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ESPN’s Max Kellerman: Bill Belichick will retire this season 03.14.17 at 9:18 am ET
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Last year, ESPN’s Max Kellerman predicted Tom Brady would soon “fall off a cliff.” Considering Brady led the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl championship last season, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

But that doesn’t mean Kellerman is out of the Patriots hot take business –– no, no. The bloviating talking head now says Bill Belichick is getting ready to retire, perhaps as early as this season.

On “First Take” Monday, Kellerman said he thinks Belichick’s impending exit is the reason why the Patriots have been so aggressive in free agency. Last week, the team handed cornerback Stephon Gilmore $40 million guaranteed and traded its first-round pick to the Saints for star wideout Brandin Cooks.

“He knows that Brady’s, and his, days are numbered –– obviously. Since when do the Patriots load up by trading their highest draft picks for players?,” Kellerman asked. “When does Belichick trade his highest available draft picks for the present? You know when? Right now. He is getting ready, for his and Tom Brady’s swan song. Now, my belief is, that will be this season. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe his belief is he’s got another two seasons. But the point is, he knows the end is coming. He is absolutely loading up to win a least one more Super Bowl, because at this moment they are so clearly the odds on favorites.”

Prior to Super Bowl LI, Patriots owner Robert Kraft revealed he knows when Belichick is going to hang it up. But unfortunately for Kellerman, Kraft guaranteed it won’t be this year.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
Bill Belichick is a member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club 02.18.17 at 10:54 am ET
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The New York Times says Bill Belichick is a paying member of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Times says Bill Belichick is a paying member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Last weekend, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was photographed dining with President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Don’t be surprised if his coach, Bill Belichick, is spotted at the property at some point this offseason.

For the third time in as many weeks, Trump is spending the weekend at his members-only club, which he’s turned into a winter White House. Last week, controversy arose when Trump was briefed about North Korea’s ballistic missile test on the resort’s patio, creating the possibility that onlooking patrons were privy to classified information.

In a story Saturday, the New York Times runs down some of the club’s dynamics, including concerns about members using their status to wield influence with the president. Shortly after Trump was elected to the Oval Office, the entry fee doubled to $200,000. Most of the nearly 500 paying members are real estate developers, Wall Street executives and other titans of industry who will be likely be affected by the administration’s policies.

The article primarily focuses on the largely anonymous corporate executives who bandy about the property, but it also mentions a couple of members who are well-known to Bostonians: columnist Howie Carr, and Belichick.

It’s not surprising that Belichick is a member. Last year, he and his girlfriend, Linda Holliday, took an after-dinner picture with Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

Perhaps another meal is on the schedule. Trump still has to congratulate Belichick on the Super Bowl win, and thank him for the endorsement letter he wrote before the election.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump,
Bill Belichick tried to start a cheer at Patriots parade and nobody cheered back 02.07.17 at 2:14 pm ET
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Starting an impromptu chant at a championship rally is a futile endeavor –– just ask Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. But that didn’t stop Bill Belichick from trying at the Patriots parade Tuesday.

In a rare display of charisma, Belichick took the microphone and started speaking to the fans gathered at City Hall Plaza. After thanking the crowd for coming out, he started a cheer:

“No days off!,” he shouted, to thousands of people who took the day off.

The Patriots’ “Do your job” mantra is synonymous to the franchise. It looks like “No days off” has a long way to go before it reaches those levels.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,
Donald Trump, after bailing on the Patriots, congratulates them on Super Bowl win 02.06.17 at 12:17 am ET
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Donald Trump congratulated his good friends Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft on their fifth Super Bowl championship. But the truth is, he bailed on them.

At 8:57 p.m., with the Patriots trailing the Falcons 28-3, the President left his own Super Bowl party. Trump was watching the game at his Florida golf club, flanked by his chief of staff Reince Preibus and wife Melania –– both of whom looked despondent.

In his pregame interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump predicted the Patriots would win by eight points. He also intimated he was rooting for the Pats, saying it’s important to “stick up for your friends.”

That’s what Brady, Belichick and Kraft have done for Trump over the last 18 months. All three of them, and Brady in particular, have stuck up for him in the face of incessant criticism. But that apparently didn’t matter to Trump Sunday. When the Patriots fell behind, he hopped into his motorcade. Brady went on to complete 21-of-27 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Donald Trump: Tom Brady is ‘getting a lot of popularity’ out of their friendship 02.05.17 at 4:22 pm ET
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Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

President Donald Trump talks incessantly about his friendships with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. The pattern continued in his pre-game interview Sunday with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

When asked about the criticism Brady and Co. have faced for their ties to him, Trump said he believes it also has been beneficial for them.

“They’re taking a lot of heat. But you know what? They’re also getting a lot of popularity out of it. I think they’re going to do very well. Tom’s a winner,” he said.

Trump didn’t explicitly say he was rooting of the Patriots Sunday, but implied he was pulling for his pals, who he thinks will win by eight points.

“I think the other team is fantastic, though. No, I think it’s a fantastic team –– turned out to be a good quarterback,” he said. “But you know, there’s less pressure on the Patriots, because they’ve been there. Once you’ve won, once you’ve done it –– and they’ve done it –– once you’ve done it, there’s a lot less pressure. So, we’ll see what happens. But you know? You have to stick up for your friends, right?”

Given Trump’s closeness to the Krafts, there’s been some speculation he’ll be the first sitting president to ever attend the Super Bowl. His vice president, noted Brady hater Mike Pence, will be at NRG Stadium in Houston.

When asked on Kirk & Callahan Friday about the possibility of Trump showing up, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft demurred.

“You don’t –– I don’t know. Talk to the White House. They would know what’s going on,” he said.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Bill Maher: F— Tom Brady and f— Bill Belichick 02.04.17 at 2:05 pm ET
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Bill Maher has weighed in on the Patriots’ love affair with Donald Trump.

The provocative Real Time host brought up the subject during his closing monologue Friday night, and fired off a salvo of insults towards Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

“The Falcons are playing a team where the owner, the coach and the star quarterback all love and support Donald Trump,” he said. “So I’d really like them to lose by the score of a million-f—— thousand to one.”

Despite attending Trump’s inauguration and saying his policies are “going to be great” for America, Robert Kraft was largely spared from Maher’s onslaught. Instead, the comedian singled out Brady.

“I love the Falcons! I love their running back, what’s-his-face, and the guy who catches the ball, but mostly I love them because Tom Brady was one of the first to display a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, because America’s been so tough on Tom so far,” Maher said. “And back when Tom was asked if he thought Trump would be president, he said, ‘I hope so, that would be great.’ Hey Tom, f— you.”

After reading portions of the fawning letter Belichick sent Trump, which the President read aloud at a campaign rally the night before the election, Maher had similar words for the Patriots coach.

“Wow, that’s some serious butt-licking, coach,” he said. “Let me give you some advice for the big game: F— you, Belichick. F— you and your deflated balls you joyless, cheating f—.”

At the end of his rant, Maher, who’s a minority owner of the Mets, bemoaned the politicization of sports. Kind of.

“[Trump] took something beautiful, a game where millionaires give each other brain damage, and made it tawdry and cheap,” he said. “I don’t want to make everything political, but that’s where we’re headed. Athletes are refusing to stay at Trump hotels. People are unfriending each other on Facebook. Siblings have stopped talking to one another, which makes it hard to get laid in the South.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Tom Brady
Bill Belichick forces assistant coaches to smell his sweaty feet 02.01.17 at 12:28 pm ET
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Bill Belichick doesn't always dress to impress.  (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick doesn’t always dress to impress. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Working under Bill Belichick doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Low-level assistants are banished to darkened film rooms, where they chart plays for hours on end. In order to make it, coaches must possess an insatiable love for football. And, apparently, the ability to withstand foul odors.

In an ESPN profile, Seth Wickersham examines why Belichick has recently traded in his iconic gray hoodies for business casual attire. After years of dressing like a hobo, Belichick now looks like a CEO. But there’s no word on if his locker room behavior has undergone a similar transformation. According to the piece, Belichick likes to beleaguer his assistants when players don’t appear to be prepared. In an apparent attempt to accentuate his point, he also sometimes removes his shoes:

“After they reconvened for film, Belichick would notice that, say, a receiver messed up a read.

“Why the f— doesn’t he know what to do? Didn’t anyone tell him?” he’d say.

“The coaches would be moderately horrified at what sometimes happened next: Belichick would remove his sneakers and put his feet on the table. The room was hot. His feet smelled. There was neither an end nor an escape in sight. There was essentially no daylight between the guy in those meetings and the guy we saw on the sideline — until lately.”

Unless Rex Ryan is on staff, that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. Being associated with greatness carries a great price.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,
Bill Belichick vacations during free agency, makes hardline contract offers from the beach 01.27.17 at 10:40 am ET
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Belichick_9-1-16Bill Belichick is an even tougher negotiator than you imagined.

In a feature story, the MMQB’s Robert Klemko speaks with seven NFL agents who have worked with Belichick over the last 15 years. In most contract negotiations, there’s usually a give-and-take –– at least to some degree. But with Belichick, there doesn’t appear to be much of an opportunity for discourse. Agents say he’ll will often punctuate his pitch with one simple question: “Does your guy want to win a Super Bowl, or doesn’t he?”

It’s difficult to offer much of a rebuttal to that.

This past season served as another validation for Belichick’s callous approach to roster management. Last spring, the Patriots traded away their leader in sacks, Chandler Jones, to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper, who was cut in October (the second-round selection eventually turned into wideout Malcolm Mitchell and guard Joe Thuney). After the Giants handed defensive end Olivier Vernon $52.5 million guaranteed in free agency last year, it became clear that Jones would likely demand a similar deal when he hits the open market in 2017. Belichick, who only pays the market rate for a select number of players, shipped Jones away. Seven months later, Belichick also jettisoned linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland, where he just inked a four-year, $50 million deal with $26 million guaranteed. And yet, despite losing two of the most talented players on their defense, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. Without Jones and Collins, they allowed the fewest number of points in the league.

Those results illustrate why Belichick owns all of the leverage in negotiations. As long as Tom Brady is under center, he knows he’s going to win. That’s probably why he inserts himself into contract talks with players at the last minute, offering less money than his director of player personnel, Nick Caserio. According to some agents, Belichick usually vacations during free agency, making his hardline offers from tropical hideaways.

Belichick, exercising his abundance of leverage, will often go on vacation in the heat of free agency and make his take-it-or-leave-it offers from faraway beaches while other coaches are flying around the country on private jets to court players,” Klemko writes. “When prospective players visit Foxborough, they express to their agents a sense of fear, but often leave feeling as if they have just met the lone coach who understands their true purpose on a football field.”

In addition to all of the winning, Brady’s penchant for taking less money is another reason why the Patriots are often able to sign players to below market contracts. According to Spotrac, his salary cap hit this season was $13.7 million –– 27th highest in the NFL.

Almost every veteran player on the Patriots probably could’ve signed for more money elsewhere. But when they arrive in Houston next week for Super Bowl 51, their decisions will be validated.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,
Why Roger Goodell doesn’t care if Patriots win Super Bowl 01.23.17 at 4:36 pm ET
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Roger Goodell won't be able to dodge the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Roger Goodell won’t be able to dodge the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

It probably doesn’t make a difference to Roger Goodell whether the Patriots win the Super Bowl. For him, Deflategate is ancient history. He won a long time ago.

When owner Robert Kraft grabbed the microphone Sunday following his team’s blowout victory over the Steelers in the AFC championship game, he seemingly spoke for every aggrieved Patriots fan around the world.

“For a number of reasons, all of you in this stadium understand how big this win was,” Kraft told a rabid crowd in Foxboro.

It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots. Almost two years ago to the date, the NFL caught the Patriots playing with slightly under inflated footballs against the Colts. Over the next year-and-a-half, even when the science said there was no wrongdoing, Goodell smeared Tom Brady’s character and imposed draconian penalties on the team –– including suspending Brady for four games. Now, in two weeks, Goodell may be in the building when Brady is handed the Lombardi Trophy. Talk about sweet revenge.

Once a regular visitor to Gillette Stadium, Goodell has avoided it since Deflategate started. He’s been in Atlanta for the last two weeks closing down the Georgia Dome, one of the most unremarkable venues in professional football.

It’s unclear whose decision it is to keep Goodell in hiding. According to Comcast SportsNet’s Tom E. Curran, Goodell would’ve been at the AFC championship game Sunday if he had gotten his way. So perhaps somebody else in the league office, or the Krafts themselves, are making the call. But then again, it’s hard to believe that Goodell would allow other people to dictate his schedule. After all, this is guy who doesn’t permit his staffers to eat pizza until he gets the first slice.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Roger Goodell
Over next four years, Patriots won’t be able to hide from Donald Trump 01.20.17 at 11:37 am ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick didn’t react well when they were asked questions about Donald Trump this season. But over the next four years, they should get used to it. One of the most divisive presidents ever is tied to the Patriots. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask some of his most high-profile backers to answer for him.

On the eve of his inauguration, Trump name-dropped both Brady and Belichick in front of a room full of supporters –– including Robert Kraft. He credited Belichick for teaching him a great work ethic, and let everybody know Brady called to wish him well.

“In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever ’cause he’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft,” Trump said. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good. Good luck. You’re going to do great things.”

Later in the speech, Trump said he outworked everybody who’s ever ran for president. “I learned that from Belichick, right?” he said while appearing to point at Kraft.

Brady probably didn’t think he was making a political statement when he placed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker a year-and-a-half ago. As he said several times throughout the campaign, he’s “good friends” with Trump. It’s perfectly normal for good friends to support each other.

But that doesn’t mean he was forced to stick with Trump at every turn. Even Vice President Mike Pence condemned Trump’s remarks about how much he enjoys sexually assaulting women. Brady, meanwhile, walked out of his press conference when he was asked about the Access Hollywood tape.

Patriots beat writers are obligated to cover more than the games on the field. They write about issues surrounding the team, spanning from a nearly 18-month scandal involving deflated footballs to a murderous former tight end. If Trump sends out a tweet calling for flag-burners to get their citizenship revoked or reintroduces his proposed Muslim ban, Brady should get asked about it. As one of Trump’s “good friends,” his perspective is pertinent.

The same applies to Belichick, who wrote Trump a fawning endorsement letter before the election. It doesn’t matter if Belichick never intended for the note to be public. He said he hopes Trump can “Make America Great Again.” So if Trump signs legislation that leads to the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, including mothers and fathers, it would be interesting to see if that’s the kind of greatness Belichick has in mind.

Brady and Belichick, of course, are under no obligation to answer any of these questions. On Friday, Belichick wouldn’t even bite when he was asked about his reaction when he heard about Trump’s shoutout. But if they didn’t want to be tied to Trump, they shouldn’t have expressed their support. They’re accountable for their words.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Kraft, who’s been spotted around the capital this week, went all-in on Trump.

“Loyalty is important to me, and he has been a wonderful friend,” he said. “I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn’t been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.”

Kraft doesn’t appear to have a problem touting Trump’s economic proposals, which include starting a costly trade war with China, so he should be asked about them after they’re enacted. As a titan of industry himself, it would be interesting to hear his thoughts.

Trump’s behavior during the transition wasn’t any less inflammatory than it was during the campaign. With that in mind, it’s fair to assume he’ll act similarly once he assumes the Oval Office. That means on many days over the next four years, Trump’s rhetoric or actions will be the No. 1 story in the country. Brady, Belichick and Kraft have aligned themselves with him. They’re forever part of the story, whether they like it or not.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft