At this point, it has been well established by reporters covering the New England Patriots that tensions marked the final few years of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick partnership and led to the quarterback’s recent defection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, while sources close to Brady have provided most of the recent tidbits, his own words Monday provided further evidence that he was unhappy with his former coach.
It was what Brady did not write in a lengthy essay published by the Players’ Tribune that seemed telling. Specifically, over 2,633 words delving into his thinking behind leaving the place where he won six Super Bowls, Brady only mentions in an offhand, less-than-complimentary way the coach who helped him reach those unprecedented heights.
Elsewhere, he asserts he is very much looking forward to feeling appreciated and respected by the Buccaneers, leaving readers to guess at how that might differ from the way he felt treated by the Patriots.
The mention of Belichick arrives in a paragraph in which Brady writes, “When the Patriots drafted me back in 2000, I was 22. I remember I was sitting in my parents’ house in San Mateo, California, growing less and less confident that the phone would ring. But late in the draft it did. By the way, in the sixth round it’s not like Coach Belichick himself was on the other end of the line – I think it was his assistant, Berj [Najarian]. ‘We just wanted to let you know you’ve been picked by the New England Patriots,’ Berj said.”
Of course, Belichick would hardly have been the first coach to have delegated some of the legwork of the draft’s later rounds to assistants. He was the first coach to reach nine Super Bowls, though, and not always with teams that placed an undue reliance on Brady’s arm.
Nevertheless, when Brady writes that “it’s the relationships I made in New England that I’ll miss the most,” he somehow neglects to name-check the single figure with whom he is inextricably linked.
“Of course, it starts with the entire New England Patriots organization, and [team owner] Robert Kraft and the entire Kraft family,” Brady says in his essay. “It extends to countless other individuals who played such a valuable role in my 20 years as a Patriot. Teammates and coaches, past and present. Old friends, new friends, the neighbors we went trick-or-treating with every year. But mostly, I’ll miss the fans.”
Brady did name Belichick in a social media post last month announcing his departure from the Patriots, in which he thanked the coach, as well as Kraft, the owner’s family and the organization for having “allowed me to maximize my potential.”
In the Players’ Tribune, though, Brady writes that to keep “maximizing what I do,” he had to move on, apparently to a destination where he will have no doubt how welcome his contributions are.
“Now I want to see what more I can do,” the 42-year-old declares. “I want to see how great I can be. I want to hear other people say, ‘Go, man. Now that’s what we’ve been missing. That’s what we need! That’s what we’ve been looking for!’ “
At another point in the essay, he writes that playing for the Bucs will be not only “an opportunity to lead and collaborate” but “also to be seen and heard.” Brady adds that he wants to “make sure my priorities are in the right place” by finding a balance between football and spending enough time with his children.
That jibes with a description of Brady’s mind-set over the past couple of seasons, in a report last month by ESPN that attempted to tell the story behind his split with Belichick and the team.
“Brady wasn’t just looking to win Super Bowls, victory at all costs, the ethos of most of his career, fabulously successful and spectacularly unhealthy,” Seth Wickersham wrote. “He wanted what everyone wants from an employer: to feel valued and to love work.”
Another reporter for ESPN, Ian O’Connor, quoted a friend of Brady’s in a story Sunday as having said “Tom was Belichick’d out after 20 years.”
That came approximately a year and a half after a book by O’Connor quoted a source who said: “Tom knows Bill is the best coach in the league, but he’s had enough of him. If Tom could, I think he would divorce him.”
That divorce has taken place, and in his essay Brady says, with emphasis, he’s “motivated” to “deliver for my new team, my new coaches and my new teammates.”
“The welcome and warmth I’ve gotten from the players and coaches in Tampa Bay has been so gratifying,” he writes. “For my part, I’ve loved getting to know a new group of young players. They’ve welcomed me as one of their own. They want to listen to what I have to say. I’m excited to be embraced fully for what I can bring to the Bucs. In turn I’m ready to embrace fully a team that is confident in what I do – and what I bring – and is willing to go on this ride with me.”