerrero put it, “I think Bill was still trying to treat him like that 20-year-old kid that he drafted.”
Belichick has never been much for verbal volleying in public, and you know that having to defend his decisions is a position he does not enjoy being in. Maybe that’s why he tries to make us believe he’s already done it, with lines like “Yeah, well, I think we’ve been through all the dynamics of that” (WEEI) or “I’m not going to go back and rehash all of that; we talked about all that” (Zoom call with reporters).
It would be so much easier just to acknowledge the obvious, that Belichick was ready to move on from Brady, ready to rebuild with a new quarterback, ready to reset the roster and finances in a way he felt would make that rebuild easier, ready to let a now-44-year-old quarterback take his arm and desire to play till 50 to another franchise. We may disagree with that assessment, but Belichick had the right to make it. He should just own it.
“Look, I have so much respect and appreciation for Tom and everything he did here, and for me and for our team,” he finally said, before shifting focus again. “We’re just getting ready to compete against Tampa this week and we’re going to keep our focus on that.”
He’s doing it all now with Mac Jones under center, with a new young pup to train and teach in the many ways of winning football. And regardless of any temporary drama around Brady’s return, the long view does indeed insist that Brady represents the best of Belichick’s legacy.
For all the words that will be said and written this week about their looming collision, the idea that Brady’s continued success should somehow be told as a nightmare for Belichick makes the least sense. Brady is Belichick’s greatest coaching achievement.
Though Belichick had success before Brady, winning Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator with the Giants, and Brady had success after Belichick, winning a championship with the Bucs last year, the two decades they spent together are what made them both. Brady might have the upper hand now, but when the dust settles on both of their careers, their pairing goes down in history. That it ended prematurely doesn’t change that it happened.
It just makes it hard for Belichick to explain.