New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick strongly opposed the team’s October trade of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, according to an in-depth ESPN report detailing friction within the Patriots organization.
Per the report, owner Robert Kraft effectively forced Belichick to trade Garoppolo, whom the head coach and many others in the organization saw as the franchise’s quarterback of the future. Belichick reportedly left an hours-long meeting, during which Kraft issued the mandate, “furious and demoralized.”
The ESPN story connects the difference of opinion between Belichick and Kraft to a now-deep-seated rift between Belichick and Tom Brady. It details meetings between Brady and Kraft, and Brady and Belichick, to discuss another long-term contract for Brady. An October meeting between quarterback and head coach, who reportedly balked at a long-term extension, resulted in a “little blowup,” according to a source quoted in the report.
Kraft, according to the report, sided with Brady. Belichick obeyed orders, texted 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan – whose father, Mike, had defended Belichick during the Spygate scandal – and eventually offered his backup QB for a second-round pick. The relatively meager return, according to the report, left Patriots employees “stunned and confused.” One of them told ESPN that “[Brady] won.”
The story also notes that “Kraft has confessed to people in the building that trading [Garoppolo] might have been a mistake,” and that Belichick “has taken pride in Garoppolo’s 5-0 record [as a starter] in San Francisco.”
Other details from the ESPN piece include a story of Garoppolo setting up a meeting with Brady’s trainer, only to find the door locked:
The two quarterbacks were friendly, but Brady didn’t see it as his role to advise Garoppolo, even on matters as trivial as footwork. Garoppolo played well in 2016, starting in place of the suspended Brady, and Belichick began to see Garoppolo as the final piece of his legacy, to walk away in a few years with the Patriots secure at quarterback. But after Garoppolo was knocked out of his second start with a shoulder injury, he set up a visit at TB12, [the training facility headed by Alex Guerrero, Brady’s trainer]. As he later told Patriots staffers, when he arrived, the door was locked. He knocked; nobody was there. He called TB12 trainers but nobody answered. He couldn’t believe it, Garoppolo told the staffers, and that night ended up visiting team trainers instead. Guerrero vehemently denies ever refusing to see any player, and Garoppolo was eventually treated at TB12 — but it was two weeks after he showed up for his original appointment, and only after a high-ranking Patriots staffer called TB12 to inquire why Garoppolo hadn’t been admitted.
And there’s information on negotiations between the Patriots and Garoppolo:
[Belichick] had passed on dealing him last spring, when Garoppolo was in high demand. In early September, Belichick did trade third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. “If we trade Jimmy, we’re the Cleveland Browns, with no succession plan,” one person inside the organization said earlier in the year. The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17-18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo and [agent Don] Yee, [also Brady’s agent,] rejected the offers out of hand, for reasons that remain unclear, and the Patriots knew they couldn’t make any promises to Garoppolo about the timing of a transition at quarterback without it getting back to Brady.
The full ESPN story outlines the backstory of the rift, the role Guerrero played in it, and much more.