It all ended between Bill Belichick and Wes Welker during the week before the 2010 playoff game vs. the New York Jets. The Patriots had obliterated the Jets in December 45-3, and Belichick didn’t want to fan any flames leading up to the game. He instructed his team to not say anything to fire up the Jets. Welker apparently didn’t get the memo, and as the Jets were throwing jabs at the Patriots, Welker ignored marching orders.
He stood at the podium with a sarcastic smile, and off he went, making a verbal assault on Jets coach Rex Ryan, who had just been embroiled in a controversy over a foot fetish video with his wife. Welker made 11 references to feet, being coy and directly disobeying Belichick. The media laughed, fans thought it was hilarious, but it was effectively the beginning of the end for Welker in New England. The Jets beat the Patriots in that AFC Divisional round game, and that was the worst thing that could have happened for Welker (strike one).
It may sound silly, but Welker was in his fourth year of his contract, the time when the Patriots typically start to work on an extension. Belichick never lifted a finger to scribble any numbers for Welker; he let him play out 2011, then gave him the offer he felt was good value for the Patriots. Welker balked at the 2-yr $16 million deal, (strike two), unlike Patriots favorites Troy Brown and Ted Bruschi, who took less money as their careers wound down.
Belichick looked at those two as the models of the Patriot way. Welker had stepped out of line, balked at the money, and he was heading down the road travelled by Richard Seymour, Deion Branch and other Patriots who were willing to make noise. In the spring of 2012, Welker made comments about his contract situation, comments the Patriots took exception to, and they told him to be quiet (strike three).
Welker couldn’t resist opening his mouth after starting the 2012 season with reduced role, but when Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman went down with injuries, Welker was back in the spotlight again. After having a good game against Miami, he said on national television when asked how it felt to be back, that “It feels good to stick it to Bill once in a while,” (strike four).
Belichick viewed Welker as just another grunt; he couldn’t trust him to hold the company line, just fight on the front line. Welker tried to fight the machine with a passive aggressive approach, speak up and then backtrack, and in the end it was his ticket out of town. He didn’t leave, the Patriots told him to go.
The fact that Belichick wouldn’t match a deal that was $1 million apart speaks volumes for his disdain for Welker, and his civil disobedience. They call it the Patriot way for a reason; Welker was a good Patriot, but he wasn’t a great one in Belichick eyes. Troy brown made the crucial catch in 2001 Super Bowl, Branch did it in 2003 and 2004, and Welker missed his in 2011.
Again, Belichick saw Welker on the frontline, the first ones to get sacrificed.