With reports of a potential rift among Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft sending shockwaves throughout the NFL on Friday, Kevin Harlan’s reaction went against the grain. He isn’t surprised that there’s a rift; he’s surprised this is the first time it’s happened.
“The most shocking story to me is that through all these years with those three people is that they’ve not had any turbulence before – at least not outwardly,” the CBS and Westwood One play-by-play voice said on The DA Show. “If it is coming more to the surface right now, you’ve got a quarterback who certainly is in the fourth quarter roof his career, a coach who’s in his mid-60s and can obviously see Father Time ticking, and an owner who I know has to continually look the future because he’s the only part that’s probably going to be there to the very end.”
The rift reportedly centered on Jimmy Garoppolo. To trade or not to trade? That was the question.
And the Patriots’ answer may have been wrong.
“When you trade Garoppolo – which had a lot of people shaking their head – and then you see his performance out in San Francisco, where he goes 5-0 as a starter and gives them incredible hope going into the offseason and unbelievable momentum into next year, you’re wondering (if that was the right decision),” Harlan said. “(You think), ‘All right, let’s see: Brady over the last month has not been the Brady of the first 11 weeks. He is 40. We know there’s been this personal trainer that has been a pretty significant presence and now they kind of curtail his exposure to the team, and you’ve just traded a guy that many people thought was the heir apparent to the greatest quarterback that’s ever played – certainly in terms of accomplishment.’
“You begin (wondering) how is it working? What has happened? Why would you trade this guy midseason when your quarterback is truly with a year or two left? Regardless of what he says wanting to play four or five more years, you can even see some diminished returns at the end of this season.”
Brady had six touchdowns and five interceptions over his final five games. He had 26 and three over his first 11.
That disparity is enough to put anyone one edge, even Brady and the Pats.
“I think a lot of these things have just kind of been churned up,” Harlan said, “but it is interesting that they’ve had such a fortress. To me, to have almost the impenetrable way about them over this long span of two decades is almost more incredible than what we’re seeing right now. I’m shocked we haven’t seen more of this kind of thing over the past. And when there has been a bump in the road with an individual player, they’ve always jettisoned that player. Anybody that was causing a ripple, they were gone. Brady has followed to a tee: taken less money, echoed the company line, been a stout supporter of all the guys on his team, he’s played with very few future Hall of Famers.
“So the fact this is coming out after all these years right now, I think, is probably more surprising than the story itself,” Harlan continued. “I felt like there probably should have been this stuff earlier, but there hasn’t been. It’s a credit to the three guys, and if there is a little bit of ruffling, I can see it. I mean, we’ve got three pretty distinct personalities at operation.”