Professional football’s most prolific and enduring player-team marriage came to a close early on Tuesday, as Brady made it clear via a pair of heartfelt social media posts that his time with the franchise is ending.
His next destination will emerge soon enough. FOXBet has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an overwhelming favorite to secure his services and FOX’s Colin Cowherd received information that Brady has already made his choice — and, according to what Cowherd is hearing, that very well could be Tampa Bay.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 17, 2020
But before all the parsing and analysis and predictions of how it plays out, it is worth considering that the most stunning part of all this is the most obvious bit.
That there will be someone other than Tom Brady taking snaps for the Patriots when the next NFL season starts. And that Brady, after all those years and all those rings in that familiar uniform, will be performing in other attire when he next takes to the field.
Even after the situation played out to a point where Brady’s departing was no longer going to be a surprise, it still steadfastly qualifies as a shock. There are some things we become used to as sports fans, particular certainties that, whether we like them or not, proffer a sense of stability.
Brady and the Patriots, winning and winning and winning some more, year after year, was a painful reality for fans of other teams, and excruciating for their divisional, historical and conference rivals.
🏈Nearly 75,000 Pass Yards
🏈17 Division Championships
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 17, 2020
Yet it will still be weird now that it is no more.
It is a separation that came about for a multitude of reasons of differing importance. It turned into reality despite all that success and, in a weird kind of way, because of it.
For ESPN, Ian O’Connor wrote that the egos of Brady and Bill Belichick were at play. Everyone has their own ideas on who has been more responsible for the Patriots dynasty, and you can bet those two men do, too.
“Deep down, Tom Brady needed to find out,” O’Connor wrote. “So did Bill Belichick. Together they had run out of opponents to conquer and mountains to climb. They had to break up to answer the only question left about the most successful partnership in NFL history. Who was more vital, the quarterback or the coach?”
.@RealSkipBayless thinks Brady will win a Lombardi before Belichick.
RT if you agree pic.twitter.com/BEqSyE3ZYt
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) March 17, 2020
Over the past months and even previously, if we really looked, the signs were there. Brady’s most recent deal was one that would automatically void him into free agency, and simultaneously leave the Patriots with a weakened bargaining hand if they tried to keep him.
“I know for some people this will come as some kind of shock,” FS1’s Nick Wright said. “The reason why for seven months I’ve been beating the drum that Brady is leaving New England is that all the actual tangible available information we had, screamed he was leaving New England.
“He went to them for a contract extension two offseasons ago. They wouldn’t give it to him. He went to them for a contract extension this past offseason. He had just won his sixth Super Bowl…and they would not give him an extension. Why anyone thought Bill Belichick would give him a deal after the worst year of his career arguably … never made any sense to me.”
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) March 17, 2020
Well, now we know. Soon enough we will know where he goes next, and what that looks like. This is Brady, cultural icon and sports figurehead, so whatever takes place, it is going to get top billing and be fascinating theater.
There is a lot to unpack. And in case you hadn’t noticed, there is some pretty crazy stuff going on in the world right now, so we are going to have plenty of time to unpack it. Is Brady going to stumble his way to the age-45 career finishing line that he has targeted, or are he and his new team going to be good enough to compete?
And what of New England? Presumably neither Jarrett Stidham nor Cody Kessler are the long-term solution for all this, so who are the Patriots going to go after, either by trade or through free agency? The market is shifting rapidly, with Teddy Bridgewater reportedly on his way to the Carolina Panthers, and Philip Rivers perhaps Indianapolis-bound. Andy Dalton is out there, but after that, who?
“Tom Brady is going to win this divorce in the short term… I would argue New England today — Quarterback, tight end, wide receiver, worst weapons in the league. I don’t even think it’s arguable.” — @ColinCowherd pic.twitter.com/AXv7sa63bo
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 17, 2020
Maybe the Patriots go for the “wow” factor and make a big, splashy trade. Whatever happens though, the biggest “wow” of all has already taken place.
Tom Brady is leaving New England.