On Monday’s edition of “As the Patriots Turn,” we find Tom Brady breaking his offseason (non-reality show) silence by engaging in an hour-long question-and-answer session with reporter and Brady confidant Jim Gray at some conference in California.
Tom finally acknowledges he’ll be back for the 2018 season, plays coy in making the statement – like he’s surprised anyone ever doubted it – and then took part in this exchange, which will drive the episode, or at least Boston sports radio, going forward.
It centered on Brady’s relationship with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.
“Do you feel appreciated by them and do they have the appropriate gratitude for what you have achieved?” Gray asked, which is one heck of a question considering the setting.
“I plead the Fifth,” Brady said, laughing. “Look, man, that is a tough question. Yeah, I mean they treat me …
“Your wife seems to indicate,” Gray interjected, tossing Gisele Bundchen into the fray.
“I think everyone in general wants to be appreciated more at work,” Brady offered.
Later Gray offers this one: “Are you happy?”
“I have my moments,” Brady said.
Brady actually sounded happy. He didn’t seem upset, angry. It was a casual affair and he was enjoying himself. He and Gray have an excellent rapport and have done nights like this in the past. Maybe he was more flippant than frustrated.
It doesn’t mean this isn’t some great palace intrigue out of New England, the culmination (perhaps?) of one strange offseason.
It included Brady dropping passive-aggressive hints and philosophical wonderings about the price of playing football via his reality show: “Tom vs. Time.” That left everyone wondering if he was truly contemplating retirement.
Brady was in no rush to definitively shoot that speculation down and went as far as skipping voluntary workouts in Foxborough.
Rob Gronkowski also skipped workouts after opening speculation that he, too, might retire, in this case to become a pro wrestler. Last week he announced that he’s back, but not before he held a one-of-a-kind motocross news conference that will go down in Patriots soap-opera lore.
And then there was Belichick, who declared to the team that he also would return and coach the 2018 season.
Remember that ESPN The Magazine story about strained feelings among Belichick, Brady and Kraft last December? The basic narrative sure seems spot on. And that came out before New England lost the Super Bowl.
The thing is, what was true after the ESPN story is also true now.
For all the clear signs of a Belichick-Brady marriage in need of improved communication after 18 years of trials, tribulations and general resentment, it’s not like a divorce is really in the offering.
Would Belichick prefer Brady deal less with his personal trainer and more with the team? Perhaps. Would Brady prefer that Belichick outwardly express his appreciation for him more? That seems to be a logical conclusion.
Is either going anywhere without the other? Nope.
At the end of the day, contrasting opinions, hurt feelings or longings for praise don’t really matter. What does is that there is no coach in the NFL who wants to win more than Belichick and there is no quarterback in the NFL who wants to win more than Brady.
Together they have reached eight Super Bowls and won five. Brady, at age 40, was the league MVP in 2017 and while that is a product of his talent and relentless work ethic, he also has to know that doesn’t happen without Belichick’s coaching. Meanwhile, Belichick exists as the king of all football, the NFL gold standard. And as confident as he is in his abilities, he knows he isn’t having this kind of success without Tom Brady under center.
So, yes, there is some sniping and gamesmanship and foolishness to the entire thing. It’s also still spring.
By the time the real training camp begins in the summer, and by time the opener against Houston in September, and certainly by the time the playoffs come next January, there will be no doubt about where everyone’s head is.
There is another Super Bowl to win.
Maybe Belichick and Brady aren’t going to spend the season expressing their appreciation for each other the way they possibly should, but there is no question they appreciate the chance to win again more than anything.
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