New York Times writer Mark Leibovich joined Toucher & Rich on Wednesday to talk about his controversial new book, Big Game: The NFL In Dangerous Times. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Robert Kraft play prominent roles in the new book, including some candid on-the-record remarks from the quarterback. It's teased as a takedown of the chaotic inner-workings of the National Football League, its owners, and much-maligned commissioner Roger Goodell.
Big Game has made waves over passages containing relatively strong comments from Brady, who remarked "they can do whatever they want" when addressing the idea that the Patriots could trade him or release him if they wanted to. Leibovich also got the sense in his time with Brady that at one point, No. 12 wouldn't have been too upset if he and the Pats parted ways.
As he's indicated in his recent press appearances, Brady seems content to just end interviews if he's not interested in answering what's being asked. As Leibovich explains, Trump topics have been taboo for Brady for even longer than questions about Alex Guerrero.
"He got really sick of [Trump questions] really, really quickly," said Leibovich. "And I think any time he’s asked about a Trump-related question, you can tell he’s running in the other direction."
As for the idea of a new team, a new home - Los Angeles, perhaps? - Leibovich insists that that idea was on Brady's mind at some point in the offseason. But now, the Patriots don't have much of a choice but to move forward with Brady for the foreseeable future.
That's despite apparent internal issues that have existed in Foxboro, whose legitimacy Leibovich believes as much as anyone.
"Tom doesn’t really have a place to go, and neither does Robert Kraft at quarterback, and this is sort of where they’re all stuck with right now," said Leibovich. "I think the lack of happiness, the sort of tensions that were coming out at the end of the year [with the Patriots], I think there's a lot of truth to a lot of that. I don’t think theres any question."
Leibovich cites a secret recording of a meeting between owners and players, which came at "the height of the national anthem crisis", and notes the owners' apparent fear of President Donald Trump and the way his rhetoric has affected the league and the conversations surrounding it. He describes Kraft as "pretty outspoken against Trump, which is different from his public perception or his public posture with Trump."
Kraft isn't alone in his apparent concern with Trump. It stretches across the other 31 owners, too.
"You do get a sense, just from talking to them privately and hearing them talk when they’re somewhat offline, that [the owners] are very, very nervous about what he could do next," Leibovich said. "It’s got to be pretty satisfying for the president, given that he’s wanted into this club [the NFL] for four decades. And now, he might not exist in the club, but he exists in their heads."
Despite the potentially eye-opening sections of the book about Brady and the Patriots, Leibovich reiterated that the real problem lies not with the game on the field, but in the offices of the league and the vast majority of its owners.
"This is part of a larger issue of just how the league is run and owned by people who are just not worthy of the greatness of the game," said Leibovich. "I think football will survive, because I think it’s an amazing game and has survived and will survive, in spite of the people who run it.
"The people I got to know, from Roger Goodell on down to most of the owners ... these are not the kind of people you want running a major Fortune-100 corporation if you could choose."
He doesn't seem to put Kraft in that category, but that wouldn't make the league's issues with the owners any less glaring. Listen to the full interview with Leibovich in the above podcast.
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