Tom Brady fallout: Patriots need to halt the spin cycle

Tom Brady fallout: Patriots need to halt the spin cycle

Warm statements from Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft Tuesday don’t mask their sad effort to make it seem like Tom Brady’s an ex-Patriot because Tom Brady walked out on them.

It’s disingenuous, unfair, silly and a futile attempt to muddy the waters so that people can’t clearly see the very apparent truth. Brady isn’t here because he finally took the hint. He was only here until Belichick could come up with a better solution.

Until he did, Brady was going to be the outdated behemoth TV in the corner of the living room Belichick remodeled around. The kind of thing he’d look at and sigh, thinking, “We gotta get a new one…”

But instead of owning that practical approach — an approach we long ago got used to around here — the Patriots decided it was a good idea to make it seem like Brady was ghosting them.

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The effort actually started last week with the fleet of tweets from ESPN’s Field Yates articulating the Patriots (read: Belichick’s) side of things and stating in part:

“Brady & the Patriots discussed a new deal, including a multi-year extension. Brady’s preference was to not add any years to his deal.”

Anyone paying even passing attention to this process knows Brady’s “preference” every step of the way was an extension. To suggest otherwise is absurd.

Last August, when Brady’s extension failed — again — to materialize and he eventually wrestled a raise out of them, I was told by a source close to negotiations that the template for getting Brady extended was easy. A deal exactly like the Saints gave Drew Brees: two years, $50M.

Tuesday, in Chris Gasper’s column wrecking Belichick for the way this played out, there was a tidbit embedded that the Patriots had offered Brady … two years and $50M.

Hmmm. Something tells me the fine print on the Patriots’ two-and-50 was a lot different than that of New Orleans.

But now that Brady is in the past, it was safe for someone with the team to fling that to Gasper context-free. Just to win the day.

Would they do that? Hell, last August, the team filtered out news that they’d agreed on an “extension” with Brady when it wasn’t an extension at all, but rather a raise. And it took Brady making it clear he was ready to walk to get that raise.

Tuesday, in a round of interviews with reporters, Kraft did a great job getting the message out how important Brady was to him, how much he loved him and how sad it was that the two were parting.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t leave it at that. He had to spin it. He had to make it seem like he and Belichick were both crying, screaming, pleading, clutching at the quarterback’s coat as he headed for the front door with his suitcase.

“If Tom Brady wanted to stay, we would’ve worked it out,” Kraft told Stephen A. Smith. “But Tom Brady wanted to leave.”

Come on.

Try this: “If Tom Brady wanted to stay for another year, be paid half what Kirk Cousins makes to be part of an offense that was fun-free and punchless in 2019, get his ass to OTAs for a change and stop with the post-game sad-sack routine while we rebuild, we would’ve worked it out. But Tom Brady wanted to leave.”

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I hate to be cynical, but since the Super Bowl, Robert Kraft made it very clear that the decision to keep Tom Brady rested with Bill Belichick. Now that Brady’s gone and it’s just Bill and Robert? Clearly, it was Tom’s choice to go.

I asked Kraft point blank on Tuesday if the Patriots could have done more to negotiate with Brady.

“This wasn’t about that,” Kraft said, offering absolution to his head coach. “Tom was not going to be happy being in our system.”

That realization by Brady didn’t just crystallize Tuesday morning and send him to Instagram.

He wasn’t going to be happy in the Patriots system because the things he needed for that comfort — contractual commitment from the team, a few more skill-position players that weren’t plucked out of the remainder bin, an optimistic atmosphere — haven’t been there for a while.

And when the Patriots let the rest of the league sniff around Brady’s hindquarters without shooing them away, Brady had seen enough. He shared his decision to leave which — tellingly — was separate from his decision on where he’ll go. It was an “I’m not playing there anymore…” declaration.

Even though Brady was the one to make the announcement, everyone can still tell this was the Patriots’ decision.

And, as such, they are the ones with more to lose here.

As free agency opens, the team is in the midst of a semi-sell-off. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Duron Harmon and Danny Shelton are all out on the defensive side of the ball.

Brady, of course, is gone from the offense. The roster is getting younger. Money is being saved. If the team had drafted productively over the past few seasons, they’d have plenty of burgeoning young talent ready to fill in. But they haven’t.

Meanwhile, the coaching staff turnover and restock that began after the 2017 season is still ongoing. This is a rebuild.

There’s some time to pass between now and the start of the season, but how they’ll do better than 12-4 (2019’s record) with Jarrett Stidham in for Brady ... I don’t see it.

Meanwhile, Brady is going to a team that went 7-9 last year with a quarterback that was singlehandedly responsible for 38 turnovers (30 picks and eight fumbles). He’s joining an offense with talented skill position players and the trickle-down effect of him not giving the ball away is going to help the Tampa defense.

The Bucs lost seven games by seven points or less. Brady is the app for that.

And if he’s not? What if Tampa is Brady’s Waterloo? What if Bruce Arians’ downfield passing scheme and Brady’s short-game brilliance don’t mesh? What if the perceived slippage of Brady last year was not just everyone around him, but actually him? What then? Will it then have seemed a mistake that he left New England?

We can tell you now, the answer is no. The Patriots let him know it was time to go. No matter what you might hear.

Benjamin Watson: 'I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out'


Benjamin Watson: 'I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out'

The death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis has sparked protests throughout the United States as people have gathered to raise awareness and call for change in the fight against racial injustice.

Many athletes across different sports have been leaders in that movement, including a few right here in Boston.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to engage in peaceful protests last weekend. Celtics centers Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier, as well as guard Marcus Smart, participated in peaceful protests in Boston on Sunday.

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NBA players aren't alone, though. The 2020 NFL season isn't scheduled to start until September, but many of the league's players have not been shy about speaking out or taking part in peaceful protests in recent days.

NFL players also haven't been afraid to protest racial injustice before games, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem during the 2016 season. Several other players have done the same since Kaepernick.

Former Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson joined the latest episode of the "Patriots Talk Podcast" with Tom E. Curran to discuss a number of topics related to the events that have unfolded throughout the nation over the last week or so.

Does Watson think NFL players will be more willing to and unified in protesting when the season begins, and will the league, its fans and the owners be more receptive to understanding those protests if they happen?

"Yes, yes, and yes," Watson said. "I think we are on a continuum of awareness, we're on a continuum of involvement of many people in different phases and spheres of life who are getting on board with this. Some people may not even agree that it's an issue, but they say, 'You know what, everyone else is doing it and I don't want to be left out.' And so they get involved, maybe disingenuously, but then over time they realize the truth of the matter. And that's great as well, even if they get in on false pretenses. At some point if they realize it, then I think the goal has been accomplished. I do think there's a much more acceptance now of players speaking out about these things."

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Watson also thinks the Patriots have done well to allow their players to speak out and make an impact on important matters away from the football field.

"And I'll say this, I was talking to someone the other day with the team, and I was telling him just that the Patriots, I believe, have done a good job in allowing their players to get involved with issues outside of the game," Watson said. "They've provided a space. There was a bill about education that came up last year, here in Massachusetts. A number of players got on board, speaking about it and talking about it. They had support from Mr. Kraft. They had support from coach Belichick to go and do those things. Support from the PR department. Other teams aren't like that, so there are varying degrees of which the organization will support and understand.

"I think the biggest thing here in Boston that I've seen is the reaction, especially of fans, when players are kneeling -- everybody can get behind education, but when it comes to police brutality and racism and those sorts of things, it gets a little touchy. I do think that there will be more of an acceptance -- there will be more involvement from other players. We've seen an outcry from players, black, white, it didn't matter, when it came to George Floyd. I've had multiple players reach out, 'I don't understand these things, give me some resources so I can read about what's been going on that I'm just not privy to.' I think there's definitely going to be a greater awareness and a greater togetherness with at least in identifying the issue. ..."

You can check Watson's full conversation with Curran in the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Kraft family issues statement on George Floyd's death: 'We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed'


Kraft family issues statement on George Floyd's death: 'We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed'

The New England Patriots reacted Tuesday night to the death of George Floyd by releasing a statement from the Kraft family.

Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody last week, which has led to protests over racial injustice throughout the United States over the last several days. 

Here is the Kraft family statement in full:

"Over the last several days, we have tried to listen, learn and reflect. We have been at a loss for the appropriate words, perhaps because there are none to adequately describe the horrific incidents of the last few weeks. It is impossible for us to comprehend what happened to George Floyd or the pain his family must be feeling, a pain that resonates with so many others who have lost loved ones in similar brutalities that were not captured on video for the rest of the world to see. We cannot begin to understand the frustration and fear members of our black community have faced for generations. Recent events have shined a light on a topic that demands much more attention.

"Our country deeply needs healing. We don't have the answers, but we do know that we want to be a part of the change. As leaders in the New England community, we must speak up. Here is where our family, and our organization, stands:

"We are horrified by the acts of racism we've witnessed. We are heartbroken for the families who have lost loved ones, and we are devastated for our communities of color, who are sad, who are exhausted, who are suffering. We know that none of the sadness, exhaustion or suffering is new. We know it is systemic. Our eyes, ears and hearts are open.

"Our family has a long history of supporting vulnerable people in our communities and advocating for equality. But past efforts don't mean anything until we all stand on equal footing in America, so we must act in the present, and not simply rely on what we've done in the past. There remains much work to be done. We will not rest on statements, because words without actions are void. Rather, we will work harder than ever before – through our philanthropy, community engagement, advocacy and supporting the work of our players – to build bridges, to promote equality, to stand up for what's right and to value ALL people."