‘Tom vs Time’ director Gotham Chopra on Tom Brady-Bill Belichick’s relationship

– Well, I thought it was sensational. My partner thought it was just OK.

– Coming face to face with one of our antagonists.

– That is true.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, talk about that residual.

– Yeah. Yeah.

– A nothing burger, right?

– Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– A nothing burger.

– How did this project start?

– I’ve been friends with Tom for a couple of years. He used to have an off season home not far from here in Brentwood. I grew up in Massachusetts, so I was a huge Patriots fan. And I just met him while he was here during his offseason program maybe five or six years ago. And over that time, I’ve been bugging him.

Tom, you should do this. This is historic, even as far back as that time. And he always resisted it. And then last season, about a year ago right now offseason, Tom, I think in large part because he was hearing that chatter, like this can happen at 40 years old. Nobody continues to perform at this level.

Plus, the prior season, the comeback against the Falcons, the stuff with his mom off the field, the suspension, all of that, there was drama. And I think Tom sort of thought, OK, let’s try this. So it was supposed to be an offseason thing. It became a full season because Tom got hip to storytelling. And if you’re going to set it up, you might as well pay it off. And so we kept on rolling.

– For the man that’s spent the better part of his entire career of being private, not letting anyone inside, not offering a glimpse into who Tom is, not only on the field but off the field behind the scenes, why?

– I think that it was a combination of things. I think one of the things we talked a lot about– because at the beginning, we didn’t know Facebook. We didn’t know really where it was going to end up. And part of me was telling Tom, like, hey, your kids are growing up. But they’re still kind of small. Don’t you want to document this just for them, if nothing else?

And he’s got a very, very close family, as you see, with his parents, his sisters, his nieces, his nephews. So just that captured for them, and then again, that was partly me pushing it. But I think that was it. And look, it was a trusting environment. And for the 90 minutes that ends up onscreen, there’s probably 90 hours worth of stuff.

So there’s a lot of stuff that didn’t make it, that’s private, either because it didn’t fit the narrative, or because it just was inappropriate.

– And he would veto that to you?

– I have a pretty good instinct. I’ve known Tom for a long time. And look, especially during the football season, Tom’s pretty focused. He’s not reviewing cuts. I would talk to him. And it’s constant communication.

– Did he sign off on the final product?

– Yeah, for sure. And I would tell him, hey, look at this part, look at that part, because these are areas I just want to make sure you’re comfortable with, certainly anything with the kids, with his wife, all that sort of stuff.

But we’re partners. This wasn’t me trying to come in and be an investigative reporter. So I knew. And also, I know the, quote, “Patriot way.” I’m a fan. And so I knew, in a way, how to navigate that, or the things I needed to be sensitive about.

– So in episode five, you included a scene in which Tom Brady and his trainer Alex Guerrero up– is it Tom’s suite? It’s somebody’s suite. I think it’s Tom’s, where in the morning, and they’re having to sneak around, and put the little portable table over in the side, and they’re both laughing about– this is just nuts what we’re having to do. How real is the tension between Brady and Alex Guerrero, as he both deals with obviously Tom and Gronkowski involved too, as he treats both of them?

– There’s no tension between Tom and Alex, right? Alex is a critical part, as you see, not just physically, but I would say even mentally and emotionally in terms of Tom’s prep, not just for specific games, but across the season and everything. So I think they are working hand in glove.

All the stuff around the team and all of the politics, look, I think Tom’s been doing this and coach was doing this for 18 years. I would also say I didn’t have any interaction with the coaching staff. I was never once in the locker room. We were very, very conscious of that and mindful of that.

So Tom had to do his stuff up in the– halfway through the season, he had to start doing it up in his suite. So we did.

– Were you amazed by that?

– Not really. I’ve been a fan for a long time. I know these are intensive campaigns with strong personalities and stuff like that, so not particularly. And again, I haven’t been around in this part of the drama?

– They give the quarterback, especially that guy. Normally, the great players, they get great latitude from the team. They get the go and come, and they let some of the personnel that gets to go and come. And for all of a sudden for it to be abruptly stopped, I think that’s what Skip is getting at, is that did this cause contention and friction.

– Look, I think there’s a lot of scrutiny this year, in part because I had a camera constantly. But my guess is over the course of 18 years, there’s always ebbs and flows. There’s always personality clashes. There are very strong personalities.

– How was it able to get out this time?

– There are cameras, and there’s reporters. And look, it’s funny because– and I’m curious, right? We have 52 million views. I have 50 maybe from Massachusetts because there’s an obsessiveness and there’s reporters, beat reporters, and there’s people talking all the time. So I think it’s also the advent of social media.

So I think this time. But it’s actually not– to me, there’s been Deflategate, there’s been Spygate, there’s been endless drama around the Celtic– I mean, Celtics– the Patriots. In some ways, it fuels them.

And one thing that was interesting is despite all that drama, when we got to January, there was this focus. And there’s a goal. And everybody got on that same page, and it paid off.

– Yeah, there was the big ESPN bombshell report post-trade deadline that Coach Belichick was in favor of signing Jimmy Garoppolo long term and pushing Tom out the back door. How much resentment of– that fan, obviously Robert Kraft, overruled that, and Jimmy got traded– but how much resentment did you feel on Tom’s part that he would harbor toward Belichick for wanting to go with Garoppolo?

– Tom’s a competitor The one thing, we talked a little bit about it. But Tom was like, listen. And he considered Jimmy a protege, a friend. They do this annual trip down to the derby. And Jimmy was part of that trip. He was under Tom’s tutelage on and off the field.

But I think Tom’s a competitor, and he felt like, well, as long as I’m on this field, as long as I’m showing up training camp, I’m going to win this job. And that’s no slight on Jimmy. But he’s a competitor. And so I don’t think, again– but there’s personality issues, maybe. But this is 18 seasons of sustained success.

So these guys know their process. And I don’t think he felt too much tension or anything like that’s specific to that.

– Normally, the starting quarterback and the backup quarterback are very, very good friends as long as the backup quarterback poses no threat. Joe Montana and Steve Young never had a working relationship. Brett Farve and Aaron Rodgers didn’t have the working relationship because they viewed those guys as threats.

John Elway and Gary Kubiak had a great working relationship because he was no threat But the minute Dan Reeve’s, my former coach, took Tommy Mattocks in the first round, they did not have the same working relationship. So to say that Tom Brady had the same relationship that he had with Brian Hoyer or Rohan Davey or Ryan Mallett, I don’t know it we’re telling the whole truth about that.

– No, no, I don’t think– and again, I’ve never spent any time with Jimmy. I’m just saying I think Tom likes Jimmy. He’s happy for him now in the 49ers. But yeah, I don’t disagree with you. Competitively, this is my job. And until you take it away from me, you’re not getting it, until you earn it.

– Well, I feel better if you’re not here, so that way– I want to fight. But if you’re not here, I won’t have to fight as hard.

– Yeah. Look, I also think Tom is a pretty unique case. I’m biased, but this guy has established himself. And he’s so confident in his process, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, the way he’s able to calibrate all these things. And I don’t think he feels particularly threatened by anyone.

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