The NFL turns 100 this year. Get ready to be battered about the head and neck with reminders of that fact once this season ends.
2019 will also be the 20th anniversary of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady Era in New England. The league will spend less time mentioning that.
One-fifth of NFL history has been dominated by a once-plucky Cinderella that morphed into what most of America regards as an arrogant Death Star. That’s something the folks working for The Shield regard as…regrettable.
But there is anticipation. How long can this go on? Will 2018’s wheeze become a cough leading to pneumonia that finally causes the Patriots to flatline?
It’s really all tied to that Kraft-Belichick-Brady troika (tinker with the order as you see fit). Once one goes – and ownership’s not going anywhere – the Patriots as we’ve come to know them are no more.
That’s an unpleasant proposition for everyone around here – fans, media, concessions, parking lot attendants, you name it.
But it’s especially unpleasant for ownership. Which is probably why Jonathan Kraft sounded like he was trotting through a minefield during an appearance this week on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Asked about the possibility of Tom Brady receiving a contract extension, it took Kraft a full 10 seconds to begin his answer (here’s the audio – note the pause…the question concludes at the 11:50 mark.
“I’m only hesitating because there aren’t any adjectives to describe how exceptional he is,” Kraft said. “Anybody who doubts that doesn’t understand things.”
Personally, I doubt whether that person exists. Tom Brady is exceptional. Everyone knows that. Agreed.
“Tom is under contract for next year, and I think hopefully people have seen that there’s a real understanding between all of us about how that situation is going to work into the future,” offered Kraft.
Not really. I don’t know anyone who’s seen definitively how that situation is going to work into the future. Maybe it’s all mapped out on a whiteboard in someone’s office but my sense is it’s a helluva lot more fluid than that.
What we have seen is a player who at one time stated he wanted to play until 45 and last week stated he wanted to “not only play next year but beyond that.”
A player who’s never gotten into the final year of a contract without having an extension done.
A player who’s taken significantly less than players half as good as him and who this year gave the team a little cap relief by agreeing to incentives he didn’t even come close to hitting.
A player who’s probably done with the financial benevolence, especially since there’s a litany of teams with big-ticket quarterbacks surrounded on both sides of the ball by far more talent than Brady’s been surrounded by.
So how does this team – which had the word “VALUE” etched in the concrete when the foundation was laid in 2000 – get its mind around finally paying Brady the going rate not only next year but beyond that?
The first Brady Succession Plan hatched in 2014 was fed into the shredder in 2017 when the Patriots sent his younger would-be successor to San Francisco.
To me, that remains a no-fault accident. The Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo because Brady was in apparent decline in 2012 and ’13. Garoppolo turned into a bona-fide talent under their tutelage. Brady turned into, hands-down, the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Couldn’t keep both (spare me the computations that say otherwise). Can’t trade Brady, especially when he’s still lights-out and the unspoken understanding is that parting with him would be like amputating part of Robert Kraft’s soul. Plus, he was so damn affordable.
Now? He doesn’t figure to be so affordable.
In April 2014, Bill Belichick explained the drafting of Garoppolo by saying, “We all understand Tom’s age and contract situation.”
That’s when Brady was about to be 37. Now he’s about to be 42 and Belichick – who pulled the ripcord on so many past Patriots greats and was preparing to do so with Brady – has done a philosophical 180?
There’s no doubting Brady is good to go for 2019 and that Belichick – with no successor in the program – is fine with that.
But if understanding “how that situation is going to work in the future” includes Belichick re-upping with Brady through 2020 or 2021 at the going rate for very good quarterbacks, I don’t see it.
According to Tom Brady, maybe the Patriots’ subpar regular season isn’t a bad thing after all.
Appearing on Westwood One Radio with Jim Gray prior to Saturday’s Texans-Colts playoff game, Brady explained how the best teams in the regular season usually don’t win the Super Bowl.
“Our coaches have always told us it is not where we play, it is how we play and so much is unpredictable in the postseason,” he said. “This isn’t four out of seven or three out of five, this is a one-game season and the team that plays the best wins. I would say the team that plays the best over the course of the regular season hardly wins very often, you know, the Super Bowl.”
Added Brady: “Again, 16 weeks is different than one week. You wouldn’t judge a boxing match on one round, either. But, someone could win a round. That is how it goes in the playoffs and you have 12 teams that have qualified that have had great seasons, but there is only one of those teams that is going to win it all. It is a very challenging thing to do, but it is also a very exciting time of the year because you see all these playoff games and you see pro football being played at its highest and very best.”
The Patriots finished 11-5, their worst record since 2009, but they did earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye.
New England will host their divisional round game next Sunday at 1:05 p.m.