Wickersham book: "It's Better to Be Feared"

RG33

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And, here is ESPN’s latest on the boogeymen of Foxboro:

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/32294122/new-england-patriots-book-goes-secretive-controversial-franchise-robert-kraft-tom-brady-bill-belichick

- Kraft called Belichick a fucking asshole.

- Tom does best in a loving and supportive environment.

- Mike Shanahan thinks Belichick is the best cheater in the business and wishes he had cheated by filming signals (still not illegal)

- Mangini almost punched Belichick once

- Brady partied on Bourbon street after the first SB and then called his parents to tell them their life was going to change

- Brady wanted to be traded to the Los Angeles NFL team that didn’t exist 10 years ago

All sorts of earth-shattering revelations!
 

Rusty13

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And, here is ESPN’s latest on the boogeymen of Foxboro:

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/32294122/new-england-patriots-book-goes-secretive-controversial-franchise-robert-kraft-tom-brady-bill-belichick

- Kraft called Belichick a fucking asshole.

- Tom does best in a loving and supportive environment.

- Mike Shanahan thinks Belichick is the best cheater in the business and wishes he had cheated by filming signals (still not illegal)

- Mangini almost punched Belichick once

- Brady partied on Bourbon street after the first SB and then called his parents to tell them their life was going to change

- Brady wanted to be traded to the Los Angeles NFL team that didn’t exist 10 years ago

All sorts of earth-shattering revelations!
Same old same old from Wickersham. (Yawn.)
 

Mystic Merlin

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I liked the bit about how Brady and Kraft discussed who should replace BB, and Bill O’Brien apparently conspiring to get himself fired from the Texans job so he could replace BB.
 

rodderick

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This is a whole bunch of nothing, huh. Is this what the book is going to be like? Kinda disappointing. Just a rehash of the previous articles with very little in the way of interesting nuggets (wow, Bill Belichick is a difficult guy to manage/be managed by and Malcolm Butler blamed the coaches for him not playing in the Super Bowl, I'm shocked!)
 
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wilked

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I liked the part about Belichick hugging Goodell so fiercely he picked him up off his feet. Must have been some moment
 

DJnVa

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And, here is ESPN’s latest on the boogeymen of Foxboro:

- Tom does best in a loving and supportive environment.
Really? So fighting for the starting job in college and BB's ways somehow HELD HIM BACK from being the GOAT? He'd be GOATier?



- Brady partied on Bourbon street after the first SB and then called his parents to tell them their life was going to change
I was told Brady only got drunk and partied last year when TB won. No? Weird.
 

Marciano490

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And, here is ESPN’s latest on the boogeymen of Foxboro:

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/32294122/new-england-patriots-book-goes-secretive-controversial-franchise-robert-kraft-tom-brady-bill-belichick

- Kraft called Belichick a fucking asshole.

- Tom does best in a loving and supportive environment.

- Mike Shanahan thinks Belichick is the best cheater in the business and wishes he had cheated by filming signals (still not illegal)

- Mangini almost punched Belichick once

- Brady partied on Bourbon street after the first SB and then called his parents to tell them their life was going to change

- Brady wanted to be traded to the Los Angeles NFL team that didn’t exist 10 years ago

All sorts of earth-shattering revelations!
Sure you did Eric. I bet every night you go to sleep daydreaming about throwing that punch, you impotent traitor.
 

Jimbodandy

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I just noticed that this thread starts with a Bruce Allen tweet from 2018. That guy is how I found SoSh. Bruce, if you're a member, up yours.

I hear Guerrero in some of this piece. Honestly pretty sick of that guy's shit.
 

Ed Hillel

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I'm just waiting for someone to ask BB about his big giant bear hug for Roger Goodell. I bet they're totes besties, this all seems very reliable.
 

Captaincoop

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I listened to Wickersham on the Simmons podcast this morning. It seems pretty clear that he's getting most of his information from the Brady camp. His whole narrative comes from the pro-Brady perspective, not a word of skepticism or criticism aimed at Tom.
 

Gash Prex

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What exactly is this book supposed to be teaching us?
If Bill had been nicer, Tom and the team would have won more championships - instead he was an asshole and cost them a championship in 2007.

Basically, all the Patriots success was Tom and Bill kept them from achieving true greatness.
 

Harry Hooper

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If Bill had been nicer, Tom and the team would have won more championships - instead he was an asshole and cost them a championship in 2007.

Basically, all the Patriots success was Tom and Bill kept them from achieving true greatness.
Yes, and Kraft knew it but allowed it all to continue.
 

Silverdude2167

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What the fuck did I just read...did that excerpt somehow criticize the only coach who has gone 18-0 for being too hard on the team?

Also, the 2007 offense was not revolutionary because of Brady it was revolutionary because of what Josh and BB pulled from the college game along with getting Wes and how they used him in the slot on LBs in a way never done before. Brady was the perfect QB to run it, but it was not "his offense"

I normally consume quickly every book about Boston sports teams, but I am not going anywhere near this book.
 
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rodderick

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I'm kind of surprised by the tone here. Isn't it common knowledge that the pressure to be perfect wore on the team down the stretch and probably contributed to them losing steam and eventually the Super Bowl? I don't blame Bill for being a hard ass to try and keep them focused, but I'm sure it played a part on guys running on fumes at the end of that season, just as I'm sure it played a part on them beating some inferior teams that were up for that challenge, like the Eagles. It's likely the only approach you can take if you're coaching a team striving to go 19-0, but while I'm sure they wouldn't have been perfect had Bill been softer maybe they go 17-2 and win the title. Won't ever blame Bill for trying for immortality, though. You take that chance every day.
 

Harry Hooper

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I am pretty sure Harrison is on record as saying Seau was the one who made an improvised call to blitz at the end of the SB vs. the Giants which left an injured Hobbs on an island, but notice how it's described to throw culpability on BB:

With 39 seconds left and the ball at the 14-yard line, the Patriots called one of the worst plays of Bill Belichick's career: a blitz, sending Seau and Harrison and leaving the secondary in zero coverage -- man-to-man across the board with no safety help. It isolated 5-foot-9 Ellis Hobbs on 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress, a fatal mismatch, even though the height difference didn't matter in the end. Harrison recognized the problem and tried to call off the blitz. "What are we doing?" he yelled to Seau before pleading with him to audible to a better pass defense. "Check two! Cover two!" Seau waved him off. Harrison later said it was the "biggest regret" of his career that he allowed Seau to overrule him. Manning lofted a high and gentle throw into the back corner of the end zone, and Burress beat Hobbs by the length of a small subdivision for a touchdown.
 
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BaseballJones

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Hobbs was a good corner, and the height difference didn't even come into play there. It's crazy how open Burress got. I mean, teams put good/decent corners on islands all the time against quality receivers, and yes sometimes the WR gets really open. But often times they don't, and the CB does a good job in iso coverage. But man, Hobbs got absolutely roasted on that play.
 

Harry Hooper

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Hobbs was a good corner, and the height difference didn't even come into play there. It's crazy how open Burress got. I mean, teams put good/decent corners on islands all the time against quality receivers, and yes sometimes the WR gets really open. But often times they don't, and the CB does a good job in iso coverage. But man, Hobbs got absolutely roasted on that play.
Hobbs was playing through something in that game, a groin pull or sports hernia - I can't remember.
 

Van Everyman

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I didn't hate this excerpt as much as the other pieces. There are actual sources here--Harrison, Hobbs--and most of it at least somewhat comports with what we know about that period: that Belichick drove the team very hard and that they were gassed by mid-season (I still maintain that Sammy Morris going down was the actual breaking point).

I do think Wickersham misses a big point when he doesn't cite the fact that the Pats had to show the Giants their playbook in week 17 to stay undefeated. Had they lost the Baltimore game (as they should have) there's no chance Belichick even has more than a handful of starters on the field in that Giants game and I think they cruise to victory in the SB. But Belichick def. wanted it all -- and I actually admire him for that.
 

Euclis20

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I didn't hate this excerpt as much as the other pieces. There are actual sources here--Harrison, Hobbs--and most of it at least somewhat comports with what we know about that period: that Belichick drove the team very hard and that they were gassed by mid-season (I still maintain that Sammy Morris going down was the actual breaking point).

I do think Wickersham misses a big point when he doesn't cite the fact that the Pats had to show the Giants their playbook in week 17 to stay undefeated. Had they lost the Baltimore game (as they should have) there's no chance Belichick even has more than a handful of starters on the field in that Giants game and I think they cruise to victory in the SB. But Belichick def. wanted it all -- and I actually admire him for that.
Agreed here. This doesn't work for the typical team for whom a super bowl on its own would be an incredible achievement, but that group was still relatively fresh off of winning 3 titles and could afford to aim higher. That was the right time to go for the undefeated season and immortality, it just didn't happen.
 

Van Everyman

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Yes. To @Mystic Merlin's point, I know Wickersham is respected as a hard-working reporter by his peers. But I think that's actually kind of undermining some of the critical thinking this book deserves based on what we know. I mean, I generally have problems when biographers quote unsourced conversations from a decade or more earlier -- as if anyone can actually remember word for word what was said.

But given Wickersham's history here (see "Patriot of the Week Award"), I also have my doubts about aspects of this excerpt. Like, that little story about Belichick looking longingly out his hotel room at where Memorial Stadium used to stand the day before the game. That just sounds like total fucking bullshit designed to reinforce some narrative about his "motivation" -- but I seriously doubt any of the radio talk show trolls would challenge Wickersham on it as a guest on one of their talk shows.

Maybe some internet sleuth here could find out whether that hotel even overlooks the stadium, LOL.
 

The Talented Allen Ripley

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The Globe's media writer (and SoSH member) @Chad Finn with a positive review of the book:

Wickersham’s book is an honest, sprawling, meticulously reported, and beautifully written portrayal of perhaps the greatest and probably the most unlikely dynasty in modern professional sports. It does not hopscotch from Super Bowl to Super Bowl, but instead draws richly detailed portraits of Brady, Belichick, the dynasty’s third constant in owner Robert Kraft, and how their personalities and relationships changed through the years. “It’s Better To Be Feared” will not be sent out as party favors to Patriots season ticket holders, as Jeff Benedict’s mostly enjoyable Kraftiography “Dynasty” was.
Wickersham is more than fair to all of the key figures, including Belichick. My favorite paragraph in the book might be the author’s assessment of the different levels of football understanding among particular groups. At the bottom are “most fans, who get the basics," with talk-radio hosts a rung up. (I’d flip those two groups.) At the top of the scale, he writes, are “NFL head coaches; winning NFL head coaches; Super Bowl-winning head coaches; and finally, at the very top of arcane knowledge and expertise, in a faintly ridiculous corner of American intellectual esotery, Bill Belichick.”

Wickersham also unearths what Brady and Belichick have in common, besides a particular combination of genius, competitiveness, and pure love for the sport. They’re both optimists in their own way, Brady earnestly, and Belichick by dwelling on and addressing everything that can possibly go wrong in a game until he’s certain he’s prepared enough for it to go right.

Even though they’re now apart, there are still chapters of the Brady/Belichick story to be written. And any epilogue or postscript still seems like its seasons away for both men. But the story of their 20 years together has now been told, expertly and entertainingly. “It’s Better To Be Feared” is the accounting the Patriots dynasty deserves.
Chad's a straight shooter, if the book was a hack job by a guy with an axe to grind (or simply a shameless gossipy money grab), he'd say so.
 

rodderick

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I'm almost done with this book and I'm thoroughly disappointed. Wickersham is a gifted writer, but I found very few actual nuggets of information in there that we weren't aware of. Also eats up Deflategate wholesale and even takes Arlen Specter's "investigation" into Spygate seriously.

The way he narrated the ineligible receiver formations in the Baltimore game drove me up a wall as well: he says the refs never announced Hoomanawanui was eligible or Vereen ineligible and thus Brady could quick snap without the Ravens adjusting when in reality the fucking refs even said "don't cover 34" on the mic.
 

tims4wins

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I'm almost done with this book and I'm thoroughly disappointed. Wickersham is a gifted writer, but I found very few actual nuggets of information in there that we weren't aware of. Also eats up Deflategate wholesale and even takes Arlen Specter's "investigation" into Spygate seriously.

The way he narrated the ineligible receiver formations in the Baltimore game drove me up a wall as well: he says the refs never announced Hoomanawanui was eligible or Vereen ineligible and thus Brady could quick snap without the Ravens adjusting when in reality the fucking refs even said "don't cover 34" on the mic.
Thanks, this is the kind of review I needed. Was on the fence about buying it either for myself or my dad as an xmas gift. But as hard core fans it sounds like we’d get nothing out of it.

Dynasty was maybe 5% better by the sound of it. I didn’t get much out of that either.
 

rodderick

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Thanks, this is the kind of review I needed. Was on the fence about buying it either for myself or my dad as an xmas gift. But as hard core fans it sounds like we’d get nothing out of it.

Dynasty was maybe 5% better by the sound of it. I didn’t get much out of that either.
Dynasty gave me a lot less than this in regards to the team, but at least it worked as kind of a Kraft biography. This is just bleh. The next time Wickersham passes up a chance to be sanctimonious will be the first too.
 

tims4wins

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Dynasty gave me a lot less than this in regards to the team, but at least it worked as kind of a Kraft biography. This is just bleh. The next time Wickersham passes up a chance to be sanctimonious will be the first too.
Right good point about Dynasty.

I can't give this guy my business.
 

lexrageorge

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I'm almost done with this book and I'm thoroughly disappointed. Wickersham is a gifted writer, but I found very few actual nuggets of information in there that we weren't aware of. Also eats up Deflategate wholesale and even takes Arlen Specter's "investigation" into Spygate seriously.

The way he narrated the ineligible receiver formations in the Baltimore game drove me up a wall as well: he says the refs never announced Hoomanawanui was eligible or Vereen ineligible and thus Brady could quick snap without the Ravens adjusting when in reality the fucking refs even said "don't cover 34" on the mic.
Did Wickersham explain that the same play had been run by other teams and other coaches in the past? BTW, "buy the book" is a reasonable response here, but just curious, as failing to mention that well-known fact displays an obvious bias, IMO.

I had heard some mediot rumblings in the aftermath of the Ravens game that Harbaugh was upset over not being given time to substitute. I find that hard to believe, because he may no effort to substitute after the officials made the announcement (3 consecutive times), and he never raised the "time to substitute" in any of his post-game comments, IIRC.

Even if Wickersham's assertion is correct, then, yes Harbaugh would have had a legitimate complaint. But the the fault in that case would have lied solely with the officials.

The play itself was no different than the double pass, the flea flicker, the reverse, the fake kick, or the infamous "swinging gate" play tried by the Colts a couple of years later. Hell, it's no different than the draw play to Bolden we see every week on 3rd-and-long. It was indeed used infrequently, because there are some very obvious drawbacks, not the least of which is having a skill position player basically playing the tackle position. The Pats even tried it the following week and were flagged for an illegal formation penalty when they didn't set properly.
 

rodderick

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Did Wickersham explain that the same play had been run by other teams and other coaches in the past? BTW, "buy the book" is a reasonable response here, but just curious, as failing to mention that well-known fact displays an obvious bias, IMO.

I had heard some mediot rumblings in the aftermath of the Ravens game that Harbaugh was upset over not being given time to substitute. I find that hard to believe, because he may no effort to substitute after the officials made the announcement (3 consecutive times), and he never raised the "time to substitute" in any of his post-game comments, IIRC.

Even if Wickersham's assertion is correct, then, yes Harbaugh would have had a legitimate complaint. But the the fault in that case would have lied solely with the officials.

The play itself was no different than the double pass, the flea flicker, the reverse, the fake kick, or the infamous "swinging gate" play tried by the Colts a couple of years later. Hell, it's no different than the draw play to Bolden we see every week on 3rd-and-long. It was indeed used infrequently, because there are some very obvious drawbacks, not the least of which is having a skill position player basically playing the tackle position. The Pats even tried it the following week and were flagged for an illegal formation penalty when they didn't set properly.
Wickersham didn't even say Harbaugh was upset over not being able to substitute, he flat out states the refs didn't announce the eligible/ineligible players, which is just false.
 

Hoya81

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I couldn't remember if the elgible/ineligible announcements were picked up on the tv broadcast, so I pulled my copy (I have most of the playoff game broadcasts for the SB runs) and while Michaels and Collinworth's commentary drowns them out for the most part, they are there. Maybe Wickersham was expecting that the refs would stop the game and announce the eligible receivers like a penalty.
 

Senator Donut

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Wickersham didn't even say Harbaugh was upset over not being able to substitute, he flat out states the refs didn't announce the eligible/ineligible players, which is just false.
This is directly from the book, emphasis added

“On the third play of the drive, Vereen reported as ineligible to referee Bill Vinovich, who announced it to the stadium, per the rules. But then, something curious happened: Vinovich never announced that Hoomanawanui, lined up as the left tackle, was an eligible receiver, as he would normally do. Brady hustled into his cadence. The Ravens were confused and shifted coverage to Vereen, leaving Hoomanawanui uncovered—exactly as Belichick planned,”
 

Harry Hooper

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"as he would normally do " Ha! This should help.


Chad, putting the imprimatur of the Globe on a positive review of this book lends it a legitimacy that is probably undeserved.
 

reggiecleveland

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I have the audiobook. I have not started, but it's worth reading history from detractors as well. Dynasty, which I enjoyed, has some eye-rolling moments in light of RK's recent misadventures.
 

nattysez

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Did Wickersham explain that the same play had been run by other teams and other coaches in the past? BTW, "buy the book" is a reasonable response here, but just curious, as failing to mention that well-known fact displays an obvious bias, IMO.
Yes - the derivation of the play and its use in college is discussed extensively.

I've read both "Dynasty" and the Wickersham book.

My take is that "Dynasty" was written to be a Kraft hagiography. The Krafts are pretty clearly the main sources for Dynasty and it shows. In particular:
(1) the way BB's hiring from the Jets is written about to avoid any suggestion that tampering occurred struck me as ludicrous.
(2) the book goes out of its way to (a) tweak Boston writers who made incorrect predictions about the Pats (especially Shank) and (b) not even mention Tomase by name when discussing the walkthrough story (I approve of the pettiness, but I'm not sure that decision was defensible from a journalistic perspective).
(3) at least three or four bigwigs in the book are identified as "one of Kraft's closest friends," to the point that you wonder how anyone could have so many "closest" friends.
(4) the author really emphasizes how close Kraft was with Bledsoe and then Brady. In a scene straight out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous or Succession, Kraft at one point brings a girlfriend to his apartment and walks in on Giselle getting a massage.

One thing I found odd about Dynasty was that the author clearly watched all the Super Bowl highlights videos and pulled quotes from those for the book in order to make the game recaps more exciting. I don't think there's anything wrong with that -- it just struck me as funny, especially since I instantly recognized where the quotes came from.

Wickersham's book is written through a pro-Brady filter. Calling it a hagiography is too strong, but it certainly feels like he repaid Brady for the level of access he received with a lighter touch. He roasts the TB12 book, but is oddly non-specific about what exactly Guerrero was doing for Brady that made him so "pliable." Wickersham seems to place the credit for Brady's greatness and longevity on things Brady does -- working with Tom House, doing lots of throwing reps to perfect his form, focusing on his nutrition, etc. -- rather than his TB12 treatments. I also think that while BB is written about in respectful and at times glowing terms, the book pulls no punches in terms of depicting that both Kraft and Brady are not best friends with him (especially compared to their relationship with one another). That said, it's the better-researched and more even-handed book.

Honestly, I'd recommend reading both of them. They are pretty quick reads and reliving the Pats' past -- all the way back to the acquisition of the team by Kraft in the case of Dynasty -- from different perspectives is fun.
 

tims4wins

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Thanks @nattysez . I read Dynasty and had the exact same thoughts. I got the Wickersham book for my Dad for xmas, so I'll read that after he does (probably not until next summer)
 

kenneycb

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Completely agree on Dynasty. Took me a little bit to figure out but it became pretty evident about halfway through that it was a pseudo-Kraft biography.

For anyone interested, the Wickersham book was on sale for a Kindle (at least for me) for $7 or $8 today.
 

BernieRicoBoomer

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Completely agree on Dynasty. Took me a little bit to figure out but it became pretty evident about halfway through that it was a pseudo-Kraft biography.

For anyone interested, the Wickersham book was on sale for a Kindle (at least for me) for $7 or $8 today.
That explains why it was sent out to season ticket holders with Kraft's compliments. At least I think that was the book we got...haven't read mine yet.