Sometimes, it is what it is.
It’s a phrase New England Patriots fans know well. Their head coach, Bill Belichick, has helped to make it a staple of the regional lexicon.
However, in the world of Sports Media, that is almost never a sufficient or satisfactory explanation for major happenings. There has to be a deeper meaning, right? There must be a sinister intent. The obvious explanation cannot be the truth. Can it?
This type of self-indulgent thinking often leads to the advent of a report that is known throughout the industry as the ‘hot take.’ In short, the ‘hot take’ is an attempt by a ‘journalist’ (who will often claim to be a beacon of integrity and objectivity) to find an uncharted reason behind something like a blockbuster trade, or a cross look on the sideline. It’s fun to explore. However, it is often rooted in as much fact as the presence of the Loch Ness Monster.
In New England, the ‘hot take’ of the day is the Patriots decision to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers. Some would even like you to believe that this will be the end of the Patriots dynasty.
Although the trade took place on October 31, 2017, it is just now raising the ire of the fans and media alike. Garoppolo has started five games for the Niners and has performed brilliantly. In fact, his spectacular play has many wondering why the Patriots (who almost always take a ‘ better to part early than late’ approach) with a player, would accept a second-round pick as compensation for a potential franchise quarterback?
With the smell of blood in the water, the hot take sharks found themselves in prime position to feed. The Patriots would never trade Jimmy Garoppolo unless there was some deeper reason behind it. Like a scene from “Conspiracy Theory.” the takes begin to emerge. ‘Brady coerced Kraft and Belichick into trading Jimmy.’ “Belichick banned Brady’s trainer (Alex Guerrero) from the Pats locker room to get even with a quarterback that helped him to win five Super Bowl titles.”. “Belichick now hates Kraft and is resigning at season’s end.” The entertainment goes on and on. However, the sad thing is that these speculations are being passed off as actual truth.
Speaking of the truth, let’s take a look at what we actually know…or better yet, what we can actually prove.
The Garoppolo situation had run its course in New England. Although the Patriots wanted to keep him, it wasn’t going to be financially possible. Belichick basically admitted as much on a conference call shortly after the trade.
“It’s a tremendous situation to have two quarterbacks of the caliber that we’ve had for the past, call it 2.5 years when Jimmy was ready,” Belichick said in early November. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t sustainable given the way that things are set up. Definitely not something we wanted to walk away from and I felt we rode it out as long as we could. We’ve, over a period of time, explored every option possible to sustain it but, at this point, it felt like we had to make a decision. It’s a very complex situation on multiple levels. This is really the last window that we had and we did what we felt was best for the team.”
It’s clear that the Patriots were unhappy about having to unload their more-than-capable backup quarterback. It’s obvious that the most unhappy person about it would be Belichick. After all, removing Jimmy from the roster does weaken it. What coach would want to weaken his own roster?
And before you conjure up the image of Bill sitting behind a desk, slowly flashing a JR Ewing-like grin and laugh, as he makes the trade…Please stop!
For a coach as smart and savvy as Belichick, personal feelings are not a luxury into which he will indulge on the job. It simply became a matter of having to pass on the new option, when the current one is still functioning as well as ever.
As previously expressed by NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran, this is where Brady and Garoppolo sharing representation – by agents Don Yee and Steve Dubin – helped both quarterbacks. Even if Garoppolo agreed to the most lucrative contract a backup has ever signed here in New England, it would never approach what he’d make in starter’s money elsewhere. In addition, Jimmy G was wise to Brady’s true plans. Per Brady himself, those plans include playing until the wheels fall off or he “sucks.” It seems that Brady’s (and Garoppolo’s) agents would best know that there are no plans for Brady to wrap it up.
Being in the same locker room, meeting room and sideline with Brady for the past three-plus seasons, nobody other than Garoppolo had a better chance to bear witness to Brady’s greatness. If the fans and media alike can all recognize how maniacal Brady is in preparation and how possessive he is of his position, don’t you think Garoppolo got the same message?
The Patriots wanted Garoppolo to succeed Brady. He didn’t want to wait. Brady reminded him every day he was going to make it near-impossible to beat him out. In short, Garoppolo knew as much as Belichick and Kraft that this was his time to move on. The last rung of the ladder had been reached. It was what it was. And nothing more..
With Garoppolo now in San Francisco, it’s going to be Niners’ GM John Lynch’s job to keep him there for as long as possible. Garoppolo’s rookie contract expired at the end of the 2017 season, and the two sides are now working on a long-term deal that will keep the 49ers’ new quarterback in San Francisco for the foreseeable future. Once again, it is what it is.
But, the ‘sources’ say…
Despite the evidence to the contrary, the “hot take machine’ just does not accept the fact that business might just be business. Therefore, the stories will begin to churn. Unnamed sources seem willing to offer insight into the inner workings of a sports organization that has been better than anyone (including the federal government) at keeping things close to the vest. The smoke begins to grow will little to no fire to support it. Thus, the ‘hot take’ spreads like a rash, and the masses cannot resist the urge to scratch the itch.
Let’s be crystal clear on one thing; the presence of anonymous sources should not be devalued in any way. Neither should a journalist’s choice to use them. They can be as credible as any source that is visible. However, there is a danger in reporting these matters as a sinister truth. Without providing the very entity it is designed to attack with an opportunity to refute, it is as damaging to the credibility of the story, as would be the dreaded ‘fanboy’ or ‘homer’ label. Professional journalism should be just as much about equal substance as it is about ‘objectivity.’
In an attempt to promote that very sentiment, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady have spoken.
Following a lengthy ESPN report that highlights the alleged fractured relationship between the owner, head coach and quarterback, the trio released a joint statement via the team’s social media accounts condemning the reports that they say are “unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate.”
They conclude by saying, “It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.”
Here’s the statement in full:
Joint statement from Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady: pic.twitter.com/i555gWZIi6
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 5, 2018
It sure sounds like it’s business as usual in Foxboro. Perhaps the ‘hot takers’ have exposed some truth? Or, maybe their only accomplishment was to awaken a sleeping giant? Either way, everyone will find out starting January 13. On that Saturday night in Foxboro, the Patriots begin their quest for a sixth championship. The time for the talking will be over.
It’s time to play the games. It is what it is.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the AFC East and New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC