Tom Brady is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Let that sink in.
The most famous athlete in Boston history, and potentially sports history, has officially left town after twenty years of unprecedented success.
A chilling reality to most, but it’s the one we currently face. As they say, all good things must come to an end.
Montana played for the Chiefs. Bobby Orr the Blackhawks. Jordan for the Wizards. It’s becoming increasingly rare that players spend their entire careers with one team.
Brady will be no different.
But we really should have seen this coming.
It began at the tail end of 2017 when the Patriots lost to the Eagles in Super Bowl 52. We started to hear chatter of tension between Belichick and Brady citing issues regarding Brady’s long-time trainer Alex Guerrero. It was capped off with Seth Wickersham’s hit piece detailing numerous disputes between Brady, Belichick, and Robert Kraft.
Belichick had had enough of Guerrero undermining the team’s trainers regarding other player’s injuries/training methods and essentially banished him from the facility. Brady was clearly unhappy with the decision and made it clear on his Tom vs. Time documentary that Brady had to go significantly out of his way to get treatment from Guerrero, with the infamous scene of Brady getting his patented massage in his family’s suite during pregame provided as evidence.
In the documentary, we also learned about Brady’s apparent lack of gratitude from his coach via his wife, citing that Brady just wants to “feel appreciated” when he goes to work. While interesting and amusing to talk about, we largely brushed all of this to the side
Then came OTA’s in the 2018 offseason. Brady decided not to attend for the first time and was the sole starting quarterback in the league not to go. This was puzzling, especially considering the Wickersham article and the reports of tension between the three pillars of the organization.
The Patriots had a rough 2018 regular season, however, they were still somehow able to put it all together against all odds to win their sixth Super Bowl behind a great defense and run game. Brady was barely above average that season. It was statistically his worst since 2013, although he was masterful in the AFC title game on the road, and did just enough to will them over the Rams in Super Bowl 53.
Everything had seemed to be fixed. Brady and Belichick loved each other and had repaired the issues that had plagued them the year before.
Not at all.
Brady skipped OTA’s once again despite a plethora of new receivers along with the loss of Rob Gronkowski. Belichick didn’t help by acquiring very little talent at both receiver and tight end.
Nonetheless, Brady attended minicamp and training camp, and things seemed to be going back to normal.
Then came the contract adjustment that changed everything. Brady reportedly nearly walked out on training camp before his contract was adjusted prior to joint practices in Tennessee
Brady’s contract was adjusted to lower his cap hit for the 2019-20 season and increase his guaranteed money by eight million, with incentives for elite performance. The kicker was that Brady insisted that his deal include a clause that would not allow for the team to franchise tag him at the end of the season, essentially allowing himself to control his own destiny.
It was all downhill from there.
Brady put his house on the market in the fall, and proceeded to act like his puppy was just run over by a tractor after each game, even when the Pats started off on a scathing 9-1 start. The Pats were winning, but Brady wasn’t playing as key a role as usual.
The happiest Brady seemed last season was when noted great guy Antonio Brown was brought into the fold. That experiment obviously ended in flames when Brown was rightfully released after numerous ugly allegations including sexual assault were made against him.
Brady’s numbers declined once again, and he looked frustrated and flat out exhausted throughout the season. It became clear that Brady was no longer capable of carrying an offense and making receivers look like they were better than they actually were.
A disastrous end to the season proceeded including a pathetic collapse in Week 17 vs Miami resulting in the Patriots playing on Wild Card weekend, something that hadn’t happened since 2009. The Titans went on to embarrass the once mighty Patriots, in what was a dreadful performance by Brady in his swan song.
Brady and his family then packed their things and moved to Greenwich, not even allowing their kids to finish the school year in New England.
The writing was on the wall. We just didn’t want to believe it.
It didn’t seem like there was even an honest attempt to bring Brady back into the picture from the Patriots. Robert Kraft allowed Belichick to make the call on the all-time quarterback, and from all reports, there were little to no negotiations between the coach and quarterback. There was no “come to Jesus” moment that we all expected in which Belichick would express his love and gratitude towards his former quarterback, but it never happened.
Belichick is known for making tough, cold-blooded decisions regarded his roster, and this is no different. He had no interest in paying a declining 43-year old quarterback guaranteed money over multiple years.
And deep down? Neither did Kraft. It just isn’t smart business to mortgage a team’s future for sentimental reasons, regardless of how much Kraft truly adores Brady.
There’s a reason Brady’s market was down to the Chargers and the Bucs. Few teams are willing to commit multiple years of real, guaranteed money to a guy coming off of two dwindling years at age 43.
It was simply time for both sides to move on. Regardless of Robert Kraft’s public comments about how much he wanted him to stay, it really doesn’t matter. We’re going to hear a lot of spin over the next few weeks about how it was all on Brady and it was his decision, and to not blame Kraft for letting Brady go. It already started with Kraft calling Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s First Take during a commercial break to try put all the blame on the quarterback.
Kraft has final say as the owner, and if he wanted to, he could’ve overruled Belichick and given Brady what he wanted.
But he didn’t.
Because he knew that Belichick would always do what’s best for the team, regardless of the backlash and criticism. Neither Belichick nor Kraft felt it necessary to extend themselves to bring him back for a 21st season. That speaks volumes to how the two truly view Brady’s current ability to play quarterback.
Brady will probably have a terrific year in an offense designed entirely for him, with two excellent receivers and solid tight ends. Belichick may look like a fool for letting the greatest quarterback of all-time walk away at first, but in the end, I believe Belichick will prevail in the end.
Only time will tell. We will finally get the answer as to who more important to the dynasty, Brady or Belichick? Will the GOAT lead his new team to a division title and a Super Bowl birth in their own city? Or will Belichick and Jarrett Stidham reinvigorate a new Patriots squadron and bring them to the promised land? The pressure on both sides is more immense than anything I’ve ever seen in my sports lifetime.
We will soon find out the answer.
I’m putting all my chips on Belichick.