For 20 years, Tom Brady has been the face of the New England Patriots. But after announcing he’s continuing his football journey elsewhere on Tuesday, it officially marked the end of the Brady era in Foxboro.
The six-time Super Bowl champion has yet to decide his next destination. And after enduring hard coaching and below-market contracts for two decades, it’s safe to say Brady’s looking forward to a fresh start.
The end of the greatest dynasty in sports history finally arrived Tuesday. But considering how the last few years have gone, Brady’s departure doesn’t qualify as a surprise. In fact, it was the right move for the greatest quarterback of all time.
Tom Brady was the face of the Patriots for 20 years
What Brady accomplished in 20 seasons with the Patriots will go unmatched. Famously selected with the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, nobody could have predicted Brady’s success. Buried deep on the depth chart as a rookie, he finally got his chance when Mo Lewis nearly ended Drew Bledsoe’s career. That singular hit provided the pathway for Brady to take over the starting spot and he never looked back.
To go through Brady’s accomplishments with the Patriots would require and entire site of its own. From winning three championships in his first four seasons as a starter to winning three more in the final six years of his Patriots career, Brady’s dominance stretched through two decades, hundreds of teammates and thousands of opposing fans. He morphed his game but never wavered in his principles. He even outlasted Belichick’s hand-picked successor.
More importantly, Brady set the standard for Belichick’s “Patriot Way” philosophy. He took less money for years in order to give the team more financial flexibility. He routinely touted the importance of showing up to offseason activities and outworked everyone on the roster despite his prominent position within the team. Yet, that inner drive and dedication to winning eventually came at a cost.
Patriots and Brady sent signals a divorce was in sight
While Belichick and Brady shared an intense desire to win, the two differed in many ways. The quarterback had a sense of charm and intellect that came across well in interviews and press conferences. The head coach preached, “We’re on to Cincinnati” and “We’ll do what’s in the best interest of the football team” all too often in his same monotone.
Ultimately, the two backed themselves into their individual corners and the cracks began to emerge. First, Belichick drafted and developed Jimmy Garoppolo as the successor to his Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Even after leading the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, Brady still didn’t get a long-term extension and Garoppolo remained on the roster.
New England traded the promising prospect in October 2017…and Brady still didn’t get paid. He then watched Belichick bench Malcolm Butler in a devastating Super Bowl loss to the Eagles—a game in which Brady set a record with 505 passing yards.
Ahead of the 2018 season, Belichick only upped Brady’s contract with incentives. He failed to hit any of them. New England did adjust his contract last season, but it came at the price of not being able to franchise Brady this offseason. That decision left the door open for the future Hall of Famer to decide his own fate.
Patriots’ offseason moves suggest Tom Brady wasn’t in their plans
No matter how the narrative gets spun, it’s abundantly clear that both Brady and the Patriots were ready to move on. Belichick and Brady reportedly had a less-than-stellar phone call two weeks ago. It goes without saying that the head coach and ultimate decision maker likely didn’t have much interest in paying a 43-year-old quarterback the market rate.
Meanwhile, Brady just watched Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins get traded to the Bills and Cardinals, respectively. The Patriots already spent precious cap space on bringing back captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater. They even surprisingly placed the franchise tag on Joe Thuney.
And with little money left to make a major free-agent addition, it appears the Patriots have already moved forward with their post-Brady plans. Of course, no one knows whether second-year pro Jarrett Stidham can take over in 2020 or if the Patriots will have to find another solution at quarterback.
Change of scenery could rejuvenate Tom Brady
At the same time, Brady appears to have welcomed the opportunity to start over in a new city with a new head coach and better weapons. The latter part played a role in his departure. The Patriots struggled mightily on offense in 2019 thanks in large part to a lack of bonafide skill players.
Julian Edelman and James White put up big numbers, but the rest of the options were uninspiring at best. First-round rookie N’Keal Harry never got on the same page as Brady after missing a significant amount of time with injuries. Mohamed Sanu injured his ankle after arriving via trade and didn’t make an impact. The tight end spot was nonexistent following Rob Gronkowski’s delayed retirement.
Whether it’s throwing passes to Hunter Henry and Keenan Allen in Los Angeles, or working with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa, Brady’s future no longer lies in New England. Perhaps the opportunity to get his production company off the ground makes the Chargers a better fit. Or maybe the warm weather and no state income tax in Tampa appeals to Brady and his family.
Either way, for a quarterback who has accomplished everything possible, it was finally time for Tom Brady to move on from the Patriots. And if you believe Robert Kraft, it was Brady who asked for it.