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Thinking out loud: Some thoughts on the ESPN piece regarding power struggle with Patriots

January 06, 2018 - 9:31 am

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering just what the heck a “bomb cyclone” is?

  • Time to circle the wagons again.  And if there’s one thing we all should have learned by now, controversy – any controversy – surrounding the Patriots ends up haunting others.  So, bring it on – whether it is fact, fiction or much ado about nothing.


  • If TB12 is upset with anything – with Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft or even himself – he only has himself to blame.  Seth Wickersham’s ESPN tale, telling of the alleged “drifting” between the three in their relationship, is nothing more than an opinion based on alleged insight from some members of the team staff.


  • “Tom’s changed” was one of the key quotes from a staffer.  And to that I would say “of course he has.”  The man is 40 years old, how can he not change?  We all change, nothing is the same forever.  That the three have been able to subvert their egos for the good of the team and franchise has been an often-overlooked part of their story.


  • This much I will agree with – having been around the Patriots for 30 years and having covered pro football for most of the past four decades – all good things do come to an end.  This much I witnessed with Tom Landry’s inglorious fall from grace in Dallas.  Whether it’s now, or tomorrow, or next year doesn’t matter.  This is no great revelation.


  • Wickersham’s story, while well-written, is a fairytale.  It is merely hype for a network and a brand in search of generating interest and whipping up controversy.  It is much ado about nothing.  There are zero “for the record” quotes.  It is playing on emotions, which have been obfuscated from reality by the organizations’ unprecedented winning ways.


  • There’s a huge difference between good journalism and good feature reporting – and good sensationalism.  This was not journalism.  This is what journalism, sadly, has been mistaken for in our instantaneous, “look at me” world these days. 


  • ESPN got what it wanted, by the way.  It was the #1 trend on Twitter through the day on Friday, after Wickersham’s story was published.  Hey, you throw s*it, some of it sticks.  But credible?  Please.  ESPN is the home of nonsensical, non-scientific “Deflategate.”


  • If egos are finally getting in the way, well, it’s about time.  They’re human, after all.  Neither of the three is more responsible for the Patriots “dynasty” than another – although I would point out Kraft has allowed Belichick to be himself, and Belichick has certainly allowed Brady to flourish. 


  • But it’s TB12 who wins on the field.  Just sayin’.


  • The issue over Brady’s friend and partner Alex Guerrero is a perplexing one, however.  You can see where a rift might form within the team hierarchy, players feeling pressure to work with “Tom’s guy” in order to gain favor with him. 


  • That’s a problem, and Belichick is right to want to quash it.  Ever heard of “conflict of interest?”  Brady should know as much.


  • Just remember this – nothing is absolute.  I know Patriots’ staff members who undoubtedly feel differently about this alleged rift, and others who simply don’t care about it.  So what?  The judgment comes in the final result. 


  • As the late Raiders’ owner Al Davis once said, “just win baby.”


  • No, I don’t believe Mr. Kraft “ordered” Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo.  Kraft has famously intoned his desire to let the coach “coach.”  And if he did?  So what?  It’s his team, and we certainly have examples of meddlesome ownership throughout all professional sport. 


  • I do have reason to believe, however, Belichick would walk away from New England if he ever had to endure a few Bill Parcells-like moments and not get the chance to ‘shop for groceries.’  It is a very delicate balance between the three Patriot titans – and it’s possible that balance has already been tipped to one side, but that winning ultimately balances the relationship.


  • The buck stops with Kraft.  Undoubtedly, if there is a rift, it will be addressed once this season has concluded.  Maybe TB12 can go a couple of years longer?  Expect a QB to be on the Patriots’ wish list, for certain, next spring.  And expect any conflicts of interest to be set aside, as they should be.


  • Tweet of the Week I, from the Boston Herald’s @jeffphowe: “If you think Tom Brady forced Robert Kraft to force Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, I’d recommend that you finish shoveling my driveway. There’s gold at the bottom.”


  • If there are any conflicts of interest, it’s the organizations’ fault for allowing them to exist in the first place.  Kraft doesn’t become a billionaire by allowing individual agendas to run rampant through his business. 


  • It never ceases to amaze – that grocery store shelves run empty when the threat of snow arrives.  Did the Blizzard of ’78 scar everyone irreparably for life?  It’s s-n-o-w, people.  Frozen water.  Why do our common senses disappear when Mother Nature decides to ‘let us have it?’


  • Let’s move along, nothing to see here.  You’ve seen (and heard) one snowflake, you’ve seen them all.


  • I like Kansas City to be in Foxboro next week, but would not be shocked to see Buffalo surprise Jacksonville to go for Round Three.  The true surprise would come from Tennessee. 


  • Two words for the Titans – No. Shot.  But I could be wrong.


  • The road has been plowed for another Patriots’ parade.  The problem is, as I see it, staying healthy enough to realize the full potential.  What Bill Belichick has done to piecemeal this thing and take it to 13-3 has been Coach of the Year stuff. 


  • But BB is taken for granted by everyone.  We won’t really know what we have, until we no longer have it.


  • Here’s the real follow up question to that one – does Robert Kraft know this?  He’s a smart man.  I’ll wager he does.


  • Tweet of the Week II, from ex-Providence Journal curmudgeon @JimDonaldsonJr: “This latest #ESPN-created kerfuffle involving the #Patriots reminds me of 2003, when ESPN’s Tom Jackson said #Pats players “hated” Belichick – a story with which no NE media concurred. @Patriots hated their coach so much that they won their last 15 games, including SB XXXVIII.”


  • TB12 and Gronk – 1st team all-Pro.  Really?  Was there ever a doubt?


  • While Brady is deserving of the NFL MVP this season, you can make a strong case for Rob Gronkowski as well.  But the Patriots did win last year without him, so…there is that.


  • Jon Gruden, back to the Raiders.  Does he hate Sean McDonough that much, or is owner Mark Davis that crazy?  Discuss amongst yourselves.


  • Great note from our friends @AwfulAnnouncing – while it’s true that NFL ratings are declining, of the 50-most watched TV programs last year, 37 of them were NFL games.


  • Loved this from Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings this week, when a Louisville fan heckled him from the stands, and he yelled back: “At least we didn’t pay our guys $100,000.”


  • The Friars’ season is not over.  Not by any means.  Or do you not recall last year’s team at 4-8 in the Big East, then winning six straight to reach the NCAA’s?  How soon you forget.


  • Here are the issues as I see them, however – 1) get healthy, and there is a cloud of bad luck hanging over their heads on that one, for certain. 2) Kyron Cartwright needs to score.  3) Someone – anyone – needs to rebound and defend in the post.


  • Oh, and 4) Make free throws.  They’re free, after all. 


  • But the talent is there to win, even without Emmitt Holt’s presence.  This is now Cartwright’s, Rodney Bullock’s and Jalen Lindsey’s problem.  Lead by example, or get out of the way and let the kids take over.  How do they want to be remembered?


  • Season Four of This Week in the Big East is back this week, airing Saturday mornings at 6 on 103.7 WEEI-FM.  If you aren’t an early-riser, then download the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play, or find it on satellite radio Saturday’s at 11:00 am on Sirius 108/XM 203/App channel 963, or anytime on or


  • Will Rhody lose again this season?  E.C. Matthews has returned to form, it seems.  Teams with size may still give the Rams problems, but where are those teams on the URI schedule?


  • Five straight wins heading into George Washington Saturday.  Could be an interesting road test next week at Saint Louis, then back home for St. Bonaventure next weekend.  Maybe the biggest back-to-backs this year, short of PC and Alabama.


  • Brown ended its non-conference slate with a win over NJIT this week, putting the Bears at 7-6 on the season.  They’re better than most think they are, and have a chance to prove it with freshman guard Desmond Cambridge leading the way.  The Bears were picked for dead-last in the Ivies.


  • Alas, Bryant isn’t faring as well.  Not even close.  The Bulldogs have been annual NEC contenders since their arrival into Division I, but this year?  1-15 and an 0-3 start in league play.  They can score, but that hasn’t been the problem.  Allowing almost 84 points per game is the problem.


  • Georgia and Alabama in the college football national title game has me on the “Great with Eight” bandwagon.  Not just that two SEC programs are in it, but that 13-0 UCF was snubbed to the point of embarrassment, ruining the CFP’s credibility.


  • But UCF claiming a piece of the national title after winning the Peach Bowl over Auburn?  Great win, but c’mon now.  Love the bravado, though.


  • We are presently no better off in college football than we were when the Associated Press TOLD us who the national champ was, every year.  Fix the process and give everyone an equal shot – like the NCAA does with March Madness – or ditch it and go back to the Stone Age when writer polls ruled the world.


  • The 11th-ranked PC Hockey Friars held onto the Mayor’s Cup with a 5-0 whitewashing of Brown this week.  The Bears hadn’t played since December 9th. 


  • After lunch one day this week, my buddy “Big E” walked into his local pharmacy and saw a man standing near the counter, leaning against the wall, looking distressed.  He asked the druggist behind the counter if there was anything wrong with the guy, and the man said, “he came in looking for a cough syrup we didn’t have, so I gave him laxatives.”  Big E told the pharmacist he didn’t know you could treat a cough with laxatives. The pharmacist replied, “of course you can. Look at him. He’s too scared to cough now.”


  • J.D. Martinez?  We’ve waited this long to find out he’s been offered a five-year deal, which is what most of us came up with two months ago?  Take your time, Dealer Dave.  You’re stealing money.


  • And the Yankees have already won the off-season.


  • The Red Sox did announce an extension of their Player Development Contract and affiliation with the Pawsox, keeping their Triple A relationship intact through at least 2020.  The current partnership enters its 46th consecutive year, the second longest (behind Kansas City and Omaha) in AAA.


  • But will this affiliation continue with Pawtucket?  That’s still to be decided by our esteemed “think small, be small” politicians in RI.


  • In the always-heated sports radio ratings battles – WEEI won for the fall book in mornings and middays, while The Sports Hub claimed afternoons, evenings (thanks to play-by-play) and overall Monday-Sunday listenership.  98.5 gets a bump thanks to their streaming strategy, while WEEI gets a boost from 103.7, which has strong enough numbers in Providence to rate in Boston.


  • Not for nuthin,’ but if I’m Paul Pierce I don’t think I’d want Isaiah Thomas’ “thank you” video running on my night, either.


  • Look, I appreciated IT as much as anyone.  But aren’t we way over-inflating his worth and value to the franchise?  Put it this way – will his banner ever be in the Garden rafters?  Um, no.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate his talent, hustle or desire.


  • The Bruins had their home game with Florida postponed this week, thanks to the “Bomb Cyclone” that hit New England.  Don’t you just love the creativity from our weather-types in the broadcast business?


  • Bomb Cyclone > snowflakes.  It’s a creative way to build the hype, gain attention and send an all-too-trusting public scurrying to the grocery stores.  If I’m Stop ‘n Shop or Shaw’s, I’m doubling-down on my local ad time from November through March. 


  • And if I’m a TV weather-person, I want my cut.  Marketing & Sales in Rhode Island 101.  What’s in it for me?


  • David (@DavidRuggi) tweeted this week on the Friar games at the Dunk: “Why don’t they show replays on the Dunk scoreboard? Very frustrating for fans in attendance.” David:  It’s a great question, but the best guess from me is they probably do not want to incite the crowd over calls that may be controversial in nature, i.e. “Bad.”  There may also be video rights involved with TV partners (like Fox).  But the Dunkin Donuts Center security staff probably doesn’t need more to worry about, like finding bodyguards for the referees.


  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to [email protected]. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

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