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Couch: Tom Brady’s divorce from Bill Belichick proves the Belichick Way no longer works

Op-ed
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Since when did it become news that Bill Belichick is a "f***ing a**hole?" If anything, he'll want that on his headstone someday. At least he owns it.

Tom Brady, on the other hand? Not so much. In the buildup to the Brady-Belichick reunion Sunday night, we're pointing the finger — the middle finger — at the wrong guy. Belichick is shockingly the gracious one saying nice things about Brady. It's just hard to tell because Belichick's face doesn't naturally bend into a smiley motion.

Brady is the one pretending to be gracious while rubbing in his success. He's selling a T-shirt that says "The Return" while hiding behind his daddy and friends, who are doing his a**hole work for him by ripping into Belichick.

Belichick made his career out of being a — let's just call it F.A. from here. He also made Brady's career by being an F.A. to him. This was a coaching style that took a scared kid and built him from game-manager to all-time great.

The question for Belichick isn't the one everyone is asking, whether he was made by Brady or the other way around. It's about whether his F.A. style can work any more.

I think Belichick has become a relic. In a post-COVID world, his style won't work any more. We'll find out based on the development of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. After a year of the country feeling as if it has been in solitary confinement, no one is willing to have a boss who's an F.A. any more.

Meanwhile, Brady had his daddy this week saying that his son did pretty well last year in Tampa without Belichick, what with all those touchdown passes and the Super Bowl and everything.

"I've actually prepared a statement that I wanted to say, and it's really all that I have to say on the subject," Brady told Jim Gray on the Let's Go podcast:

"Comments made by Thomas Edward Brady, a 77-year old insurance company CEO, who should know better at this point in his life, don't necessarily reflect the views or positions held by his son, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.

"So, furthermore, should Tom Sr. continue to speak out on behalf of his son without the express written consent, Tom Jr. reserves the right to eventually put him in a home against his will."

Brady is in the I-told-you-so phase of his career, saying that he might play until he's 50, even though Belichick so willingly let him leave New England last year.

Meanwhile, excerpts are out from a new book, "It's Better to Be Feared" by Seth Wickersham, about the Patriots' dynasty.

The book cites unnamed sources (read: Brady's people) talking about how the Belichick-Brady relationship had fallen to pieces in its final years. When Brady left for Tampa after six Super Bowl wins with Belichick, the book says, the Grumpy Old Coach refused to meet him in person to say goodbye. They did it by phone.

The book also says that Patriots owner Robert Kraft left a conference once and told people that he wasn't looking forward to going home and dealing with the F.A. "in my life — my head coach."

I'm guessing that that quote actually put a smile on Belichick's face. Or whatever his closest facsimile is.

Belichick made his career by being void of sentimentality. Everything was cold and calculated, and he preferred to let aging players leave a year early instead of a year late. Dynasties are cut short when franchises become too attached to great players.

Brady wasn't a hot prospect out of Michigan. That story has been told over and over. Belichick must've seen something, though, when no one else did.

Belichick coldly replaced star quarterback Drew Bledsoe with Brady. And through the years, it stuck in Brady's mind that he could be replaced the same way.

In theory, Brady wanted to finish his career in New England. At the same time, a 40-something QB wanted to get out from under his ruthless boss' thumb and see if he could make it on his own. So he went to Tampa.

"It was like Bill never really ... I think his emotions or feelings never evolved with age," Alex Guerrero, Brady's personal trainer, told the Boston Herald. "As Tom got into his late 30s or early 40s, I think Bill was still trying to treat him like that 20-year-old kid he drafted. ...

"I think that was such a Bill thing. So you can't treat someone who's in his 40s like they're 20. It doesn't work."

From here, the question for Belichick is whether it works in 2021 to coach 23-year-old Mac Jones the way he did in 2000.

I don't think it does. This is an era when top players are empowered to leave one team for another to be treated the way they want. It's more of an NBA thing, but that's what Brady did and it's what Aaron Rodgers almost did.

Top young players won't put up with an authoritarian coach for long any more. Jones isn't going to be another Brady.

That'll be the test of Belichick's final act. It might be better to let Belichick leave a year early instead of a year late. But what if he really can turn Jones into something special?

Just wait till you see the smile on that F.A.'s face.
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