Patriots beat writers refute key points of ESPN hit piece
USA Today Sports
ESPN's Seth Wickersham published a bombshell report last night detailing a supposed "rift" between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft. The article's main premise is that growing tensions over who will get credit for the Pats dynasty and the Jimmy Garoppolo situation could make this the last year all three remain together in New England. There's just one problem: local Patriots beat writers have flat-out refuted multiple key aspects of the piece.
One of the biggest claims Wickersham makes is that Tom Brady forced the Jimmy Garoppolo trade. Wickersham even went so far as to suggest Brady used Kraft to force Belichick into the deal and that the quarterback felt like he "won" a battle in the days after the trade. However (as my colleague Jesse already pointed out), both CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora and NBC Sports Boston's Michael Giardi said that this report was completely false, and that Brady "never pushed for Jimmy G to be dealt."
On top of that, ESPN reported that the Patriots "repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17 million to $18 million range annually," and that Garoppolo rejected them immediately for "reasons that remain unclear." NBCSN's Tom Curran flat out denied this as well, saying that "The Patriots never extended a new contract offer to Garoppolo." While he didn't explicitly rule out the potential that the two sides informally discussed a new deal, the fact that no concrete offer was ever made is extremely important. Without any semblance of a deal for Garoppolo in place, the idea that Brady would feel so threatened by his backup taking over seems ridiculous.
While the original ESPN article undoubtedly has some fundamental truth to it, many aspects of the piece are flawed at best and plainly false at worst. The rejection of so many key aspects by Pats beat writers, who have more reliable sources and are far more familiar with the team than Seth Wickersham, belies the underlying problem with ESPN's reporting. Instead of finding the truth in the conflict between Belichick, Brady, Kraft, and Alex Guerrero, the article is a hit piece designed to stir up controversy around the team as they head into the playoffs.