Tom Brady is set to face Bill Belichick and the Patriots for the first time since his departure. Brady’s Buccaneers will travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots. It will be a homecoming for Brady that will stir up emotions in the quarterback, head coach and New England fans alike.
There’s no question that the Patriots fans will give Brady a warm welcome home. But what type of welcome will Brady get from Belichick? Will Brady turn a cold shoulder toward his former coach?
It was reported when Brady left the Patriots, that a souring relationship with Belichick was part of his decision to leave. Is there any animosity lingering from that, or will the two sides have made up close to a year after splitting? Those questions will only be answered on the field before, during and after the game.
That said, we do know at least a little bit about the relationship between the two men. Here’s a look back at their relationship and events that led to Brady’s endgame with the Patriots as well as what the two men have said about each other lately.
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Timeline of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s relationship since 2017
Late summer, 2017: Belichick bans Alex Guerrero — Brady’s trainer and personal friend — from the Patriots’ sideline, team headquarters and team plane. Guerrero was becoming a “divisive force” with the Patriots’ building, according to an ESPN story.
Mid-October, 2017: Belichick is given an ultimatum from Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft. He must trade Jimmy Garoppolo, the presumed successor to Brady and free-agent-to-be.
Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trading deadline, Belichick met with Kraft to discuss the quarterback situation. According to staffers, the meeting ran long, lasting half the day and pushing back Belichick’s other meetings. The office was buzzing. 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. Belichick was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job.
After that move was made, Brady “‘seemed liberated”, as the ESPN story described; he had job security again after the trade.
Kraft hugged Brady when he saw him that week, in full view of teammates. A few days later during practice, some players and staffers noticed that Brady seemed especially excited, hollering and cajoling. Brady was once again the team’s present and future. His new backup, Brian Hoyer, was a longtime friend and not a threat. The owner was in Brady’s corner. “He won,” a Patriots staffer says.
The juxtoposition in emotions between the two men regarding the move certainly created some tension.
Nov. 6, 2017: Brady addresses comments that Belichick made about the then-40-year-old being a year-to-year option for the Patriots. He
“I think every player is year-to-year in the NFL,” Brady said on WEEI, per The Washington Post. “Any player, any coach. I don’t know. Anything changes year-to-year. I think we have learned that about the NFL.
Brady also praised Belichick profusely in the radio spot.
“I think he is a great coach and there is obviously no coach I would rather play for,” he said. “I love playing for this team and I’ve tried to do it for a long time and I have done it for a long time. I enjoy doing it and hopefully I can do it for a long time.”
Dec. 20, 2017: Belichick is asked near the end of the 2017 season if his relationship with Brady is any different that previous years. This came shortly after details of the Belichick-Guerrero rift became public. Belichick’s response raised some eyebrows.
“Every year is different,” he said, per NESN.
Dec. 22, 2017: Belichick clarifies what he meant in his cryptic comment.
“Just different teams, different players,” Belichick said, via NESN. “He’s great to work with. No one is better prepared than Tom. Tom’s always ready to go, always on top of it. He really takes coaching well. He’s got a lot of good ideas, but each year is different. Our team is different, players are different, our opponents are different. Every week is different.”
He also denied that there was any drama between himself and Guerrero.
Jan. 5, 2018: Seth Wickersham’s story detailing the tension surrounding Kraft, Brady and Belichick is released ahead of the team’s playoff run.
Feb. 5, 2018: The Patriots lose the Super Bowl 41-33 to the Eagles. Belichick took the blame for the loss.
“In the end, we just couldn’t quite make enough plays, and that was all on me,” Belichick said, per “The New York Post.”
“We weren’t able to perform at our best,” Belichick continued. “Obviously, we didn’t do a good enough job coaching, missed a lot of opportunities offensively in the first half, didn’t play good enough defense, didn’t play good enough in the kicking game.”
Tom Brady threw for 503 yards and three TDs in the loss.
Spring, 2018: Brady skips the Patriots’ offseason program for the first time in his career, but there is no concern about him going anywhere. However, Belichick reportedly explored the possibility of leaving the Patriots, as Wickersham detailed in a recent interview.
“There were some reports that came out at the time that the Giants were looking at him,” Wickersham said. “I think he talked to the Washington Football Team and the Dolphins about sort of their openings. And it was unclear whether he was interested or not, but he was still talking to them and subsequent reporting has only sort of shown how in that offseason, Brady skipped the offseason program for the first time in his career and he had just kind of had enough.”
MORE: Tom Brady’s Super Bowl history, stats by game
May 1, 2018: Brady is asked if he feels appreciated by the Patriots at the Milken Global Institute. He says, “I plead the Fifth!” in jest, but follows it with a more serious response.
“Man, that is a tough question,” Brady said, per Business Insider. “I think everybody in general wants to be appreciated more in their professional life, but there’s a lot of people that appreciate me way more than I ever thought was possible as part of my life. You have different influences in your life and the people I work with, they’re trying to get the best out of me. So they’re trying to treat me in the way they feel is going to get the best out of me, and I’ve got to get the best out of myself.”
Aug. 24, 2018: Brady is asked about Guerrero’s status with the Patriots ahead of the season. His trainer had flown with the team to a preseason game and stayed at the Patriots’ hotel, but Brady declined to speak about it.
“I don’t want to bring on any drama this year,” Brady said to reporters. “I’m just focused on what I want to do, be a great football player for this team. Try to be a good example in the locker room. Provide great leadership. That’s where my focus is. I know we want to often focus on a lot of other things, but I just want to stick to football and focus on being the best I can be for this team.”
Aug. 28, 2018: Brady hangs up on his weekly WEEI radio hit with then-host Kirk Minihane after being asked about Guerrero’s status with the team.
Sept. 19, 2018: A book by Ian O’Connor reveals that Brady is starting to grow tired of working with Belichick.
“Tom knows Bill is the best coach in the league, but he’s had enough of him,” an anonymous source told O’Connor, via USA TODAY Sports. “If Tom could, I think he would divorce him.”
Dec. 10, 2018: The Patriots endure a relatively drama-free season, and part of that is due to a strengthened relationship between Brady and Belichick. ESPN’s Jeff Darlington explained on “Sunday NFL Countdown” that the relationship was no longer as strained as it was in 2017.
“Basically what is happening here, a year ago there was strain on this relationship, there were issues between Belichick and Brady, they were on-going,” Darlington said. “But now, suddenly, something has changed. Based on the conversations that I have had, there has been no watershed moment, but suddenly these two guys are communicating better and getting along this year.”
“As one person put it, ‘they are vibing much more,'” Darlington continued. “It got to a point where it wouldn’t have lasted this year if it went like it did last year. Better communication. He’s treating Tom more like a 41-year-old man.”
Jan. 2019: Belichick is complimentary of Brady ahead of Super Bowl 53. The Patriots are set to take on the Rams.
“He’s a great quarterback and I’d certainly put him up there against anybody,” Belichick said of Brady. “He’s a great player, and he’s been a great player for the New England Patriots. Certainly his record is unmatched. I’m glad he’s my quarterback.”
Feb. 3, 2019: Patriots win Super Bowl 53. They beat the Rams 13-3; Julian Edelman wins MVP and Brady throws for 262 yards.
Aug. 4, 2019: Brady signs a two-year extension with the Patriots worth $70 million. However, the deal voids after the 2019 season, meaning that Brady will be a free agent in 2020. The Patriots were unable to franchise tag him in 2020 as a part of the agreement.
Brady reportedly wanted a multi-year contract that Belichick and the Patriots simply weren’t willing to give him.
Sept. 9, 2019: The Patriots sign Antonio Brown after his release by the Raiders. Brown adds to a stacked-looking group of Patriots weapons which also features Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and first-round rookie N’Keal Harry. Brown is accused of sexual and personal misconduct shortly after joining the team.
Sept. 20, 2019: The Patriots cut Antonio Brown after he allegedly sent intimidating messages to one of his accusers.
Sept. 26, 2019: Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston reports that Brady was irked by the Patriots’ decision to cut Brown.
“Brady was trying to help Brown stabilize. He disagrees with the business decision made by Robert Kraft to jettison Brown.”
This further adds to the disconnect between the Patriots’ franchise and Brady.
Nov. 3, 2019: The Patriots lose their first game of the season against the Ravens after starting 8-0. Brady would later tell NBC that he was “the most miserable 8-0 quarterback in the NFL.”
Jan. 4, 2020: The Patriots lose a Wild Card playoff game the hands of the Titans. Tennessee scores a go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute on the clock and Brady throws a pick-six to his former teammate Logan Ryan to seal the deal.
Jan. 4, 2020: Brady is asked about his future following the Patriots’ loss to the Titans. His response: “I just got off the field.” He said that he loves the Patriots as well, but he wouldn’t commit to returning to the team.
Feb. 2, 2020: NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran reports that the Patriots are willing to “extend” themselves to get a deal done. That would mean potentially paying Brady an excess of $30 million.
March 4, 2020: Brady and Belichick talk about a deal, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran. The talks weren’t productive.
March 7, 2020: Curran reports that Robert Kraft won’t interfere with any talks between Brady and Belichick as they look to get a deal done.
March 17, 2020: Tom Brady announces via Instagram that he will be leaving the Patriots after 20 seasons. Belichick releases a statement saying: “Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation.”
March 20, 2020: Brady signs with the Buccaneers on a two-year deal worth $50 million.
March 22, 2020: ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports that Brady and the Patriots never had any meaningful negotiations before Brady became a free agent. In fact, contract negotiations in 2018 and 2019 were tense.
March 24, 2020: Brady speaks in his first press conference with the Buccaneers. He thanked Kraft and the Patriots for his time there before expressing his excitement to play in Tampa Bay.
“Mr. Kraft has been a great influence in my life,” Brady said. “I’m so grateful for two decades and I referenced that the other day. It’s been an amazing thing for my family and I’m sure when I’m done playing I’ll look back and have a chance to really reevaluate my entire career.
“At the same time, I’m excited for this opportunity that I have [with the Buccaneers] and I can only speak to how I feel and I wrote about that in my social media the other day. Getting to be a free agent and having the opportunity to join the Bucs was something that I was really excited about and that’s why we’re at where we’re at.”
April 3, 2020: Brady appeared on “The Howard Stern Show” and acknowledged that he wouldn’t have been as successful at the NFL level without Belichick.
“So the fact you could say, ‘Would I be successful without him, the same level of success?’ I don’t believe I would have been,” Brady said. “But I feel the same vice versa, as well.
“To have him allowed me to be the best I can be, so I’m grateful for that. I very much believe that he feels the same way about me, because we’ve expressed that to each other.”
Feb. 1, 2021: Brady spoke about his relationship with Belichick ahead of Super Bowl 55. He insisted it was nothing but positive.
“I have a great relationship with him,” Brady said of Belichick before Super Bowl 55. “I’m just incredibly grateful for what he’s meant in my life as a coach. He’s everything you could ask for as a player.”
“I loved my time and two incredible decades there,” he added. “My football journey took me to a different place. I certainly could never have accomplished the things in my career without his support and his teachings.”
Sept. 27, 2021: Belichick spoke well of Brady ahead of his return to New England. He was asked about his time coaching Brady ahead of the veteran quarterback’s return to New England. He didn’t expound much on the question, but he characterized his connection with Brady as positive.
“Tom and I had a — I feel like a good relationship and a lot of production, obviously, while we were together,” Belichick said during an interview with WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show”. “And I enjoyed coaching Tom, and he was a great player for us.”
Sept. 29, 2021: Belichick spoke glowingly of Brady ahead of the Patriots-Buccaneers game. He thanked the two of them for everything they did for him during his time with the Patriots.
“Certainly, Rob and Tom have done a lot for this organization,” Belichick said. “A lot for me, and I appreciate everything they’ve done and have a ton of respect for them, but you know, this Sunday we’re on opposite sides of the field. We’re going to do what we can to not make them enjoy the night. I’m sure they’ll do the same to us but look forward to the opportunity and the challenge and look forward to Sunday night.”
Sept. 30, 2021: Brady addressed the media ahead of the game for the first time. Brady spoke for nearly minutes and at the end gave his thoughts on how his time in New England came to a close and his relationship with Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. He also said this weekend’s matchup transcends those things.
“We had a great relationship. I think everything was handled the right way and we handled everything as gracefully as we could. It was an amazing time and it was handled perfectly. I think everyone understood where we were at. Things worked out for the best for all of us, and we’re all trying to do the best we can do now,” Brady said.
“It’s what happens in life — you go through these experiences and you don’t know where life’s gonna lead. I think the only thing I know how to do is give it all I can everyday and every moment. The people who bet on me, I want to do well for them. That’s ultimately what this week’s about — it’s not about the quarterback, it’s not about the fans or the home crowd, or the relationships of 20 years — it’s about two good football teams going at it.
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