PFT does what PFT does: Look for crap, throw it against a wall, and see if it sticks. In the case of Tom Brady and his general unhappiness with the Patriots over his contract situation, they may have found something that stinks.
This morning, PFT commented on the media "knife fight" between ESPN's John Clayton and Comcast Network's Tom Curran, formerly of the Providence Journal. Curran is someone we've often locked horns with here at Stampede Blue. He's a nice guy in person, but he has a tendency to sometimes carry water for the New England Patriots. Hence my title of Tom as "unofficial" Patriots waterboy. I've met Tom in person and told him of my occasional annoyance with his bias towards the Patriots. He smiled, nodded, and said that was fair.
Anyway, so Curran v. Clayton. The throw down! The cause for their knife fight is none other than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Clayton is reporting that Tom Brady may hold out of part of Patriots training camp. The reason is his contract.
Like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady is a free agent in 2011. Like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady wants to be paid the biggest contract in NFL history. Unlike Peyton Manning, Tom Brady is not going to get that kind of contract. In fact, in Brady's case, the Patriots seem perfectly willing to let 2010 roll right along without offering Tom Brady a new deal. They also seem willing to let a potential labor lockout happen in 2011 prior to offering Brady his new deal.
Apparently, Tommy Terrific (the man most zombie Pats fans* say would play for free if he could because he wants to win THAT BADLY) isn't down with what owner Bob Kraft and team overlord Bill Belichick are feeding him. Again, this is what Clayton is essentially telling us.
Curran, however, thinks Clayton is full of it.
In general, I trust John Clayton's reporting much more than I trust Tom Curran's, especially when it comes to the Patriots. Curran has tremendous access to the Pats, but that just means he is more likely to peddle their BS in order to retain that access. Clayton, meanwhile, works from his homebase in Seattle. He has no loyalty to the Pats, and if they don't like him or don't give him access, he could care less. Clayton's status is such that he can go directly to players and agents, which is probably where he is getting his info. Just to be clear, that's me speculating.
PFT's Mike Florio adds a little more gasoline to the fire:
There is a collective thought around the Patriots that Tom Brady is a different guy than he was a few year ago.
If I could add my two cents into this: I agree Brady is likely a different person than he was in, say, 2003. He is no longer the caretaker of a "play-it-safe" offense whose main goal was to not turn the football over. From 2001-2004, the Patriots won three Super Bowls because of their defense and the clutch-kicking of Adam Vinatieri. After 2004, their defense started getting old and it started... well, sucking. Today, gone are players like Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest, and Ty Law. All of these guys were cornerstones of a dominant Patriots defense and none of them were drafted by Bill Belichick. Each of them pre-date Belichick's arrival in New England back in 2000.
Since these players have departed for greener pastures, the Patriots defense has been unable to replace them. Their pass rush has been inconsistent to non-existent since McGinest left. Players like Leigh Bodden are nothing compared to Ty Law in his prime. And as talented as Jerod Mayo is, he's come up small in big games the last two years (see Baltimore Ravens playoff game as an example). Bruschi and Vrabel came alive in big games, and neither had the talent Mayo brings to the table.
With the defense faltering, Tom Brady has had to take on more of the load in order for the team to have a chance to win. Instead of stopping the opponent, the Patriots now have to outscore the opponent. Yes, there is a difference.
Essentially, Brady is working with a team make-up today that Peyton Manning worked with for the first six or seven years of his career. Brady has an offense that can score points, but struggles when it needs to gain tough yards in critical situations. His defense is prone to the big play, and has trouble stopping the run.
Again, sound familiar Colts fans?
Also, factor in that Brady is just two years removed from a potentially career-ending knee injury. If he suffers another injury like the one he sustained in Week One of 2008, he's done as a football player. Brady knows this. He also knows that if he sustains an injury of similar severity in 2010, the Patriots are perfectly willing to jettison him and move on with another player. Look at Richard Seymour as a clear example of the team's "loyalty" to players that have helped them win in the past.
From my vantage point, I absolutely think Tom Brady has every right to demand the Patriots sign him. Should he hold out from camp? No, because that hurts the team. The bottom line is winning, and Tom Brady is already a multi-gazillionaire who is married to the richest supermodel in the world. Again, if you want to see how to handle these kinds of things, look no further than Peyton Manning. He is in the exact same boat as Brady, and we aren't hearing stories about how he may hold out from camp because of us contract.
The other angle to this story sort of paints Brady favorably. He is not working within the same organization Manning is. The Patriots have a terrible track record for taking care of players. The general thought in New England is players are expendable, and that as long as Bill Belichick is there the team has a chance to win championships. He can turn scrubs into champions, bums into Pro Bowlers, water into wine. This mindset is, of course, over-simplistic and downright moronic. Bill Belichick was a walking joke when he took over the Patriots job in 2000. The dumpster fire that was he tenure with the Browns was still fresh in everyone's mind. His record with the Pats was 5-13 before he inserted a second-year QB from Michigan named Brady into the starting line-up after then-starting QB Drew Bredsoe nearly had his chest collapsed by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis in Week Two of the 2001 season.
Since that switch, which was done solely because of the injury to Bledsoe, the Patriots have won the AFC East seven times, been victorious in 14 of 18 playoff games, and played in four Super Bowls.
So, you tell me who is more important to the Patriots, Belichick or Brady? Between the two of them, who has gotten the long term deal and who hasn't? After you've answered that question, do you kind of see why Brady might be a "different guy than he was a few year ago?" Maybe ole Tommy has finally woken up and realized he's a bit more important to the success of the franchise than his supposedly "genius" coach is. Maybe Tommy is starting to flex his muscles a bit, reminding owner Bob Kraft that it was not Tom Brady who cheated and disgraced the franchise in 2007 with the whole "Spygate" thing. It wasn't Tom Brady who traded away the team's best defensive lineman to the Oakland Raiders prior to the start of the 2009 season only to see the Ravens run for 234 yards and 4 TDs on the Pats in an embarrassing playoff performance in Foxboro that same season.
I'll close this little rant by saying that I have always been a Tom Brady fan. He is the reason the Patriots have been even reasonably competitive since the defense started falling apart after 2005. I also do not think Bill Belichick is a crappy coach who has been made to look good because of Tom Brady. I just personally think Belichick is over-rated, and is an inferior coach to someone like Tony Dungy; a coach who won with two different franchises using two different methods. Belichick won a lot of games (and Super Bowls) with players he did not bring into the franchise. Since those players have moved on, the team has struggled. Belichick is indeed a very good coach, but this coach of the decade crap is simply not accurate. Let me see what Belichick's record is without Tom Brady. Oh wait, I already know.
It's 41-57 with a 1-1 record in the post-season.
I also think that Brady might just be using his current contract situation in order to progress the NFL Player's Union's agenda. As PFT suggests, Brady has taken on more of a leadership role with the Union, and perhaps he is using his situation as a way to fight the collusion tactics the Union has levied against the owners.
Whatever the reason, if Clayton's report is accurate and Brady does indeed either threaten to or actually does hold out from part of or all of training camp, it will finally put an end to this silly notion that Brady plays the game for less money just to help the team win. The reality is Tommy Terrific wants to get paid just like everyone else, and there's nothing wrong with that. There is something wrong with holding out from camp, but that is between the Patriots and Brady.
The real story here is we are, for the first time, starting to see some cracks in the facade in New England. These cracks were likely always there. Today, they are just a bit more visible.
* Most Patriots fans aren't "zombies," just the Tawmy from Quinzee-types. You know who they are. Most of them look like this guy.