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GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12, team owner Robert Kraft, and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots celebrate with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It should surprise no one that Seth Wickersham and ESPN dropped some details from his upcoming book on the Patriots on Wednesday, right in the middle of Patriots-Bucs week.

The book, titled It’s Better to be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness, seems to cover what anyone who’s read Wickersham before might expect. Not a ton in the way of actual football insight, but all kinds of salacious details on the backstage drama, if you’re into that sort of thing. Per ESPN, the book isn’t based on any new interviews with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, or Robert Kraft. Not like they’d be important to this story or anything.

Wickersham’s “inside” stories read like a soap opera. The list of excerpts released at ESPN.com Wednesday morning resemble Page Six or the Inside Track at the Boston Herald. There may be nuggets of truth as to the things that happened, but they’re all dressed up and pieced together all too perfectly, like a Hollywood script. So it’s hard to blame any Patriots fan who reads them with skeptical eyes, and then rolls said eyes.

Anyway, let’s get to these excerpts and a quick “breakdown” of most of them…

  • Why Tom Brady Left The Patriots

    The book portrays Tom Brady as a quarterback whose relationship with Bill Belichick (and even Robert Kraft) had been strained because of what he viewed as a lack of commitment to him – which likely means a contract that paid him through age 45. But he also apparently wanted more of a say in roster-building, based on these excerpts from ESPN.com…

    “Tom Brady had been curious if there was another way of winning, and while nobody was arguing that Bruce Arians was a better coach than Bill Belichick, or even close, the seamlessness of Brady’s proficiency and performance was making his former coach’s methodologies look antiquated, even silly,” the book says. “It was better to be feared — but was it necessary?”

    Brady was tired of taking team-friendly deals with no input into how the money saved was spent — and still wanted a long-term contractual commitment,” Wickersham writes. “Belichick told associates that every organizational decision now was in support of Brady, geared toward pleasing him and making him successful — and that Kraft meddled with the team, sometimes with opinions, sometimes with restrictive budgets.

    You could look at the Patriots’ signing of Antonio Brown and acquisition of Mohamed Sanu in the 2019 season as direct results of Brady’s input. How’d that work out?

    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: (L-R) Robert Kraft, owner and CEO of the New England Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady #12 celebrate with the Lamar Hunt Trophy after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 22: (L-R) Robert Kraft, owner and CEO of the New England Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady #12 celebrate with the Lamar Hunt Trophy after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Also, the Patriots tried to surround Brady with talent in the form of high draft picks. They used three straight first-round selections – tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel in 2018, and wide receiver N’Keal Harry in 2019 – right around the time Brady had begun expressing his desire to either have more input on the roster or play elsewhere. The picks obviously haven’t worked out, but the effort was there. So anyone who argued the Patriots didn’t do enough with the roster to make Brady happy is off-base.

    Did people really want Brady to become an assistant GM? At the end of the day, is recruiting Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, like he did in Tampa Bay, the hardest thing to do? Like he’s some sort of roster-building genius? If that’s what Brady wanted in New England, it was an untenable situation.

  • Kraft Called Belichick An A**Hole

    “As for Kraft, in late September, he was in Aspen (Colorado) for a conference and bumped into a few friends in the hotel lobby early one morning. He told them he was leaving later for Detroit, where the Patriots were playing their next game. ‘I hate leaving here,’ Kraft said. ‘You leave here and you leave some of the most brilliant people you’ve ever met. You pick up so much knowledge from all these brilliant minds. And I have to go to Detroit to be with the biggest f—–ng a–hole in my life — my head coach.’ “


    Oh no he didn’t!!! You mean Belichick’s demeanor rubbed people the wrong way sometimes? Color me shocked. This does, however, indicate that Kraft’s patience with Belichick may wear thin if the team can’t get back to winning and contending in the playoffs in the Mac Jones era.

  • Bill O'Brien could've replaced Belichick?

    Ultimately, according to the book, Kraft, Brady and a few others discussed scenarios about who would replace Belichick. If offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left after the season to be a head coach elsewhere, New England could hire O’Brien and he could perhaps one day succeed Belichick.

    “The plan was fanciful,” Wickersham writes, “but O’Brien heard about it. He was in a power struggle of his own in Houston, fighting with general manager Rick Smith, a ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘toxic’ situation, according to the Houston Chronicle. The leaks from O’Brien’s camp, claiming he wanted out, were so aggressive as to be suspicious, as if he knew he had a golden parachute. In the end, though, the [Texans] chose O’Brien over Smith, giving the coach more control over football operations. O’Brien later joked to a confidant that it was a somewhat empty victory. ‘I was trying to get fired,’ he said.”

    This serves to explain why O’Brien would consistently make mind-numbing in-game decisions as the Texans’ head coach. But if the Patriots ended up keeping Brady instead of Belichick, with O’Brien as the head coach? They probably could’ve won a Super Bowl together. We’ll never know.

    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Jim Nantz (R) interviews Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots as team owner Robert Kraft (L) and head coach Bill Belichick (2nd-L) look on after the Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 22: Jim Nantz (R) interviews Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots as team owner Robert Kraft (L) and head coach Bill Belichick (2nd-L) look on after the Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

  • Mangini and Belichick almost come to blows

    At the 2008 league meetings, Belichick and then-New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini nearly had a fistfight. After a dinner for head coaches, Julie Mangini, wife of Eric, bumped into Belichick and said hi, trying to ease tension after the post-Spygate fallout. Belichick blew her off, and when she told Eric what had happened, he charged across the room and needed to be held back by other coaches from swinging at Belichick. “Hey Bill, f*** you!” Mangini yelled.

    This will play well in the movie. I’m thinking Tom Wilkinson as Belichick and Mangini as himself.

  • Mike Martz is into S&M

    After Spygate and during U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s inquiry into whether the Patriots had videotaped the St. Louis Rams’ walk-through practice before Super Bowl XXXVI, former Rams coach Mike Martz said he believed that New England had also videotaped the Rams practices during the week. “I’d like to hang Belichick by the nuts,” he told a confidant.

    Jeeez, Mike Martz. Little graphic for my taste. But a perfect detail for a Wickersham book.

  • Brady Needed To Be Loved

    Toward the end of the dynastic run, Belichick commissioned an internal study to examine the traits of transcendent athletes. Jordan, Bryant, Woods and Brady were interviewed, among others. The study revealed that while the motivations of the rest of the elite athletes centered around the themes of rage and manufactured conflict, Brady was different. He felt most at the peak of his powers “not when he was measuring the size of the chip on his shoulder, but when he was in a loving and supportive environment,” Wickersham writes.

    This is actually consistent with comments made by Gisele Bundchen in the “Tom vs. Time” documentary series, that Brady wanted to be appreciated and have fun where he played. But Brady had to at least be a little motivated by perceived slights or a chip on his shoulder.

    It’s hard to believe that Brady was someone who needed to be coddled, but perhaps he evolved in that direction later in his career.

    BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13: From left, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New England Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady carry Vince Lombardi trophies onto the field at Fenway Park on April 13, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – APRIL 13: From left, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New England Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady carry Vince Lombardi trophies onto the field at Fenway Park on April 13, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • Talking Business at ... Myra Kraft's Funeral??

    Team owners tried to negotiate the 2011 collective bargaining agreement with union chief DeMaurice Smith at Myra Kraft’s funeral. Robert Kraft had tried to ease a contentious moment between the NFL and NFLPA then by attending CBA negotiations, even though his wife, Myra, was ill with cancer. After she died in July 2011, many team owners and Smith attended her funeral. It was during the lockout. Several owners tried to discuss the CBA and negotiate points at the funeral. “I wanted to throw up,” Smith told a confidant.

    Like a scene straight out of The Sopranos. Funerals and wakes were a staple of the series, as were Tony Soprano’s back-room dealings with whoever showed up. Can’t imagine Robert Kraft actually welcomed this type of discussion. It’s likely Kraft wanted to throw up as much as DeMaurice Smith did at that debacle.

  • Kraft And Goodell

    After Deflategate, Goodell was the public enemy of the Patriots. He decided to visit Gillette Stadium during a preseason game in 2017 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He wanted to walk the field during warm-ups, take his medicine from the crowd and ease the tension so that he could return for the season opener, when the Patriots’ fifth Super Bowl banner would be raised. The trip was doomed from the start. First, the league’s plane broke down before it could take off. By the time the league secured another plane, Goodell was late and had missed warm-ups, ruining the point of the trip. League executives decided to leak news that Goodell was at the game to the Boston Globe. After reporter Ben Volin tweeted a grainy picture of Goodell in Kraft’s suite, the owner hit the roof and yelled at league executives. “You’re killing me with the fans,” Kraft said. “Why would I want to be seen here with Roger with all this stuff going on with Brady?”

    Kraft and the Patriots have always been very conscious of their public image, so no shock here. But it also shouldn’t be surprising that Kraft and Goodell are tighter than the Patriots owner might want to portray it. That’s always been the case.

  • Belichick Bear-Hugs Goodell

    Even though Goodell has heavily punished the Patriots three times for rules violations, he has become close with Belichick. Besides the secret meeting at a private airport to discuss rule changes, on the morning after the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Falcons, Belichick hugged Goodell and lifted the commissioner’s feet off the ground.

    OK, now we’re entering comedy sketch territory with this thing. This should provide Tim Robinson with some material for the next season of I Think You Should Leave.

  • Belichick and Trump

    In 2016, after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump read a letter of support from Belichick at a campaign rally, Patriots assistant coach Brian Flores told Belichick that several players were angry and that he “needed to say something” to the team. Belichick addressed the team, but it didn’t help initially. Many players felt he was being disingenuous. “It was hypocritical and out of character,” a Patriots player recalled. “I don’t think he’s an intolerant coach. He isn’t a bad guy. Bill just f—ed up and justified it in a way that he would never accept from a player.” After the meeting, a small group of Patriots players considered boycotting practice but then reconsidered.

    Another example of how Donald Trump’s presidency had a way of tearing relationships apart. Bill Belichick was friends with Trump long before he started running for the 2016 election, so he probably saw no issue with supporting his buddy. He obviously read the room wrong, here. But clearly, it didn’t affect the Patriots’ ability to go to the Super Bowl and win it.

    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 19:  New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick delivers remarks during a celebration of the team's Super Bowl victory hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump on the South Lawn at the White House April 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. It was the team's fifth Super Bowl victory since 1960.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 19: New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick delivers remarks during a celebration of the team’s Super Bowl victory hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump on the South Lawn at the White House April 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. It was the team’s fifth Super Bowl victory since 1960. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Why Malcolm Butler Was Benched In The Super Bowl

    In the lead-up to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia traded heated words at practice over the former Super Bowl hero’s lack of effort. Butler was demoted. At the team party after New England’s loss, Butler responded to teammates asking why he was benched by saying, “These dudes,” referring to the coaches, according to the book, “these mother f—ers.”

    Collectively, the reporting on Malcolm Butler’s mysterious benching in Super Bowl LII entails a “perfect storm” kind of week for the cornerback. He was sick, arrived later in the week because of it, and was de-emphasized in the game plan. But this apparent blow-up with Matt Patricia may have been the moment Belichick and his defensive coordinator decided Butler was not going to play on defense at all, under any circumstances.

    This is the closest thing we’ve gotten to a reason why the Patriots still wouldn’t put Butler in the game, even as the Eagles were lighting them up with virtually no resistance. There’s a reason it felt more like a punishment than a pure coaching decision.