I'm happy to say that I don't have any experience when it comes to divorce, messy or otherwise. Thorntons are like penguins in that we can't fly, we eat fish, people find us adorable and we mate for life. But I do have a relative on my devoted Irish Rose's side of the family who, after splitting up, taught his 3-year-old son to call his maternal grandmother "motherfucker" to her face in front of everyone. Yeah, he was one of nature's true noblemen. Anyway, my point is sometimes breakups are messy affairs, filled with nasty bitterness that lingers long after the papers are signed by the judge and filed by the clerk and you walk out of court to your cars and drive your separate ways for good.
But does it always have to be? Can't there ever be a mutual decision to part ways after a long time together because it's best for everyone? Where both sides just agree the relationship has grown stale, they've done everything they could together and made a lot of memories, and now it's time to see what else is out there? And the kids are OK with it because they want to see their parents happy again and they're getting two Christmases now?
Even if you hadn't read the headline, you'd have figured out by now that if I'm two paragraphs deep into a marriage metaphor, I could only be talking about one relationship: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. You'd like to think that after 20 years and six rings they could amicably split without the anonymously sourced articles blaming one side or the other. That Brady could just decide to get an eye job because he's "out there" again without it turning into a PR war played out on the internet. And while the two sides haven't been mofoing each other, we are definitely into the opening weeks of Ugly Rumors SZN. First there was the report from Gary Myers that Brady and Josh McDaniels were sick of each other's shit.
Whether that means Josh was always leaving his scrambled eggs pan in the sink to soak without ever actually cleaning it and Tom never replaced the toilet paper roll even when he used the last square or whether it was something much, much deeper, nobody is saying. All we got was a rare denial from Brady himself.
Now comes this report from Greg Bedard. After going through a history of all the great quarterbacks having personality clashes with their coaches as they came up the 18th fairway of their careers, he lobs a pretty bold accusation Brady's way.
Source (paywall) - This stuff that you’re hearing — he felt he was being phased out, Josh McDaniels was no longer his buffer, Brady lacked the same input — is what you get from an aging athlete, who has always been worried about being replaced, seeing ghosts. Brady was so deadset on being the one to orchestrate the final years of his career, that he was paranoid about Belichick beating him to the punch.
What you won’t hear from Team Brady is that Brady largely checked out in 2018 after the loss to Pittsburgh and hated how the offense pivoted to a more run-based attack. Brady probably hated the Rams Super Bowl gameplan as well and how it only produced 13 points.
Was Brady being phased out in ’18? Was the offense becoming less Tom-centric? Of course not. The Patriots were trying to win football games with what they had on hand. And it worked … so I guess we won’t hear any public complaints about that season.
Wait. So let me get this straight. Brady was grumpy because the way he perceived it, Belichick and McDaniels were transitioning to a more run-first offense. And the final straw was the loss to Pittsburgh in Week 15. The game where the Steelers actually gave a name to Joe Haden's interception. "The Pick," like it was name-worthy like "The Catch" or "The Buttfumble."
So it was at this point that Brady "checked out." Meaning what, exactly? Did he go AWOL? Start coming in late? Kept his air pods in and napped during meetings? Refused to talk to anyone and made it super awkward for everyone in the room? Raise his hand like the kids in my classes when I went to community college and ask, "Do we have to know this? Like, will it be on the test?" and then put his notebook away? What in holy hell does "checked out" mean?
Because to me it means the Patriots didn't lose a game the rest of the way. That "less Tom-centric" offense averaged 30.6 points over the final five games and outscored opponents 153-77. In the postseason, that "more run-based attack" threw the ball 44, 46 and 35 times. Brady passed for 343 yards against the Chargers in the Divisional playoff, 348 at Kansas City in the AFC championship game (with 180 in the 4th quarter and OT) and 262 against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, while using that gameplan he "probably hated."
So if that's "checked out," I hope the Patriots are busy right now coaching Jarrett Stidham into maximum checked-outedness because I'll take all of that we can get.
The bottom line is that these reports are all nonsense. Brady and Belichick had the most successful working relationship and player and coach have enjoyed in the history of the sport. Brady was burning out from the impossibly high demands of a coach who, by is own admission, is not easy to play for. He needed a new challenge in an easier, more relaxed environment. Belichick is confident he's got the right QB to take over. One who's 20 years younger and about $48 million or so cheaper over the next two years. There's no hard feelings. No buckets of bad blood. Which isn't going to make these stories go away. They're inevitable anytime there's a break up. But this is a triple-stacked nothingburger.