Curran: Regarding Trump, should Brady take a page from Obama's playbook?

Curran: Regarding Trump, should Brady take a page from Obama's playbook?

HOUSTON -- In March 2008, Barack Obama was in a tough spot.

ABC News uncovered scores of speeches in which Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where Obama was a parishioner, had used incendiary, divisive rhetoric in his sermons. Saying the “chickens had come to roost” with the attacks of 9/11, railing against government conspiracies to infect blacks with HIV as a means of genocide, it ran pretty deep.

Obama, the then-presidential candidate, was pressed to disavow Wright, the man who officiated at his wedding. Or at least provide an explanation.

This was the would-be leader of the free world. For Obama, giving context to the relationship wasn’t just a prudent move. It was mandatory.


And Obama did on March 18, 2008 in his “A More Perfect Union” speech.

Wright’s remarks were the catalyst for the speech, but Obama’s words that day went past putting some distance between himself and the pastor’s rhetoric. Obama struck a chord that most of us can appreciate and relate to. Sometimes people we have long-standing relationships with say or do really stupid and embarrassing things . . .

“On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation, and that rightly offend white and black alike.

"I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy and, in some cases, pain. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

"But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's efforts to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

"As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems -- two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health-care crisis and potentially devastating climate change -- problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

"Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television sets and YouTube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.

"But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another, to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a United States Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over 30 years has led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth -- by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.”

Very presidential. Beautifully delivered. Wright, for the record, kept on ratcheting up the rhetoric to the point where Obama did wind up leaving Wright’s flock. (Here’s an interesting essay on that speech and Barack Obama now, nearly nine years later.)

Which brings us to Tom Brady and Donald Trump and the reality that Brady’s friendship with the President of the United States puts him in the media crosshairs this week as the Patriots prepare for Super Bowl LI in Houston.

The Obama-Wright and Trump-Brady relationships are similar in that pressure is being applied for a disavowal/explanation/repudiation/embrace.

But in Obama’s case, something had to be said so that people could better judge his fitness to be president. In Brady’s case, the disavowal/explanation/repudiation/embrace is necessary for . . . well . . . for what, I’m not sure. So that people can be sure he’s fit to play quarterback? So that they can feel okay wearing Under Armour gear? So that they’ll be able to solicit parental handholding in “How to talk to your kids about Tom Brady and Donald Trump”?

Brady, actually, ably fulfilled his role in this. His most ardent response uttered last week on Kirk and Callahan both underscored his grasp on the fact that he’s just the f****** quarterback of a football team -- despite the mythology we adorn him with -- and that his oratory skills don’t compare with Obama’s yet.  

“Why does that make such a big deal?” Brady asked. “I don’t understand that . . . I don’t wanna get into it, but, just -- if you know someone, it doesn’t mean that you agree with everything that they say or do. Right? There’s things I don’t believe [in], absolutely. I don’t believe in, you know, there’s a lot of things. Not to denounce anything, it’s just that there’s different things that I feel like, you know . . . I don’t agree with everything. That’s fine, right?”

Donald Trump isn’t Brady’s pastor. He didn’t officiate Brady’s wedding to Giselle Bundchen. Near as I can tell, Brady’s relationship with Trump has been a friendship of convenience. Brady got good at football and Trump glommed onto him, asking him to judge beauty contests and play golf with him. Maybe I’m naïve, but I can’t imagine the two men have discussed much policy over the years.

Donald’s in the locker room. Donald’s in Robert Kraft’s box. Donald’s affixing himself to the Patriots like a remora on a Great White Shark. His presence was like Bon Jovi being around, with the difference being Bon Jovi seems to know some football.

And when Trump came at Brady with lips outstretched in that smallmouth bass fashion, grasped Brady’s hand and cupped his elbow and said, “You could really do me a tremendous, tremendous favor if you would put one of my red hats in your locker. Tremendous favor.”, Brady said what the hell. It was 2015, and everyone was still knee-slapping at the prospect of President Trump.  

By the time things got real with Trump’s candidacy, Brady had his own issues to deal with. So when the media began trying to get clarification on Brady’s true feelings about Trump, he wasn’t having it. Brady found out a lot about friendship and loyalty between January 2014 and September 2016 and he wasn’t going to shiv Trump or celebrate him for the satisfaction of the media and a couple of days in the news cycle.

I don’t know how political Brady is. The only comment he ever offered me on it was “What the f*** do I know about politics?” He did show up at one of George W. Bush’s State of the Union speeches. And he took a pass on visiting the White House in early 2015 when Obama was in office. Coincidentally or not, Obama’s press secretary belittled Brady’s first press conference after Deflategate.

Brady’s resistance to putting distance between himself and Trump makes media that loathes Trump more shrill as the days pass. And the conversation has now metastasized from, “What’s Tom Brady’s relationship to Donald Trump?” to “Why Does Tom Brady Hate America?” Everything's at the point of a bayonet. Conform or face scorn. Remember, this is America.

Brady could, of course, ask the President of the United States to STFU for a while and keep his name out his mouth. Trump’s tepid invocation of Brady’s name the night before his inauguration gave me the suspicion Brady might have done that -- in softer tones -- but Trump couldn’t resist saying from a podium to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good.”

The questions will be coming this week and it will be interesting to see if Brady continues to duck and move when it comes to Trump.

Or maybe he addresses it head-on. If only Brady could find a great orator with time on his hands to help him put his thoughts into words. You know of anyone?


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?