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Patriots Blog

Bombshell ESPN report declares Brady, 'Deadly as ever'



Wednesday, November 12, 2008
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — According to a bombshell investigative report from ESPN The Magazine, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is “as deadly as ever with the game on the line.” The report went on to describe him as an “MVP candidate.”
 
Lending credence to the report that first appeared Friday on ESPN.com, Brady was overwhelmingly voted First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press later that same day. Behind Brady, the Patriots finished the regular season tied for the NFL’s best record (13-3) with the quarterback posting a 102.8 passer rating, the fifth-best mark of his storied career.
 
In the course of investigating Brady’s greatness, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham produced the lengthy, Pulitzer-caliber report that was scrupulously crafted with extensive detail and admirable transparency in its sourcing, acknowledging many times that it does in fact have sources. The story fills in many blanks fans were wondering about from the 2017 season.
 
For example, it finally explains the reason Brady yelled at Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels during a Dec. 3 game at Buffalo, a development that left Patriots fans puzzled as they had never seen the aggressively competitive quarterback get angry after making a mistake before. According to Wickersham’s exhaustive reporting, the incident was a result of Brady’s frustration over the existence of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a player who had been traded to San Francisco more than month prior to Brady’s failure to convert on a third down against Buffalo. Or, perhaps it was because Brady was mad that head coach Bill Belichick, (not McDaniels), had denied sideline access to Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero several months prior to that play. You know, something like that. Wickersham leaves the exact cause and effect part for the reader to conclude, which is a hallmark of exemplary journalism.
                                                 
What’s important, Wickersham concluded without attributing his conclusion to any specific source, is that Brady definitely wasn’t just mad at himself for missing an open receiver on third down. He did not specifically rule out the treatment of Dennis Eckersley as a factor in Brady’s frustration.
 
The report’s original headline also concluded is that the Patriots are on the brink of something. Possibly on the brink of a record-tying sixth Super Bowl victory, but just as, if not more, likely the brink of no longer existing. The franchise is entering its 58th year, which is old for a football franchise, and some of Wickersham’s sources suggest it is losing a step as it enters the playoffs with the AFC’s top seed.
 
Even if the franchise does continue into the 2018 season, Wickersham seems to think that Belichick may be looking to “walk away” from Foxborough before then. According to Wickersham, “those around Belichick” have no idea whether the coach will leave, and therefore could totally leave. After all, his top two assistant coaches are interviewing for head coaching jobs, and that “imminent exodus” may lead Belichick to not want to coach the Patriots anymore. In retrospect, the Pats are probably lucky that Belichick chose to stay through last year’s imminent exodus when his top two assistants interviewed for head coaching jobs with other teams.
 
In the wake of the Wickersham report, at least one New York tabloid suggested that Belichick may use this opportunity to fulfill his boyhood dream of coaching the New York Football Giants. The theory is that if the Giants hire Josh McDaniels, that will inspire Belichick to leave the Patriots and take McDaniels’ job in New York. The danger for the Giants in that scenario would be if McDaniels returned to become head coach of the Patriots. Because if McDaniels were in New England, then Belichick would have no reason to leave. One thing that is clear about the Giants job is that it would be enticing to Belichick, because the Giants just hired Dave Gettleman to be their general manager. If there is one thing Belchick craves, it is less control over his team.
 
In a sign of modern-day touches on the Wickersham story, many other reporters have come forward to crowdsource their own edits, contributing new information from sources that Wickersham was apparently not able to speak with. For example, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King provided an update that says the Patriots never held a lengthy meeting to discuss Garoppolo’s status, as Wickersham originally reported. Mark Daniels from the Providence Journal added a source who said Garoppolo had a keycard to the TB12 training center, contradicting Wickersham’s report that said Garoppolo was locked out during a scheduled appointment. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald spoke with Don Yee, the mutual agent of Brady and Garoppolo, who apparently didn’t have time to correct inaccuracies he saw in the story. He simply said: “Don’t believe everything you read.”
 
One fact Wickersham did not need crowdsourcing to improve is that an aging Brady has “atypically … missed a lot of practices.” According to Patriots injury reports, Brady sat out five practices this season and was a limited participant in another five practices. Last year, when he played in only 12 games, Brady missed four practices, and was a limited participant six times. So there you have it, Brady missed one more practice this year than he did last year. Atypical. Though if you think about it, he also appeared in more practices this season than he did last season, because he wasn’t suspended for four games.
 
The NFL is complicated. Thankfully, we have Seth Wickersham to make sense of it all.
 
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown