He's with Tom

In the royal palace, intrigue dwells behind the throne. And in Brady’s kingdom, the courtly machinery is nearly impossible to observe. Access to the inner sanctum is granted only to longtime friends who have shown unwavering loyalty. This is where McDonough lives, shielded by an omerta he helps uphold. He is a puzzle inside a riddle, wrapped in Armani Exchange.

"I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup," says Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.

"I know nothing about him," says Shaughnessy’s colleague Bob Ryan. "He could be 5 feet 8, he could be 10 feet tall. He could be white, black. I don’t know."

He is, in fact, a baby-faced 28-year-old from Westwood, soft around the edges, with a wisp of a Boston accent and an affinity for fine clothes and fancy cocktails. A fellow who in certain circles might be considered a dandy. (And who is no relation to the late Globe sportswriter who once punched out a surly Patriots cornerback in the locker room.) But the murkiness surrounding those details is, of course, by design. Not even those who claim to be "tight" with McDonough know much about him. McDonough himself refused to cooperate with this story, saying only, "A lot of people that I’ve known for my whole life don’t even know that I represent Tom. I don’t draw attention to myself. It’s not me." (When this magazine tried to secure the rights to photos of him from Brady’s new website, we were told that only recent pictures could be used, as McDonough was working on his image and didn’t want anything unflattering to circulate. Then, within days, all of the photos of McDonough on the site were removed.)

Having the ear of Boston’s mightiest celebrity grants power. It also inspires dread. Of the several dozen people contacted for this story, only a handful would allow their names to be used. Even Don Yee, Brady’s longtime agent, quickly retreated under questioning, deferring to McDonough himself.

But what is it about McDonough’s role with Brady that requires such cloaking? He has been, at times, a bagman, a gofer, a buffer, a fixer, the scout who locks down a VIP table, the go-between who orchestrates Brady’s appearances. He gets tickets for Brady’s pals. He is both a consigliere and a 6-foot-tall human PDA whose contents you will never learn. Over the years, as McDonough has proven his worth, the responsibilities have expanded. He may once have looked something like the "butler" the Inside Track disparaged, but no longer. Almost anything in Brady’s life that doesn’t deal with football now gets funneled McDonough’s way. The idea is to have the quarterback focus on quarterbacking and keep both athlete and brand in fine fettle.

"His role is not of an assistant. He is a trusted confidant to Tom. He handles a sizeable portion of [Brady's] private affairs," says one of Brady’s closest friends, who responded to my questions through an intermediary. "That does not include ordering up long-stemmed roses or carrying the dog."

Here’s a sampling of what it does include: McDonough has helped Brady find lawyers, modeling agents, and financial advisers. A licensed real estate agent, he’s been instrumental in developing the brownstone on Beacon Street where Brady sold the floors beneath his penthouse apartment. He liaises with the companies Brady endorses and is said to help hone their Brady-helmed advertising campaigns.

But McDonough’s input isn’t limited to business. While he may draw a paycheck from Brady, sources say the partnership is more brotherly than formal. He’s said to help Brady with almost anything—advice about girlfriends, family, which movie to see that weekend. In the inevitable Entourage analogy, McDonough falls "somewhere between an Eric and a Turtle," according to another of Brady’s friends, though in truth he’s probably more like a hybrid of Eric and Ari. Yes, McDonough has cashed in on his friend’s stardom, but he also brings his own agentlike qualities to the table. He is by all accounts a savvy, hard-working, and discreet businessman. Friends say he’s charismatic, loyal, and down-to-earth, the kind of guy everyone wants to buy a drink for.

At the same time, just like Eric, McDonough has his detractors, those who see him as a lucky boob. A coattailer. And they aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, at least anonymously. On one blog, McDono
ugh is called an "ass clown," a "jock sniffer," a "douche," and a "hog sucker." Other people interviewed for this story expressed a disbelief bordering on outrage at his success. Invariably, though, the critics didn’t actually know him. They’d merely crossed his path at a party somewhere.

Perhaps McDonough elicits this prickly response because he’s managed to slip into a glittering palace we’ll never see the inside of. He’s not a stud athlete. He’s not an actor or a rock star or even a hot groupie. He comes off as a regular guy. To look at him is to wonder what’s so special; to think, Why not me?