Genuinely shocked. End of an era. A career dreams are made of. The Greatest of All Time. The end of a
dynasty. These are all phrases expressed at the end of a truly epic sports career, or potentially even the
death of an icon. Today, most football fans will use these phrases to discuss the news that Tom Brady,
the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, for the greatest dynasty that the modern game of
football will ever see, will not don a Patriots uniform this season.
The name Tom Brady immediately inspires one of three emotions in any football fan: visceral hatred,
respect for an elite foe, or adoration. Brady’s jersey has been the number one selling jersey for over ten
years. He won six Super Bowls with the Patriots, in an era where winning one is nigh-impossible, and
winning two, especially back to back, is a goal so far out of focus for most teams as to be perceived as
unattainable. He did it, oftentimes, with sub-par supporting cast members.
The only year he was provided a Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver, the Patriots went 16-0. For many of us, myself included, Tom Brady has been synonymous with the Patriots, winning, perseverance, and grit for most, if not all our lives. As a 23 (24 by the time the next season starts) year old Patriots fan, seeing Brady in another uniform next season won’t just hurt – it will be confusing, saddening, and frankly disappointing. For the rest of us, it will mean something else.
So Many Questions
We don’t know where Brady is going, but one of two options looks likely: the Chargers or the Buccaneers. Any team in the NFL (let’s be real) would take Brady in a heartbeat, either as a mentor for their quarterback or as a replacement for their quarterback. These two teams have the chance to hire
the greatest of all time, no longer at a discount, but as a bid to win a Super Bowl sometime in the next
two years. Wherever he goes, comparisons will be made, judgments will be passed by couch coaches, questions will be asked.
Were the Patriots only good because of Brady? Was Brady only elite because of Belichick? Will there ever be another quarterback like Brady? Does Brady have two more years left in the tank, or will this look like Favre in Minnesota? Can the Patriots find a way to move on?
Brady and the Future
If he goes to the Chargers, some of these questions will be answered, as the Patriots will travel to Los Angeles at some point next season to play the Chargers. Will Brady have a chance to face his mentor, friend, and now competitor? Will Belichick, one of the greatest defensive minds ever to pick up a playbook, be able to outfox his former talisman? All these questions set up the 2020 season as one that promises to be dramatic, with massive prime-time spectacles like this one.
Breaking down Brady’s options: assuming the money is similar in both locations, my belief is that Brady
should go to Tampa Bay. With better weapons, less distraction (won’t have the chance to play the Patriots unless they meet in the Super Bowl), and a better quarterback-centric coach in Bruce Arians, the Bucs are set up for success with a quarterback not prone to throwing 30 interceptions in a season. To make things even more interesting, the Bucs will host the Super Bowl in 2021, a fact which would provide Brady with the ability to become the first-ever quarterback to win a Super Bowl in front of his home crowd. Drama? Check. Primetime atmosphere? Check.
The Post-Brady Patriots
On the other side of the aisle, Belichick is left to do what he has done better than any coach in the
history of the game; pick up the pieces of a broken football team, and cobble together a Frankenstein’s-monster-type team that somehow is expected to return to the playoffs, and potentially the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have been to nine Super Bowls since 2000. They’ve been to the playoffs every single one of
those years, except 2008, when Brady tore his ACL. The Patriots still went 11-5 but missed the playoffs.
The Patriots almost certainly would become candidates to draft a quarterback or find one in
free agency, after Stidham’s less than stellar performance in his few outings last season.
This season is already shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons of all time with 17 games,
massive roster changes already in free agency, world-shattering shake-ups like the departure of Brady,
and other breaking news sure to come. The 2020 season will be one for the ages. For fans of the Patriots,
however, the season will taste just a little bittersweet, even more so should the Patriots ever collide
with Tom Brady during the season.