Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, due to his stellar resume and his ability to get the best out of all of his players. Belichick’s success can be attributed to the cold-blooded manner in which he runs the Patriots franchise, as he has been known to offload players who he feels will not benefit the team in the long-run. Examples of this can include Wes Welker, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Vince Wilfork, and countless others.
Throughout Belichick’s 17 years in New England, there has always been one exception, and that is Tom Brady…
TB12 and Belichick may not be very close off the field, but they are a dynamic duo that has haunted the NFL for nearly two decades. Brady has bought into the so-called ‘Patriot Way’, by continuing to work hard to improve, and ensuring that he gives Belichick no reason to get rid of him.
One key aspect of a Bill Belichick coached team is the absence of off-field distractions. The Patriots have been able to maintain their unprecedented run as the NFL’s top dog, due to a lack of issues that can divide or distract the team. If you want to understand the impact of distractions on a team, just look at the 2016-17 Steelers, when Antonio Brown broadcasted coach Mike Tomlin’s derogatory speech about the Patriots on Facebook Live. The constant media onslaught about this simple incident took the focus off of football for the Steelers, and they were consequently eliminated by the Pats the following week.
Belichick has also been able to ensure that conflicts do not erupt in his locker room, due to specific players being treated differently than the rest of the team. Belichick has done his best to ensure that he treats everyone on the team the same, starting from Tom Brady to any rookie player. Teams that do not do this run the risk of alienating their players, and a prime example of this is the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots famously defeated the Seahawks in 2015’s thrilling Super Bowl XLIX, where Seattle opted to throw the ball from the one-yard line, instead of handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, and a popular theory as to why this occurred is that Pete Carroll and his staff wanted Russell Wilson to be the hero of the game. As reported by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, the Seattle defense clearly believed this theory, leading to some evident friction between them and their coaching staff (incidents have even occurred on their sidelines during games). Seattle’s ill-fated decision in Super Bowl XLIX led to a divide among the team, from which they have never fully recovered. It also doesn’t help when members of your team are taking shots at each other through interviews and social media, which is a clear sign of dysfunction.
The examples of Pittsburgh and Seattle were used to show how the Patriots have been able to remain successful, as they have rarely faced distractions that can hinder the team’s performance. However, Belichick’s recent decision to revoke the privileges of Tom Brady’s guru/life coach/mentor/friend Alex Guerrero may present him with the distraction that he absolutely abhors.
Tom Brady has been close with Guerrero for almost a decade, ever since the latter helped TB12 recover from his devastating knee injury suffered in 2008. Brady credits Guerrero and his unique methods with enabling him to maintain his peak performance at the age of 40. However, even if Brady trusts Guerrero, it may be hard for others to do so, as Guerrero has tried to sell ‘veggies that can cure terminal illnesses’ and ‘an elixir that can prevent concussions’ in the past, earning him the title of a glorified snake oil salesman. Due to his close friendship with Brady, Guerrero earned several privileges within the Patriots organization, such as sideline access, flying the team’s charter plane, and even having his own office at Gillette Stadium. Guerrero’s clientele has also grown, with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and other prominent Patriots coming to the controversial trainer. Guerrero’s growing prominence within the Patriots clearly irked New England’s team of trainers (with actual medical certification, unlike Guerrero), leading to some conflict between the two parties. This growing conflict between the trainers and Guerrero most likely led Belichick to curb his influence in the team building. Guerrero can no longer come on the sidelines or the team plane, and can only treat Patriot players (not named Tom Brady) in the nearby TB12 Center.
Belichick’s decision to limit Alex Guerrero’s role with the Patriots does make sense , as Guerrero’s previous transgressions involving fraudulent products, and his lack of a medical license could come back to haunt the Patriots in the future. Belichick’s motivations to protect the team are clear, but it may not have been the best decision. Revoking Guerrero’s privileges runs the risk of alienating Tom Brady, as TB12 is heavily close with his beloved trainer.
Could this be the distraction that finally divides and conquers the Patriots’ dynasty? Only time will tell…