When Seth Wickersham of ESPN reported back in January that serious cracks had developed in the perennially successful relationship between Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, it seemed odd to think that something that had worked so well for 18 years would suddenly not be working.
But something’s missing all right, as evidenced by the fact that Brady isn’t working. With every other starting quarterback fully engaged in his team’s offseason program, Brady remains absent, possibly for a variety of reasons that include his low pay in relation to the dramatic increase in the market since he signed his most recent deal, the still-unexplained decision to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler for Super Bowl LII (possibly keeping Brady from a sixth ring despite throwing for 505 yards that day), and the reality that nearly two decades of dealing with Belichick may be much more than enough.
Despite having a reputation for being loose and funny when away from football, Belichick has always been all business when it comes to the game that he coaches. He keeps all players beyond arm’s length, because he knows that, throughout their careers, he’ll have to make detached, objective, emotionless decisions regarding whether to keep them around. For almost all of them, at some point the decision will be to move on.
From the moment Tom Brady became the starter, Brady has been dreading the moment that Belichick decides to do to Brady what Belichick did to Drew Bledsoe after Brady became an unlikely Super Bowl champion in early 2002. And Brady consistently has taken less than he could have gotten not just to ensure that more cash and cap space will be available for other players but to help ensure that Belichick will never decide in any given offseason that it makes sense to dump Brady’s contract for a younger and cheaper player.
After 18 years of it, Brady possibly has decided that he’s done tiptoeing around the guy whom Bill Parcells dubbed “Doom” because of his fatalistic demeanor.
Remember when Richard Sherman suggested that Pete Carroll’s routine had gotten stale and tired? Sherman had been dealing with Carroll, who is the anti-Doom, since 2011 — a full eleven years after Brady became introduced to Belichick and his methods. The fact that Brady possibly has decided after 18 years that he’s had enough doom and gloom is far less significant than the fact that it took him a full 18 years of coexisting with Belichick to get to this point.
Suddenly, Brady seems to be giving off the “life’s too short to waste on you” vibe toward Belichick. For now, Brady is manifesting those apparent feelings by staying away. But what happens when he shows up?
Will Brady be as deferential as he always has been? Will there be even more friction, especially if Belichick tries to needle him about not being present for OTAs?
Many think the intrigue will be over when Brady finally reports for mandatory minicamp and/or training camp. It could be that the fun will only be beginning.