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Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski & Aaron Hernandez: Only Few Under Bill Belichick Who Could ‘Be Themselves’

Utsav Khanna

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A new era in Foxborough is afoot, but the Bill Belichick slander has yet to die down. However, Shannon Sharpe and Chad ‘Ocho’ Johnson aren’t among the naysayers. They recently shared their honest opinions about Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett’s comments regarding the new and improved New England Patriots, with Ocho even acknowledging how things were different under Coach Belichick.

During a recent Nightcap episode, Ocho pointed out that Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and the late Aaron Hernandez were amongst the few on the list who got some leeway from Coach Belichick. On that note, Shannon Sharpe even quipped that Hernandez was “really himself.

“There are a few players that were themselves,” Ocho claimed. “Obviously, Tom… Gronk is one of the few along with Aaron Hernandez, who were truly themselves and were able to get away with it.” 

But the larger point of the conversation is the inability to behave the way one wants under certain coaching regimes. Former athletes believe times are changing and the old ways of the coaches, although efficient, leave a lot to be desired. Thus, new-age coaches might need to check themselves before developing theories on player management.

Sharpe then pointed out how there is also an element of hypocrisy in the comments by Brissett and other players who’ve seen both Patriots regimes. He contends that no one batted an eye when Belichick and his methods were getting them rings, but as soon as they started losing and there weren’t any rings to show for it, they wanted to ‘be themselves‘.

Although Ocho offered a counterargument that Brissett is not particularly going after Belichick’s methods, he still pointed out the difference he feels. Under the old coach, there was a mindset for a majority of players that they had to walk on eggshells.

Once, Jerod Mayo took charge, that changed according to the athletes. They no longer needed to put effort into how they behaved or if they are behaving in a certain prescribed manner or not. Thus, it gives way to a flow of ideas and brings out sides of the athletes not seen before. It is something that one can even see in the GOAT himself.

Ocho Contends Tom Brady Only Showed His True Self in Tampa Bay

Further on, Ocho claimed that even though Brady could’ve gotten away with almost anything in New England, he chose to follow the path because it was working out for everybody. He had goals he wanted to achieve, and the man was unapologetically working towards them. 

Yet that did not mean he did not crave the indulgences of being a six-time Super Bowl champion. Former Patriots WR Chad Johnson asserted that once Brady got to Tampa Bay, he started showing his ‘fun side‘—embraced social media, took time to make content online, and showed his fans ‘the man in the arena’ had a few more tricks up his sleeve. 

But that wasn’t possible under the dynastic brilliance of the Patriots system. And on the flip side, once out of Boston, Belichick has also portrayed the humor everyone knew he had but hid from the media. Since he was following a way that he thought worked. 

Once it all ended, like all things do, they all let their guards down and opened themselves up to the world. The world was also more forgiving as time passed by since they had been on the mountaintop and the new heirs were already present to be hated.

About the author

Utsav Khanna

Utsav Khanna


Utsav Khanna, an NFL journalist with a keen eye for the game, has been covering the sport for the past two years, trying to bring the most interesting stories from and around the game. Armed with a degree in English Journalism from the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication, he transitioned from a background in Public Relations to pursue his passion for sports reporting. Having penned over 200 insightful articles, he tries to bring in all the perspectives while writing as the NFL probably as one of the most intricate ecosystems in all of sports. A fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he admires the way Coach Mike Tomlin makes players buy-in into a system and entrusts them in challenging situations.

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