New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed the media Friday for the first time since the NFL came down hard on the team and quarterback Tom Brady for "Deflategate" and basically said nothing. That's not a big surprise since he's never very talkative, but the fact that he said nothing to defend Brady is telling.
In fact, Belichick has said nothing of support for Brady since the whole issue blew up after the AFC title game. This is in marked contrast to some of Brady's current and former teammates and especially owner Robert Kraft. This only confirms what I believe -- unless Brady wins the Super Bowl this season, 2015 will be his last as a Patriot. His coach is ready to move on.
"That was a long time ago. We’re on to next year. This is 2015. You can forget about last year. That was last year," Belichick said Friday when asked about Deflategate, ignoring the fact that the penalties were announced less than a month ago and among them was his star quarterback's four-game suspension.
While not expecting him to directly criticize the NFL, I did expect Belichick to say something specific in support of Brady. Something along the lines of: "Tom has been a key component of our success for 14 years and he has my total support." Instead, we got crickets. All Brady has done is help him win four Super Bowls. Talk about lack of gratitude and not having someone's back.
Saying nothing is at least better than what Belichick did in January, when he publicly abandoned Brady by proclaiming zero knowledge of how quarterbacks handle footballs. "I think we all know that quarterbacks, kickers, specialists have certain preferences on footballs," Belichick said at the time. "They know a lot more about it than I do. They’re a lot more sensitive to it than I am. I hear them comment on it from time to time, but I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero. Tom’s personal preferences on his footballs is something he can talk about in much better detail and information than I can possibly provide. I can tell you that in my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure. That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league and officials pregame, and we play with what’s out there. That’s the only way that I have ever thought about that."
"Never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero." Ouch. Tom Brady, meet the underside of a bus. With that, Belichick left Brady unprepared to handle a press conference where he seemed evasive and unsure and every answer screamed "liar" to everyone not wearing red, white and blue-colored glasses.
What's weird is that the Wells report into Deflategate said that Belichick asked Brady directly whether he knew footballs were deflated and Brady denied it. "Belichick believed Brady," the report said. "Belichick and Brady attended [a] team meeting, and Belichick told the team that there was ‘not one shred of truth’ to the deflation allegations." If Belichick believed Brady, why has he stayed quiet as Brady has been ripped by fans and the media from coast to coast for being a cheater?
After the Wells report was issued and implicated Brady on what is circumstantial and often contradictory evidence, the team fought back. Again, Belichick was silent, even though the report cleared him of any wrongdoing. Contrast this with Kraft who said of his quarterback: "I’ve known Tommy 16 years, almost half his life. He’s a man, and he’s always been honest with me, and I trust him. I believed what he told me. He has never lied to me, and I have found no hard or conclusive evidence to the contrary." Kraft reiterated this even after he chose to not contest a fine and loss of draft choices levied by the league. His coach could have said something similar but chose not to.
Brady is left to appeal on his own and his coach is talking about the future. That may or may not include Brady for the first four games. Belichick has always been unsentimental when it comes to cutting veterans he thought were no longer worth keeping and it's clear to me that Brady will soon be in his crosshairs. Not this season, a year removed from a Super Bowl season, but I bet Belichick will see any Brady absence via suspension to be a chance to audition second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with an eye toward 2016. On Friday, Belichick uttered more about Garoppolo than has about Brady in recent months:
"It helps all rookies to get that first year under their belt. That’s usually where you see the biggest jump generally, with most players, is from year one to year two. They understand the system, they’ve been through it, they’ve been through the league for a year. So hopefully we see that from our group."
Tom Brady's dad said in January that he thought things would "end badly" for his son in New England, since the quarterback will want to play a lot longer than his coach wants him to. Bill Belichick's utter silence on defending the best player in team history from being labeled a cheater is proving the elder Brady a prophet.