The Seth Wickersham Article is Not Fake News, but It Is Odd
I usually despise “Top Five” articles. But sometimes an article comes along where you need to organize things in bullet point form or else lose the narrative. This Seth Wickersham article that came out today is one such article. The article is strikingly odd in some of the claims. You cannot go so far as to say the article is “Fake News” (I hate that term), but publishing an article that legitimately does not have a single on-the-record source is just odd. Yes, in sports, stories are broken all the time that only refer to “sources” and people take the ensuing information as gospel, but to publish an article that clocks in just shy of 5,000 words, and to do so without any named sources, is dubious. So, with that in mind, here are the five oddest things in the Seth Wickersham article:
No. 1 There is a Patriot of the Week Award… and Tom Brady Cares About It
Dropped into the end of the paragraph about how Brady is oscillating “between unwavering confidence and driving insecurity” is this amazing tidbit:
Brady has noted to staff a few times this year that, no matter how many game-changing throws he makes, Belichick hasn’t awarded him Patriot of the Week all year.
Two things: 1) Because I have already said my piece about the sourcing of this article, we will bypass the hearsay claim of Brady talking to “staff,” that led to this piece of information, and instead concentrate on the fact THERE IS A PATRIOT OF THE WEEK AWARD! In all of my years following the Patriots I have never once heard of the Patriot of the Week award. We know from the weekly updates out of the awesome Mike Reiss that the Patriots have a Practice Player of the Week Award, but not once has there ever been any mention of the Patriot of the Week Award. Does he mean getting awarded the game ball? I can understand that one, but an actual Player of the Week award just seems fishy.
2) TOM BRADY CARES ABOUT THE PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD?!?! This is by far the most surprising thing in an article full of them. I can accept the existence of an award I knew and heard nothing about until this article, but Tom Brady caring about such an award… during an MVP season… after having won two of the last three super bowls… that is almost impossible to comprehend. This is the antithesis of everything the football world has ever known about Tom Brady. Yes, Tom Brady cares about winning in an almost maniacal manner, but that drive to win is a drive to win games, not weekly awards. The claim a man that cares so deeply about a team result would care about an individual honor goes against all that we thought we knew about Tom Brady. That is not to say it could not happen… it just does not seem at all likely.
No. 2 Seth Wickersham Scooped Everybody on Jimmy G’s Contract
Not surprisingly, Wickersham spends a great deal of time discussing what went into the Jimmy G trade and how it all unfolded. But Wickersham also relays this hereto unknown doozy,
The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17 million to $18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo and Yee rejected the offers out of hand, for reasons that remain unclear, and the Patriots knew they couldn’t make any promises to Garoppolo about the timing of a transition at quarterback without it getting back to Brady.
For all of the myriad of reporters who are on the Patriots beat, for Adam Schefter and his eight gagillion phones… it was Seth Wickersham who uncovered the details of the proffered Jimmy Garoppolo contract? Wickersham, who had written a hilariously bad article last year about warm gatorade? It was he who got the scoop?
Plus, this is really detailed information. Where did he get this information? There is literally no sourcing surrounding the claim. Wickersham writes it as gospel and it is one of the most eye-catching points of the article, and yet, there is nothing surrounding it to substantiate it. He not only makes a claim the Patriots offered a contract (something nobody else has said on record), but he has the exact details about the contract in question. Again, this could be 100% factual… but Wickersham beating everybody to the punch… is just confusing on so many levels.
No. 3 Robert Kraft Demanded Bill Belichick Trade Jimmy G
For all of my complaints about Robert Kraft (directly related to being a Connecticut citizen and still annoyed over the Stadium Deal That Shall Not Be Discussed), one of his best traits is letting the best football guy in the world (Bill Belichick) control all the football stuff at 1 Patriot Place. Robert Kraft did not come to this way of doing things by mere accident. No, in the TBB (Time Before Belichick), Kraft got into it over and over again with Belichick’s predecessor Bill Parcells. Kraft learned his lessons and has stayed almost entirely out of the picture when it comes to football personnel related moves. Yet, Wickersham writes here that Kraft finally got up the moxie to demand Bill Belichick do something, namely, trade Garoppolo.
The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him.
Robert Kraft, owner of the most successful football franchise ever, ignores everything that made him successful for the past two decades and demands his coach and general manager do his bidding, against the coach/GM’s will? Yes, that does happen. Does that seem likely? Not really. Kraft made his bones on doing the exact opposite of this. Successful people, and Kraft is one of the most successful business men and football owners ever, to not tend to go against everything that made them successful.
No. 4 Patriot Staffers Believed There Was Merit to Deflategate
The dumbest penalties in NFL history are the ones surrounding Deflategate. Footballs lost air pressure because it was cold outside. All Patriots fans can quote off the top of their head, “pV=nRT.” Something that was supposed to occur, and can be explained by relatively simple science, did occur. This surprised the NFL and they used dubious texts and a bathroom break to levy fines, forfeit draft picks, and suspend the best quarterback of all time. And yet, here we have Seth Wickersham claiming Kraft and Patriot staffers believe the NFL:
He apologized in front of a room of owners for Spygate. And he stood by Brady during Deflategate, even after he backed down and accepted the NFL’s penalty. Kraft did so even though many staffers in the building believed there was merit in the allegation, however absurd the case.
The same Robert Kraft who helped create “The Wells Report in Context,” has people on his staff who believe the case despite it being patently “absurd?” At the risk of beating a dead horse, who are these Patriot Staffers? Where is the source for any of this. I find it extremely hard to believe that anybody who has read the Wells Report believes the Patriots did anything wrong, much less there are people who work for the Patriots that believe as such.
No. 5 Belichick Has Coached His Last Regular Season Game for the Patriots
The game unfolded like many have for the Patriots this year, with Brady looking mortal at times and like an MVP at others. As usual, the Patriots won. It didn’t look like Belichick’s last regular-season game as the Patriots’ head coach, but several coaches and staffers later remarked to one another that it felt as if it could be.
Just… no. Unless Bill Belichick walks away and the Patriots appoint either Josh McDaniels or Matt Patricia as head coach, this is not happening. There is almost no indication whatsoever that Belichick is tired of coaching. He is not going anywhere. Not for a long time. I do not believe he can reach the 78 wins he needs to pass Don Shula, but I agree with Wickersham that he wants to stick around long enough to make sure both of his sons are on solid footing professionally.
Clearly there is something about this article that does not sit right with me. I have long enjoyed sports journalism over traditional journalism because it is usually better sourced and you can believe reports and articles more freely. This article though has so many surprising claims, claims that fly in the face of everything else that had previously been reported, that it is hard to discern what is on the level and what might not be. The lack of almost any on-the-record sources hurt the credibility of the article, and that is a shame because I would love to know what is going on at 1 Patriot Place, the same way everybody else would like to know. However, this article, for all of its weight, is an oddity.