Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are saying all the right things ahead of the New England Patriots' highly-anticipated matchup with Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. But there's quite the history between the two.
ESPN's Seth Wickersham would know. Wickersham's upcoming book, "It's Better To Be Feared," details some serious behind-the-scenes drama involving Brady, Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft that ultimately led to Brady leaving the Patriots in March 2020 after two decades in New England.
ESPN released several eye-opening excerpts from Wickersham's book Wednesday, including revelations about the tension between Brady, Belichick and Kraft, discussions about Bill O'Brien returning to replace Bill Belichick as head coach and why the Patriots benched Malcolm Butler during Super Bowl LII.
Wickersham joined NBC Sports Boston on Wednesday to shed more light on his reporting. First, Wickersham addressed how Brady felt about Belichick publicly mentioning Brady's age and contract status in 2014 after New England drafted Jimmy Garoppolo.
"He was always curious about what Bill Belichick would say about him publicly. ... and that was a very blunt comment," Wickersham said. "There's no question that all of that stuff that happened during (the 2017) season -- for the first time Tom kind of becoming his own brand and not apologizing for it, and Bill holding onto Jimmy G. until the last second -- there's all these aspects, and you saw what happened that offseason."
The Patriots didn't trade Garoppolo until October 2017, and after the Patriots lost Super Bowl LII, Brady skipped organized team activities during the 2018 offseason -- in part due to his growing rift with Belichick, Wickersham noted.
"Tom at one point said, 'Bill is so negative. I don't want to play for Bill anymore,' " Wickersham said.
Wickersham added that Brady had a meeting with Kraft about the possibility of bringing back then-Houston Texans head coach (and former Patriots quarterbacks coach) Bill O'Brien to replace Belichick as head coach.
"Brady kind of got excited about this idea of Bill O'Brien returning," Wickersham said. "Because Bill O'Brien seemed open to one day maybe succeeding Bill if he retired. Remember, the Krafts didn't know if Bill really wanted to be around at various points in that season.
"Billy O would be more open to working with Brady and kind of giving him that role that he has in Tampa. It was a completely fanciful plan, but Billy O eventually found out about it."
While that plan may have been a pipe dream, it's amazing to think the potential of O'Brien replacing Belichick as head coach was even discussed.
Wickersham also got into more detail about the Patriots' controversial decision to not play Butler in Super Bowl LII.
"I think the coaches had felt like maybe he was becoming a little too big," Wickersham said. "There was a contract dispute earlier in the year, he didn't play great against the Falcons in the (previous) Super Bowl, and he was sick when he came to practice, he wasn't as checked in.
"When you're playing for a Bill Belichick team, a lot of things can be forgiven, but not being locked in before a Super Bowl is probably as much of an unforgiveable sin as you can have."
Check out Wickersham's full appearance on NBC Sports Boston in the video below.