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The New England Patriots had an ecosystem that worked, and it worked for two decades with Tom Brady at the helm.

Since Brady’s departure last offseason, Bill Belichick hasn’t had the same control and pull that was apparent with Brady around. N’Keal Harry’s recent trade request is one of the biggest examples of this. Players don’t typically go public with their desire to leave the team and it’s possible that Brady’s influence was strong enough to prevent it.

While joining NBC Sports Boston’s “Boston Sports Tonight”, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson explained what the difference is.

“I think the Patriots, quite honestly, have lost that thing that makes them the Patriots,” Johnson said. “You take Tom Brady out of New England and the entire ecosystem has been disrupted. When have you ever seen a player take on Bill Belichick that has not accomplished anything in this league, like N’Keal Harry is taking him on so publicly?”

After a 7-9 record and Brady winning a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Belichick quickly has to turn the ship around in 2021.

“You’re seeing things from players you’ve never seen before. You’re seeing Bill Belichick do things you’ve never seen Bill Belichick do,” Johnson said. “Why? Why all of a sudden now? It’s a totally different ecosystem now that Tom is gone. And you’re seeing things and behaviors out of Bill Belichick and out of players that you’ve never seen before.

“(Brady) was the guy that set the example for everyone else. Bill could puff out his chest, he could play hardball, because he knew he had Tom behind him to kind of cover his warts and make up for any decisions that he made. And so guys fell in line because you wanted to play for a winner, you wanted to play with Tom Brady, you wanted to win. And I just don’t think that same feeling is there for players in this organization.”

Time will tell if Harry’s request is one-of-a-kind, or if Patriots players will continue with this trend.

“You can’t insult Bill Belichick worse than what N’Keal Harry did,” Johnson said. “He basically just went up and spat in his face in front of everybody.”


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