Did Pat McAfee inadvertently reveal a New England Patriots state secret on live TV this weekend?
McAfee and ESPN's "College GameDay" crew welcomed Patriots owner Robert Kraft onto the set Saturday for a brief interview ahead of Army vs. Navy at Gillette Stadium. McAfee was very complimentary of Kraft building a six-time Super Bowl winner in New England, but after Kraft made a fairly innocuous comment about trying to get the 3-10 Patriots back on track, McAfee raised eyebrows with a very interesting reply.
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Kraft: "We like to win, so we wanna do everything we can to get our team back so we can be winning."
McAfee: "I don’t envy your position, what’s about to happen. We all know. We don’t have to ask."
It sure sounds like McAfee was referencing the Patriots potentially parting ways with head coach Bill Belichick after the season, sympathizing with Kraft for having to pull the plug on one of the best coaches in NFL history.
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While it does seem increasingly likely that New England moves on from Belichick this offseason after missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, it still was surprising to see McAfee make such a definitive statement on-air. So, does McAfee have any inside information on Belichick's future in Foxboro, or was he just trying to read the tea leaves?
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer believes McAfee's take was at least somewhat informed.
"He's sitting right next to (Kirk) Herbstreit, who was with Bill two days earlier, right?" Breer said of McAfee on NBC Sports Boston's Sports Sunday. "So, I think there's something there, that McAfee probably has some level of information coming from that.
"There are off-air conversations before these things and you know that they go through things. So, (McAfee is) offering his hand there and Kraft kind of looked like, 'I know I'm supposed to go along with this, but this is really uncomfortable for me.' It felt to me like an extension of off-air conversations, whether they're with Herbstreit or Kraft himself."
Even if McAfee doesn't have intel directly from Belichick or Kraft, it's possible he's spoken to people who do have inside knowledge. For ex-Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, the fact that McAfee was so confident in his take was a sign that he knows something we don't.
"He didn't even ask a question; he just made that statement so definitively," Johnson said. "It leads you to believe that something was said to him off the air. It was a little bit of an awkward moment.
" ... I just thought the statement from him was so definitive; it makes all of us that cover the team, go 'Hmm, that's another sign that maybe it's heading where we think it's heading.'"
Belichick's Patriots will host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and if this is indeed his last season in New England, it will be his second-to-last game coaching at Gillette Stadium for the home team.