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There’s a lot of smoke around Robert Kraft stepping in to make sure Tom Brady retires with the Patriots

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Did the Patriots owner strong arm his head coach?

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ decision to trade Jimmy Gaorppolo and to keep Tom Brady makes sense. Brady is a proven commodity that is winning now. He’s a top two or three quarterback in the league on any given week and he’s still playing at an extremely high level, even at the age of 40.

Garoppolo is a relatively unproven talent and once it was determined that Garoppolo wanted to start, the Patriots had to make a quick decision. Do they keep with the definite 2-3 more years of Brady and give up on a potential 15-year starter in Garoppolo? Or do they move on from Brady and usher in the new era of Garoppolo?

The Patriots decision is now clear- ride with Brady- and there’s enough smoke to make me think owner Robert Kraft was the one with final say on the matter.

“If Kraft had let it be known to Belichick that he wanted Brady to finish his career in New England, no matter what, that would make some sense, too,” ESPN’s venerable Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss suggested about a reason behind the decision to move Garoppolo.

“Could this have been the one thing Bill couldn’t overrule Kraft on? Not a stretch to think Bob would want Brady to finish in NE,” ESPN’s Ryen Russillo theorized.

“For sure Robert Kraft had a role in Tom Brady outlasting Belichick's move-em-1-year-early-rather-than-1-year-late dogma,” ESPN’s Ian O’Connor tweeted. It’s worth noting that O’Connor has had a lot of stories close to the Brady camp since DeflateGate.

“Brady camp 3 days ago felt privately TB could be traded by Bill after 17,” NBC’s Ryan Burr added. “This was a Kraft decision to make it clear Brady finishes as a Pat...Told TB relationship with BB not great and all his loyalty is too Mr Kraft.”

That’s a lot of speculation blowing in the same direction for it not to have a common source or to be common knowledge behind the scenes. Kraft made a power move to assure that the greatest quarterback in franchise history would remain with the team until retirement.

And it would absolutely be a Belichick decision to trade Brady and start new with Garoppolo, right? Belichick always does what’s best for the realm team and that would mean preparing for the next 15 years instead of focusing on the next five on a year-to-year basis.

“I’d say when a player gets to a certain point in his career, and that varies from player to player and position to position, but I look at those as at some point it becomes year-to-year,” Belichick said about Brady’s age on Tuesday morning. “So the expectations aren’t over a long period of time or longer window like they are with a player coming into the league where you look at a player’s growth in three to five years or two to four years or that type of a window where a player is young and improving and physically developing and gaining experience and skill and so forth.

“When you get players that have reached a certain point then it’s their ability to maintain, although they can work to improve on little things and techniques and little skills like that. I’m not saying there aren’t things players can do to improve but it’s more of a maintenance and maintaining that high level of play, their maximum level of play, wherever that level is that they’ve reached to sustain that. Trying to predict that is not something – I don’t think it’s easy. It’s not something I try to do a lot of. I look at it as year-to-year. I learned that a long time ago and I’d say that advice has served me well.”

So instead of moving forward with Garoppolo, Belichick and the Patriots are back to the year-to-year grind with Brady and the Patriots will add another quarterback to the roster in the 2018 NFL Draft.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Robert Kraft that drew it up that way.

EDIT/UPDATE: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport says, “this was definitely Belichick running the show,” with regards to the Garoppolo trade and in response to these rumors. He doesn’t explicitly say that Kraft didn’t play a part, but the idea is that Belichick was leading the trade discussions.

And honestly all of these angles can be true (other than the idea that Belichick and Brady don’t get along. I don’t buy that, but I do buy the idea that the Brady-Kraft relationship is stronger than the Brady-Belichick one.). Kraft could have said, “I want Brady to retire as a Patriot,” and while that’s not a direct order, that’s why Belichick was looking to find a way to keep both Brady and Garoppolo over the offseason.

When that didn’t work, and when Brady continued to play at a high level, Belichick knew that this was the best and last time to trade Garoppolo for draft capital, and that he would get multiple chances in 2018 and 2019 to find other suitable heirs to Brady. So Belichick led the trade discussions.

There doesn’t have to be anger here on any side- maybe just sadness in seeing a good teammate like Jimmy leave.