FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two bombs hit New England with great force on Thursday.
One was all about the weather.
The other, the one football fans cared about, was all about whether there is serious trouble in paradise in Foxborough.
The blizzard that hit the area early and throughout the day turned out to be nothing compared to the ESPN report that stated there's trouble in paradise, that head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Bob Kraft -- three very powerful football icons -- are involved in some weird love-hate triangle that threatens the future of a franchise considered a heavy favorite to advance to its eighth Super Bowl of the 2000s -- and win its sixth.
First, Seth Wickersham's piece didn't come as a complete surprise to those watching this team closely this season. There was the dealing of TWO quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett) who both showed potential to follow Brady somewhere down the line. There was the fuss over Brady's personal trainer, whispers about the relationship between Brady and his coach ... things that made everyone wonder.
Then, Wickersham reported that Garoppolo was traded as a sign of infighting, that Brady wanted Jimmy G. -- now Jimmy GQ -- gone and Kraft sided with Brady. This made sense to those that wondered why Garoppolo would be moved for a second-round draft pick, when the team could have either waited to deal him later or even bring him back with a $24 million or so franchise tag.
It didn't make much sense then and it made even less sense when Garoppolo led the 49ers to five straight wins at the end of the season, hurting the team's draft position, but instilling something very positive for the future.
Then, during a bye week before the AFC divisional game, this story broke, forcing the Patriots, a team that operates with the transparency of the CIA, to issue the following "joint statement" from the Killer B's Friday morning:
"For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship. In recent days, there have been multiple media reports that have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate. The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united."
In other words, there's nothing to see here. Basically, what we expected from within, right?
But there IS something to see.
There's the future.
Brady will be 41 to start the next season. He says he wants to play until he's 45, but the odds of that happening aren't great, no matter what kind of TB12 training regimen Brady is on. He is an MVP candidate -- even without Julian Edelman - again this season, but let's be honest: He hasn't been Brady-great the past six weeks. Age?
If there's one thing we do know about Belichick, besides all the winning he's done with Brady taking the snaps, is that he's a pragmatist. If he thought a family member couldn't help his football team, that family member would be gone. There's a long list of big-time Patriots names -- Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, etc. -- who have been moved out of town because Belichick doesn't mix loyalty with business.
It's doubtful, on the surface, anyway, that Belichick would give both Brissett and Garoppolo away during the same season, and then have Brian Hoyer to fall back upon.
When Belichick says, "We're on to ..." every week and every season, he means it. When he was asked about newly signed linebacker James Harrison helping his team in an AFC title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had released him, Belichick bristled, even attacked the question -- because the Patriots were about to play the Jets, not the Steelers.
Was Wickersham accurate? Is this the beginning of the end for this trio? Heck, will Belichick, who wanted Brady gone according to some reports (Belichick is stubborn, not stupid), return to the New York Giants?
"I stand by my reporting," Wickersham said on 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Patriots' radio home, Friday morning. "We're always cautious with what we print. That's the main thing. You want to verify things as much as possible and not just throw things out there, and this is another example of that."
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald answered the piece with a tweet reading: "If you think Tom Brady forced Robert Kraft to force Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, I'd recommend that you finish shoveling my driveway. There's gold at the bottom."
And there appears to be gold at the end of this season for the Patriots.
Beyond? They will get another quarterback. They will be ready for the end of Brady, who now leads his team into the playoffs -- again.
Don Yee, Brady's agent, told Howe, "I don't really know what to say -- it's tough to have a response since it didn't appear to me to have one on-the-record quote. All I can suggest is don't believe everything you read."
In this case, however, it might not be a bad idea to believe SOME of what you read.
--Mike Shalin is a veteran reporter and columnist for The Sports Xchange who has lived in Massachusetts and covered the Patriots long enough to know the difference between what he was shoveling after a Nor'easter and after a certain NFL team's joint announcement.