We’re at the stage in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick divorce where Brady is parading around a new, smoking hot girlfriend in a convertible while Belichick is left explaining to neighbors, friends and the world that he’s alone by choice, doing just fine. By choice. By choice!
So when Belichick went on the radio the other day to explain things, well it was just Belichick being his usual, warm, Mr. Nice Guy self.
Why would we think anything different?
“It was an honest answer to an honest question,’’ he said. “No more, no less. I’m sure you can read a lot into it if you want to.’’
Read into? Not at all! Here’s what happened: Belichick was on Sirius XM NFL Radio on the show of his former assistant, Charlie Weis. Weis built a reputation as an offensive genius, and pretty much described himself that way to everyone as he flashed his Super Bowl ring. Then, when he left the Patriots to become Notre Dame’s coach and didn’t have Brady quarterbacking for him anymore, suddenly Weis got dumb. He flopped.
Anyway, Weis casually mentioned to Belichick that it seemed as if Belichick was using a bunch of young, inexperienced players this year. He wondered why. Belichick explained that it had to do with the salary cap. His New England Patriots, he said, had “sold out’’ over previous years to extend their Super Bowl run, spent money on players knowing full well that it would cause salary cap issues in the future. The future is now. Some players also decided not to play this season to avoid COVID. There have been injuries, too.
Plus, I think the dog ate Belichick’s homework.
Implied, but never spoken, was that their struggles have nothing to do with Brady leaving Belichick and the Patriots to go to Tampa Bay and nothing to do with Belichick’s coaching.
When someone later mentioned to Belichick that it sounded as if he were making excuses for the Patriots’ embarrassing 2-5 record, he bristled, saying that he was just giving an honest answer to an honest question.
Maybe so, but why start now? Belichick has been coaching the Patriots for 20 years. He won six Super Bowls with Brady. But no one can remember him answering an honest question with an honest answer before.
I would feel a little bad for Belichick now, except for the fact that I don’t. He has smirked his way through everything for decades, cheated, lied and, yes, displayed genius, too. Before now, he has always made it seem like answering an honest question was too much of a chore for someone of his greatness. He has lived high, made a ton of money and been treated as a football god for roughly 20 years.
And now, he suddenly wants people to understand that the current failure isn’t his, and his past success wasn’t Brady’s. He puts his buddy, Weis, up to the act.
It’s kind of pathetic, really. And it also can’t be that great for his team to hear their coach imply that the Patriots don’t have good players.
“I didn’t say it as an excuse. I never said that,’’ Belichick later said on his weekly radio appearance on WEEI in Boston. “Look, we paid Cam Newton a million dollars. It’s obvious we didn’t have any money. It’s nobody’s fault.
“That’s what we did the last five years. We sold out and won three Super Bowls, played in a fourth and played in an AFC Championships Game. This year, we have less to work with. It’s not an excuse. It’s just a fact.’’
This isn’t even to suggest that what Belichick is saying isn’t true. It is. They got Newton to quarterback at a bargain price.
Less than two weeks ago, Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman explained how their hockey dynasty had ended and had to be restarted.
“When you’re on top, you’re doing your best to prolong that and your best with short-term moves,’’ he said on WSCR 670-AM in Chicago. “There’s always a reckoning coming.’’
This is Belichick’s reckoning. It has been coming.
So Brady is winning the divorce now, as Tampa is 6-2 and in first place. For so long, people have cheered on Brady and respected Belichick’s success as a sort of football Voldemort.
Honestly, Brady has been insufferable enough too. First he all but ran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out of town because his ego and insecurities were overwhelmed. Then, he was far too careful in crafting his image. And to me, it always takes away from an all-time great’s legacy when he leaves his team to go to a better group so he can win more.
This feels like two legends fighting over who is more legendary. And these are still early returns. If the Patriots take a year or two to rebuild, and Belichick starts winning again, things will look different.
Belichick will go back to being an insufferable grump. An honest question will be too much of a burden soon enough. Don’t feel too bad for Belichick. Just enjoy the moment for now.