By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Center
I know, I know … we've already taken this route. And we continue to wait – or predict – the end that never comes. So keep it all in mind and take it all with a grain of salt.
But if I did not know better, I'd say the Patriots are preparing for Bill Belichick's retirement, probably next year.
According to an article by Jim McBride published in today's Boston Globe, Jack Easterby will leave the organization. Most fans did not care about the character coach, with the exception of a few typing lines, but there was a detail or two in the McBride report that caught my eye and should be of interest to you as well.
McBride writes: "The Patriots' coaches suffered another big loss this season, while Jack Easterby, the character coach and one of Bill Belichick's closest confidants, would be leaving after six seasons," said several championship sources. . Easterby's contract with the Patriots expired after last season and he decided to pursue other opportunities in football. "
Listen, I'm not so credulous anymore. When a coach's contract expires and he does not come back to power, it is usually a euphemism for his dismissal. You can create semantics as many times as you like, but the team wants you or not. And when the team does not do it, they push you to the door effectively.
But when McBride writes that Easterby "has decided to pursue other opportunities," I really do. And the reason is that McBride is doing everything possible to point out that Easterby is "one of Belichick's closest confidants", which gives me, especially during the off-season when Patriots' staff members have left Foxboro as if they were trying to beat traffic on Highway 1.
Now, could it be that the Patriots are unhappy with Easterby's performance given Josh Gordon's ultimate failure, that Easterby had an important role to play in the supervision? Of course, at least if the Pats were waiting for Easterby to be a miracle worker. Could it be that Belichick and he had quarreled? Absolutely. Could he be fed up with Foxboro and he really wants something different? Of course.
But when you weigh all this, the facts are hard to ignore. According to McBride, seven Patriots staff members have left the team since the end of the season – six of them having expired contracts. (The only exception is Brian Flores, who has held the position of head coach at the Miami Dolphins.) Some of them have performed lateral movements, which is both unusual and curious. And now, Easterby is going for the always vague "other opportunities".
Towards the end of the 2017 NFL season, amidst the internal turmoil in Foxboro, we learned that there were several years left in Belichick on his contract with the Patriots. Josh McDaniels then joined the Indianapolis Colts and abruptly stepped aside at the request of owner Robert Kraft, as if the Patriots had learned that Belichick was about to give notice.
Again, take all this with a grain of salt and the usual amount (or more) of skepticism. It could be anything. This is probably. But strange things have happened in Foxboro with respect to Patriots coaches, and now one of Belichick's "closest confidants" is also going.
With any other team at another time, we wonder if Easterby knows anything we do not know.
Right now, the Patriots coaching staff looks like a team in transition from one era to another.
You can hear Tony Massarotti on weekdays from 2pm to 6pm. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.