Patriots’ Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Robert Kraft Refute Claims Of Rift Within Franchise: ‘We Stand United’
Seth Wickersham of ESPN published a report early Friday morning about tensions within the New England Patriots organization that could signal the end of the franchise’s long-standing leadership group, although the team’s veteran three leading figures have dispelled these rumors.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick rift reports
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady issued a joint statement to affirm that their relationship with each other and with the rest of the organization is solid.
“For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship,” the statement read. “In recent days, there have been multiple media reports that have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate. The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.”
The Patriots clinched the AFC East title this season after finishing 13-3 and winning their final three games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
New England is now preparing for the divisional round of the playoffs, where it will face either Buffalo (if they win) or the winner of Kansas City vs. Tennessee. The Chiefs will host the Titans on Saturday.
Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch first revealed that ESPN would publish the story on Friday and that it would describe a “power struggle” between Brady, Kraft and Belichick over who deserved the most credit for building the Patriots into a dynasty since they began working together in 2000.
“Source: ESPN readying new hit piece on Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft set to publish tomorrow morning at 8am,” Allen wrote on Twitter. “The topic will be a power struggle among the trio as to who deserves the most credit for the dynasty.”
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk also confirmed ESPN was set to release the bombshell report.
Allen also reported that the ESPN story would say Brady went to Kraft to force Belichick to trade Brady’s heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, who was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers before the trade deadline in October.
Florio, however, said the piece would not state this.
In his piece, Wickersham details an incident that allegedly occurred on Dec. 3, when the Patriots played the Bills.
“Tom Brady walked to the sideline after throwing late and behind receiver Brandin Cooks on third down, ending a first-quarter drive. Brady was angrier and more irritable than usual, as has often been the case this season in the eyes of some Patriots players and staff. As he unsnapped his chinstrap, Brady passed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on the sideline.
‘He was wide open,’ McDaniels said to Brady, referring to Cooks.
Brady kept walking, and glaring at McDaniels, so the coach repeated: ‘We had him open.’
Brady snapped, pivoting to McDaniels and yelling at him, ‘I got it!’ Everyone within earshot, including head coach Bill Belichick, turned to watch as Brady screamed. He removed his helmet, and as a Patriots staffer held him back — and with McDaniels’ father and legendary high school coach in Ohio, Thom, in the stands behind the bench — capped off the exchange by yelling, ‘F— you!'”
Wickersham went on to say video of the altercation “went viral.” Brady then reportedly apologized to McDaniels.
FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 04: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to throw a pass during the second half against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)