ESPN’s Seth Wickersham dropped a bombshell of a story on Friday detailing the rising tensions between the New England Patriots’ three most important figures: Owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The title of the article is “For Kraft, Brady and Belichick, is this the beginning of the end?”
There are plenty of juicy details in Wickersham’s story, including what appears to be some real friction between Brady and Belichick largely stemming from Brady’s trainer and business partner, Alex Guerrero.
And as for Belichick’s relationship with Kraft, there’s this: Kraft insisted Belichick trade Jimmy Garoppolo, which was against Belichick’s wishes. From Wickersham:
“Belichick, having always subscribed to the philosophy that it's time to go once an owner gets involved in football decisions, left the impression with some friends that the current dynamic was unsustainable.”
While the Patriots put out a joint statement Friday morning, it didn’t do much to put out the fire created by Wickersham’s story. Is that fire great enough to cause Belichick to leave New England after the playoffs?
Would it be realistic for Belichick to be coaching the Bears, and not the Patriots, when the two teams meet in 2018?
A few points here. No. 1, Belichick would want full control of the roster, and the Bears just signed general manager Ryan Pace to a two-year contract extension.
“Control over the final 53 will fall on my shoulders,” Pace said on Monday.
Could the Bears conceivably move Pace into a different role without control of the roster, or even let him go at a great expense, to get Belichick? Sure, it’s a free country. But it would be a bad look around the league — even worse than “bad” — when it would come time for the Bears to hire their next coach/general manager in a few years, given Belichick is 65.
Also, if Belichick didn’t want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo for, potentially, a top-three pick in 2017 — which could’ve been used on Mitchell Trubisky — why would he want to hitch the twilight of his career to a quarterback he may not like? And why would a 65-year-old 49 wins away from being the second-winningest head coach in NFL history come to a team that's lost 10 or more games in each of the last four years?
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio believes the only way for Belichick to leave New England for another head coaching job would be via a trade, and the team that he could be the most interested in is the New York Giants -- who could offer the Patriots the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft for him.
And Belichick doesn’t have any direct connections to Chicago. The only even tangential one is through former assistant Al Groh, whose son, Mike, was the Bears’ wide receivers coach from 2013-2015. That’s not much.
There’s really not a precedent for Belichick to leave New England for another job, either. Curly Lambeau left the Green Bay Packers after 28 years for the Chicago Cardinals in 1950, but that was before Belichick was even born. Otherwise, among the most successful coaches in NFL history, there isn’t a lot of movement. History says Belichick probably would just retire having left an untouchable legacy in New England.
But even beyond all these reasons, just think about it for a second: What, exactly, would be a good reason for Belichick to come to the Bears?
And to pour some more cold water on this, NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom Curran believes Belichick will still be the Patriots' head coach next year.
The real impact on the Bears' coaching search
A nugget from Wickersham’s story:
“Those interviewed describe a lingering sadness around the team, as if coaches and staff know that the end might be near. Both (Josh) McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are expected to become head coaches; other assistant coaches might leave to join their staffs or for college jobs, or even retire.”
If that’s true, it means the 41-year-old McDaniels wouldn’t consider staying in New England and being the coach-in-waiting for when Belichick leaves. (Check out our coaching confidential profile of McDaniels here.)
And that’s good news for the Bears, potentially, because McDaniels wouldn’t necessarily have the bargaining chip of “well, I’ll stay with the Patriots and wait for Belichick to retire.” That could’ve been a point McDaniels made in trying to gain more control of the 53-man roster from Pace (or, for example, Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard), but may not be a good one following Wickersham’s story.
The wrinkle to this is the Bears aren’t the only team interested in the Patriots' offensive coordinator. The Colts and New York Giants also requested to interview McDaniels this week, and those arguably could be better destinations for him.
Could the Bears have got Garoppolo?
Wickerham’s article included this line, which further confirms a suspicion from the spring: The Patriots were never particularly interested in trading Jimmy Garoppolo.
“He had passed on dealing him last spring, when Garoppolo was in high demand.”
Could the Bears have floated their No. 3 pick to deal for Garoppolo? Maybe not. If Belichick thought he had the franchise quarterback of the future waiting in the wings behind a wrong-side-of-40 Brady, he wasn’t going to trade him and start over with a rookie like Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes or DeShaun Watson. After all, Wickersham reported that Belichick was “furious and demoralized” with Kraft’s mandate that he trade Garoppolo and then draft a quarterback to groom in 2018.
And for what it’s worth, Garoppolo certainly has proved Belichick’s faith in him right with how well he played in San Francisco last month — starting with that 15-14 win over the Bears.