Before the rigor mortis could even set in on the New England Patriots Super Bowl 52 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the wheels began to turn on fortifying the franchise.
While questions about Bill, Brady and Gronk will certainly float over the coming weeks or even months, the only firm decision the team has made is to terminate their personal contracts with league officials who oversaw the Super Bowl defeat.
Despite the near-miss at a 6th title for the duo of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the franchise has spent the past two seasons dealing with varying degrees of internal strife, and some of that was certain to boil over in the wake of the Super Bowl setback. Less than 10 minutes after the final guns sounded and the playing field was overrun with a green and white celebration, the Patriots locker room was ripe with stern language for the officiating crew.
“They didn’t do their job,” head coach Bill Belichick reported. “I mean, you can review the films for yourself. For the most part, they did a fantastic job calling the game, the early false start that kept the Eagles out of the end zone was just what we needed, but as the game progressed, we kept waiting and waiting for the calls we needed to win the game, the calls we paid for, and those calls weren’t there.”
“Those guys called the game on the level,” quarterback Tom Brady sulked. “Therein is where the problem starts. Did you see the non-call on the Graham strip? That was a clean strip, all the way, and they were supposed to find some reason to call the penalty and advance the ball for us. For the love of … there was under 20 seconds on the clock, how do they just not make up a call right then? That’s their job. That’s what they are paid to do. They didn’t do their job.”
Owner Robert Kraft said that while the contract terminations wouldn’t be official until he had time to pour kerosene on the contracts in his office, that the team separating from this particular officiating crew was inevitable.
“Do you have any idea how big of a pain it is to get the league to agree to entirely new officiating crews of our choice for significant contests next.
“This was money poorly spent. We’ll know better next time.”