What is it to face one’s own mortality?
Adversity is an inevitable part of life, and in the case of pro sports, a perpetual process. Across the National Football League, head coaching positions are being vacated and filled again. All in the interest of catching up to the benchmark for success set by the New England Patriots, a team colliding with too much of a good thing.
What heresy is this, you say? It’s the smoking gun, bombshell, turning point, all-rolled-into-one controversial piece written by ESPN’s senior reporter, Seth Wickersham. Wickersham released a blistering exposé chronicling the serious in-fighting between the franchise’s three biggest monoliths: Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. Then there’s the supporting cast, like Brady’s now infamous trainer, Alex Guerrero, but we will get to him later.
For now, forget ESPN and Wickersham. Forget the fact that ESPN spinelessly apologized for running what is probably their most intriguing piece in years, from a journalism standpoint. In The Patriots franchise is well-versed in headlines, for a variety of reasons, ranging from the salacious to the whimsical, but the crisis they’re facing right now is existential. The skills of a hero starting to see significant atrophy. And a franchise doing the wrong things as it pertains to securing long-term success in the future.
Indeed, what we have here is the unraveling of one of the most prolific empires in sports history. For nearly twenty years, the Pats have enjoyed success few other organizations can lay claim to, on any level. Maybe UConn women’s basketball. But that’s it. Brady would be after all the last to admit it, but he’s apprehensive. Apprehensive about the fact that his career will come to an end soon. Just because he thinks he can play into his mid-40s, doesn’t mean he can, will, or should. I’ve heard “The TB12 Method” is good, but it can’t be that good.
Guerrero is the man at Brady’s right hand, helping him to develop what is most assuredly a play to develop his brand, a way for Tom to enjoy continued success, well into retirement. How such alleged turmoil erupted from this relationship, is anyone’s guess.
Brady’s autonomy led to the trading of promising quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the San Francisco 49ers. Because of that move, the Pats have no heir-apparent to an old QB, who really has no reason not to retire, but is struggling with facing the back-third of his career.
Kraft and Belichick are at fault for not mitigating this conflict. The right thing to do, and the most painful thing to do, often find themselves aligning. While New England is likely to wind up with one more run to the Super Bowl, certainly a near lock to take down Marcus Mariotta’s Titans, instant gratification could morph into sustained misery.
No one relishes getting older, and everyone has a unique coping mechanism to get by. Sometimes it’s not much of a coping mechanism at all. This should not be so melodramatic. This is football, and football is a business where you should always be two moves ahead of the other guy to stay on top.
The front office should be feverishly considering future options and contingency plans when it comes to the quarterback position. It’s just the smart thing to do. Brian Hoyer is my boy, but he’s not heading to Canton anytime soon. He could take his family there just to hang out, but they won’t see his bust when they arrive.
However long it takes us to reach the offseason, it should be a time of serious self-reflection for a mighty, idolized franchise. The true measure of a person isn’t how well they stand, it’s how they get back up.