Given how the breakup between the Patriots and Tom Brady went down, it was widely assumed there was more to the story than what met the eye. Tension had been rumored to be a significant issue behind the scenes, primarily between Bill Belichick and the quarterback, ultimately putting Robert Kraft in a difficult situation prior to Brady's decision to leave the team in 2020.
Rumors have speculated about what the origin of the tension was, as Brady's performance hadn't been declining whatsoever, so the typical dispute about a quarterback's fitness was not an issue.
There was a belief the rift between him and Belichick went back as far as 2017 when reports suggested the coach wanted to trade Brady and replace him with Jimmy Garoppolo, who he drafted in 2014.
Although the team has disputed that on numerous occasions over the years, more details have been filtering out since Belichick's shocking departure last week that seem to provide the context to what led Brady to leave nearly four years ago.
Tom Brady's regimen to remain the Patriots' quarterback was put into high gear after Garoppolo was drafted
In the lengthy exposé published by ESPN's Seth Wickersham and others, they claim Garoppolo's presence made Brady go on an “obsessive anti-aging regimen,” which is how Alex Guerrero became an integral part of his everyday training.
Because the trainer was then around the facility basically 24/7, Belichick is said to have grown increasingly frustrated with his involvement, especially since several players turned to Guerrero for advice and training. It led him to limit his access to the team and Brady, forcing them to work together "out of a maintenance shed at Gillette Stadium that stored John Deere tractors."
Tension brewed from there when Kraft got involved, as Brady was unhappy with Belichick's decision to keep Guerrero away. And apparently, that awkwardness was felt by the entire team, which James White discussed during a recent appearance on the "Off the Pike with Brian Barrett" podcast.
“Alex was always in the building as Tom’s guy. Julian (Edelman) worked with him and a few of the guys worked with him whether it was at the facility or at TB12 or whatnot. But it was definitely awkward because everybody kind of knew about what was going on. It wasn’t talked about like between them in front of us, but you could tell there was some sort of tension either between the training staff and Alex or Tom and Alex versus Bill.
“Alex was still in there working with Tom the entire time because that’s what helped Tom prepare from a day-to-day basis. Definitely some weird, awkward situations going on when it came to that.”
Unfortunately, this setback and Kraft's efforts to curtail it didn't last long. Brady only remained with the team for another two seasons, winning another Super Bowl, and then left for Tampa.
The awkwardness this situation created wasn't just felt among those involved, too, which made even more issues in the locker room, according to White. Because other players, especially wide receivers, turned to Guerrero for help and Belichick wasn't a fan, the situation worsened and became more confusing for everyone.
“I never saw Alex at all, so I was never in that situation. But I’m sure when it came down to it guys were like, ‘Should I listen to Alex? Should I listen to the training staff? You know, Bill wants it a certain way.’ Definitely add some conflict in there. So, I could see where that gray area, what was going on why it ruffled little feathers. I was never put in that situation, but I’m sure when it came to receivers, I’m sure they got put in some of those awkward situations at some point.”
Perhaps this drama between Belichick, Brady, and Guerrero only added to the alleged eroding relationship and became the foundation for why Brady chose to leave. It's known that Belichick liked things done his way, as he had ultimate control over the team for decades, and Kraft's position in the middle between his head coach and the quarterback made for a lose/lose situation at the end of the day.
It will join the list of what-ifs that will haunt the team for a long time because had this been smoothed over even further, maybe Brady would have stayed in New England until deciding to retire, which could have brought in another Lombardi trophy.