Super Bowl victories and unparalleled success have defined the New England Patriots over the last two decades, but a rift has been growing behind the scenes between the biggest names at the franchise, according to a detailed report by ESPN's Seth Wickersham.
The article outlines several points of contention that have arisen between Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Robert Kraft, and cites a variety of sources who believe this could be the final year all three will share the spotlight in New England.
One of the main issues covered in the article was the reluctance on the part of Belichick to trade his now former backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Brady voiced his intent to play well into his 40s on multiple occasions, including meetings with both Kraft and Belichick, the latter of which ended in a "little blowup," according to ESPN. Belichick wasn't convinced a quarterback could maintain an elite level of play that far into their career.
Belichick and Kraft had a closed-door meeting two weeks prior to the Nov. 1 trade deadline which reportedly lasted half the day. Friends of Belichick told ESPN the acclaimed head coach was "furious and demoralized" after being instructed by Kraft to trade Garoppolo and find a new quarterback to develop behind Brady.
Belichick had passed on trading Garoppolo last offseason, when his value was presumably higher. However, on Oct. 30, Garoppolo - who had repeatedly turned down extension offers of $17-18 million annually from the Patriots - was sent packing to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for their second-round pick in the 2018 draft.
After the trade, Brady was reportedly "liberated" over the fact there wasn't a clear-cut No. 2 looking to gain his spot. He even embraced Kraft in front of a number of his teammates the week the trade went through.
All of the in-house drama involving Brady, Belichick, and Kraft was reportedly going to be addressed in a late-December meeting, which never happened.
Sources told Wickersham there's a "lingering sadness in the building, as if coaches and staff know that the end may be near."