Brady’s embrace of the New Age and his fierce determination to hang on seems to have had repercussions. He was blamed first for freezing out, and then for forcing the midseason trade of his backup and possible heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the San Francisco 49ers.
It became a distraction, and because Brady brought on that distraction, he got crosswise with his coach, Bill Belichick, who rules his team with a firm hand. How firm?
Belichick benched cornerback Malcolm Butler here on Sunday, the same Malcolm Butler whose goal-line interception of Russell Wilson three years ago delivered the coach and his team a fourth Super Bowl title.
Why? Belichick would not say.
It would be foolish to write off the Patriots over this loss to Philadelphia in what was a very well-played game. But the strain was showing on the Patriots.
New England’s usually free-spirited tight end Rob Gronkowski declared that he was considering retirement. He’ll turn 29 during the off-season, but has oft been injured, including a hit to the head in the A.F.C. championship game that sent him to the sidelines and threatened to keep him out of Sunday’s game.
“I am definitely going to look at my future, for sure,” Gronkowski said. “I am going to sit down the next couple weeks and see where I am at.”
Belichick’s staff will certainly undergo a makeover — in the next few days, the offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is expected to be named head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and the defensive coordinator Matt Patricia looks set to become head coach of the Detroit Lions.
Leave it to Brady to sum up his and his team’s discomfort.
“Losing sucks,” Brady said. “If you want to be world champs, you have to play in this game.”
No matter what anyone else thinks, he knows time hasn’t run out on him.