On Thursday this week, the New England Patriots lost a top offensive weapon for four games, when wide receiver Julian Edelman tested positive for PEDs. Unless he appeals and wins, which is not likely, Edelman will miss the first four games of the 2018 season.
Interestingly, this loss might become a big win for head coach Bill Belichick. Why? Because it helps the controlling Belichick put star quarterback and Hall of Famer Tom Brady a bit more under his thumb.
As I noted in an earlier post, Brady is not really Belichick’s #1 target – that would never do. Instead, Alex Guerrero, in Belichick’s eyes, is the real problem. Guerrero is the owner and mastermind behind the TB12 clinic, which rivals Patriots’ team doctors as the place for all things physical-related, for Patriot players.
Like Brady, who I reported in an earlier post, claims Guerrero has him in such great shape that he intends to play into his late 40s, Edelman has been receiving treatment from Guerrero. And, now look – suspension for PEDs?
Obviously, it is easier for Belichick to make life tough for Guerrero through Edelman than through Brady – given their relative team and fan status. And, many believe Guerrero has become a major roadblock for Belichick’s complete team control. If so, he must be put in his place.
In Patriot-land, reports suggest that players are confused whether they should follow Belichick’s team rules or Brady’s personal choices about their own health and conditioning. As one source noted, players must choose to risk alienating the NFL’s most powerful coach or the NFL’s most powerful quarterback. Neither choice is a good one. And, many Patriot players believe the best way to earn Brady’s trust is to follow Brady, Gronkowski, Amendola, and now Edelman to Guerrero’s TB12 clinic rather than rely on Patriot team doctors. Belichick can’t like that.
The PED suspension costs the Patriots Edelman – who was a favorite passing target for QB Brady. Although Edelman missed last season with a torn ACL, he had career-best numbers in 2016 of 98 catches for 1,106 yards. These numbers leveraged a two-year, $11 million contract extension. Edelman has also invited Belichick’s increased scrutiny by comparing Brady’s trainer Guerrero to the mythical “Mr. Miyagi” of the movie Karate Kid for his ability to help him recover and get his game health together. Gosh. I don’t remember Miyagi pushing foreign substances for waxing cars?
What Belichick does now will be interesting. For his part, Guerrero washed his hands of any PED involvement (and of Edelman’s choice to take them). Who knows? Perhaps it is all clean fun. But any doubt about the credibility of TB12 as a go-to place for Patriot players now comes under increased scrutiny. And, in Belichick’s playbook, that isn’t all bad.
That, NFL fans, is how a coach wins by losing a key player.