Rolling Stone's exhaustive investigation into Aaron Hernandez's twisted reality hit the Internet on Wednesday and took no prisoners.
According to the article penned by the magazine's contributing editor, Paul Solotaroff, as well as Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges, the ex-Patriots tight end's off-the-rails lifestyle was raising consistent and serious red flags all the way back to his early days at the University of Florida before ending with Hernandez accused of murdering Odin Lloyd for glad-handing some guy the former Pro Bowl selection didn't like at a Boston-area night club.
Urban Meyer comes off as an enabler in this tragic tale, Hernandez's family and friends are painted as bottom-feeding takers, the NFL's public relations- fueled drug policy is exposed as a fraud, Bill Belichick is taken to task for adopting a win at all costs attitude no matter the scourges in his locker room, and Hernandez himself is outed as paranoid, angel dust-addicted psychopath.
There are no winners here but maybe the biggest loser -- outside of Lloyd of course -- is Belichick, the steward of a New England franchise once labeled as the NFL's "Gold Standard."
Belichick is heavily criticized for replacing the Patriots' long-time security chief, plugged-in former Massachusetts state trooper Frank Mendes, with Mark Briggs, a Brit expatriate with virtually no contacts around Boston.
The story infers that if Mendes was still running New England's security detail, the Pats would have been alerted almost immediately that Hernandez was frequenting low-brow establishments and surrounding himself with what Solotaroff and Borges described as "thugs" and "stone-cold gangsters."
"I'd have known within a half-hour if Hernandez had gotten in trouble with police and told Belichick and he'd do whatever," Mendes told the reporters.
To be fair to Belichick and the Pats, though, Mendes was replaced way back in 2003 so drawing a straight line between his ousting and Hernandez's troubles seems specious on the surface.
That said, a source close to Hernandez claims the alleged murderer was so paranoid by February that he flew to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis to tell Belichick his life was in danger because of the "gangsters" he was mixed up with.
In the spring Hernandez went to California to rehab his shoulder and got in a domestic dispute with fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins. No arrest took place, but Belichick was made aware and threatened to trade or cut his drug-addled problem.
By June Lloyd was dead, Hernandez was the alleged murderer and Belichick had to live with the fact he knew there was a scumbag in his locker room and did little to stop him.
Solotaroff and Borges went so far as to call Pats owner Robert Kraft's assessment that he (and the Patriots) were duped by Hernandez "arrogant nonsense," pointing out that the only way the team wouldn't have known their star tight end was using drugs on a regular basis and associating with known undesirables was by willfully ignoring it.
And they have a point. Numerous teams whitewashed Hernandez from their draft boards back in 2010 and plenty of people around football were well aware of his evidently well-earned reputation as a bad guy.
The threads have kept being pulled on Hernandez since Lloyd's murder and we now know the Bristol, Conn. native has been charged with or linked to the shootings of six people in four incidents since 2007.
This was a pariah Belichick knowingly took a chance on in an effort to keep winning, the kind of ends justify the means mentality which could easily sully the coach's reputation for good.
In the world of football, winning three Super Bowl rings for any city is a lifetime pass and a virtual guarantee of immortality with only one caveat ... you can't do it the way Bill Belichick did.