Tom Brady

The Belichick and Brady era in New England delivered unprecedented success: nine Super Bowl appearances with six wins, 13 AFC Championship Game appearances, with nine wins; and 17 AFC East titles including 11 in a row. It all ended after the 2019 season when Tom Brady left the Patriots to become quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This remarkable run has inspired a string of books so it’s reasonable to look at Seth Wickersham’s It’s Better to be Feared and ask whether another one is really necessary.

The answer is yes, for three reasons. First, unlike previous authors, Wickersham has the opportunity to cover the complete dynasty and the postscript that saw Brady win a Super Bowl with his new team. Jeff Benedict’s The Dynasty finished with Brady telling Patriots owner Robert Kraft that he has played his final season with the team.

Second, Wickersham has been covering the Patriots since Brady’s rookie season. He was just starting out as a reporter when Brady was a late-round pick trying to prove himself. And third, Wickersham is an excellent writer. The book is meticulously researched but the wealth of material never overwhelms the narrative.

He is also unafraid to bring out the complexities of his central characters. Brady’s selfishness and neediness often undermines his leadership and his desire to be a good husband and father. Belichick’s ruthlessness and ambivalence towards rules complicates his reputation as a coaching genius.

A third, but less central, character is Kraft, who adores Brady, grows frustrated with Belichick, and is increasingly preoccupied with his own legacy. Despite the clear pecking order, the three men are trapped by their need for each other. This leads to fascinating manoeuvring as each tries to secure the respect he feels he deserves.

Title: It’s Better to be Feared
Author: Seth Wickersham
First published: Liveright, 2021
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK


  • National Sports Media Association Sports Book of the Year
  • Sports Illustrated Non-fiction Book of the Year


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It’s Brady who breaks-up the trio. This was almost most likely, since a player’s career is the shortest, but Brady still delivers a final twist by showing he can win elsewhere.

The game action is as riveting as the off-field machinations. Wickersham frequently finds the right details to bring key moments to life, such as Belichick calmly watching the Seahawks’ coaches panic in the closing moments of Super Bowl XLIX. Even Patriots fans, who probably know many of these stories, will get a thrill from reading them again.

The more time passes, the more the Belichick-Brady partnership will come to be seen as one of football’s great stories. This book does that story justice.


Seth Wickersham is a senior writer at ESPN, where he has worked for more than two decades, winning multiple awards in the process. His work as an investigative journalist includes multiple reports on the New England Patriots, including over the Spygate and Deflategate controversies. It’s Better to be Feared is his first book.


“The Patriots were Super Bowl champions for the second time in three years, vaulting Belichick onto the short list of greatest coaches in football history. Always a self-scout, Belichick thought he hadn’t coached well. He had activated only five defensive linemen for the game, rather than six. ‘Stupid,’ he said. With its overwrought introductions and halftime show, the Super Bowl was at least an hour longer than most games. The drawn-out nature of the game hit the defensive line hardest, draining the pass rush in the fourth quarter. Belichick had robbed himself of the ability to rotate in fresh legs. He never repeated that mistake again, and he exploited it when opposing coaches committed the same error against him in future Super Bowls.”

“Belichick had won the lottery with Brady and had developed a Super Bowl-caliber replacement in Jimmy Garoppolo, and now he was left with the stark reminder that, after all of the decades he had spent thinking about football, after all of the ways his greatness enriched and subtracted from his life, his profession is and always will be a quarterback’s game.”


It’s Better to be Feared is so well-written and founded on such thorough research that it immediately places Seth Wickersham alongside the very best football writers. It’s an excellent book that should be read by every football fan, and I’m already looking forward to Wickersham’s next.
Shane Richmond, Pigskin Books

“Chapter after chapter, the author takes the reader inside the Patriots’ locker and trainers’ rooms, into coaches’ meetings, into the huddle and onto the line of scrimmage. There’s plenty of eavesdropping on the NFL owners’ contentious meetings with Commissioner Roger Goodell, too. The result is the best picture I’ve ever encountered of what the cutthroat, multibillion-dollar world of NFL football is actually like.”
Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal

“Wickersham’s book is an honest, sprawling, meticulously reported, and beautifully written portrayal of perhaps the greatest and probably the most unlikely dynasty in modern professional sports. It does not hopscotch from Super Bowl to Super Bowl, but instead draws richly detailed portraits of Brady, Belichick, the dynasty’s third constant in owner Robert Kraft, and how their personalities and relationships changed through the years.”
Chad Finn, Boston Globe

“He humanizes Brady, Belichick and the Patriots owner Robert Kraft for outsiders in a way that can be exceedingly difficult. Hate the Patriots? This is Belichick as Walter White rather than Heisenberg, and Brady with intimate moments of self-awareness about his career and personal life. Love New England? Spygate, Deflategate and the other self-inflicted problems and toxicity within the organization were probably uglier than you thought.”
Oskar Garcia, New York Times

“Reporters have breathlessly covered the Patriots over the years, leaving little room for new reveals, but Wickersham advances the ball with anecdotes that unpeel the personalities of the franchise’s significant figures. He also adds nuance to long-discussed topics among Patriots fans.”
Mark Selig, Washington Post

“Though Brady is the major focus, the book also delves into Kraft’s desire for recognition and Belichick’s systematic devotion to hard work and hard coaching. … This book covers the era’s major events and finds fresh perspectives that make the lengthy volume a joy to read.”
John Maxymuk, Library Journal


Amazon US | Amazon UK

Photo: Maize & Blue Nation

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