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In professional sports, just as in life, nothing lasts forever. Every player, no matter how great they are, eventually has to throw in the towel. While retirement might not be on the cards for Tom Brady, Saturday night’s elimination could have been the last time the quarterback ever suits up for the New England Patriots.

Brady might be a free agent, but it’s hard to imagine the veteran quarterback playing anywhere other than New England. Could he have really played his final season with the Pats?

Tom Brady’s tough 2019 season

In the NFL, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have become synonymous with consistent success. The 2019 campaign, however, didn’t work out as planned.

While the Patriots finished the regular season 12-4, the team was far from its dominant self. Most of their success came on the defensive side of the ball. Their offense, which never truly replaced Rob Gronkowski, struggled. Without his big tight end, Brady’s hands were tied; Julian Edelman faced constant double-teams, Mohamed Sanu never hit his stride, and the veteran quarterback’s numbers suffered.

Off the field, things didn’t go much better. Since Brady was entering the final year of his contract, speculation about his future started swirling. While the quarterback has historically insisted that he wants to play into his mid-40s, both Brady and his trainer put their Massachusetts homes up for sale. Adam Schefter even stated that the QB was more likely to retire than return to New England last season.

The Patriots fall to the Titans on Wild Card Weekend

On Saturday, all of the New England Patriots’ problems came to a head. On a rainy night in Foxboro, their offense stalled against the Tennesse Titans; when the dust cleared, the Pats had lost 20-13.

After the final whistle, speculation immediately turned to Tom Brady’s future; had the legendary quarterback played his last game in New England? While the quarterback wasn’t sure, he did explain that retirement probably wasn’t on the cards.

“I don’t want to get too much into the future and stuff. I mean, this team has fought hard. We battled every day, we tried to get better, we worked hard to improve and I was proud to be a part of this team. Not only this year, but every year,” Brady told reporters. “Again, I just don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m not going to predict it. No one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football, I love playing for this team. I’ve loved playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games. And again, I don’t know what it looks like moving forward, so we’ll just take it day-by-day.”

Has Tom Brady really played his last game with the New England Patriots?

On a personal level, it makes sense for Tom Brady to remain in New England. It’s the only franchise he’s ever known and where he built his legacy; as much as he wants to win, a seventh Super Bowl victory probably wouldn’t feel the same without Bill Belichick. At the same time, though, there’s always the possibility of divorce.

After the way this campaign went, could Brady be tempted by the prospect of another team with a more talented receiving corps? Could Bill Belichick put the ‘Patriot Way‘ to the test and try to replace his veteran quarterback with a more mobile signal-caller?

While logic might dictate a marriage of convenience is on the cards—Brady probably doesn’t really want to leave New England, and Bill Belichick probably won’t want to retool his entire offense in a single offseason—no one outside of Brady, Belichick, and Robert Kraft have any idea what’s to come. No matter what happens, this offseason will have a major impact on the future of the New England Patriots.