Mazz: Do Brady and the Patriots still want each other? Pretty unlikely

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

Reporter: "Is there any possibility you would retire after this offseason?"

Tom Brady: "I would say it’s pretty unlikely, but … yeah … hopefully unlikely."

- Postgame exchange at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night

***

In this day and age, with 8 billion people essentially carrying cameras and microphones, we over-analyze and dissect to mind-numbing degrees. And so Tom Brady has said it now. “Pretty unlikely.” “Hopefully unlikely.” And we wonder what that truly means.

It’s that second part that confuses the issue, of course, because after the Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans in the winter darkness at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night, the view from Foxboro was as murky as ever. If Brady had just said “pretty unlikely” and left it at that, well, we’d have a clearer understanding, even if not a fully-formed one. He’s playing, we would have surmised. The question is where. He’s putting the Patriots on notice.

But “hopefully unlikely”? Well, that gets the hamster wheels spinning, because what, exactly, does Brady mean by hopefully? Is he hopeful the Patriots will change their minds and make a multi-year commitment to him? Is he hopeful his wife, Giselle Bundchen, fully endorses his desire to press on? Or is Brady hopeful that someone out there is willing to give him the multiyear deal he covets, offering up the kind of false humility that he often did during his unmatched career.

If that last possibility has you scoffing, here’s a tip: get over it. Over the years, Brady’s often-excessively humble shtick is something you’ve frequently eaten up with cinnamon and powdered sugar. There were years when an established Brady showed up at training camp and said his goal was to make the team, and many saw that as evidence that the greatest quarterback of all-time took nothing for granted. You loved it.

The truth? Brady was playing you, at least a little. And he might be playing you now. Let’s also make it clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s something we must consider when we survey the field before the snap. Maybe Brady has no intention of ever wearing another uniform. Maybe he’s trying to leverage the Patriots by suggesting he’d play elsewhere before he retires. Or maybe he truly doubts whether someone out there will make the commitment to him that he desires, whatever that is, because he is, after all, 42.

That said, let’s also agree on this: someone will pay him. Someone will certainly offer him more than the Patriots will, producing the consummate moment of truth for the man who is the Michael Jordan of football. Will Brady take it? Would he dare wear another uniform? Does he have the heart to leave and start over somewhere else? We probably won’t know for weeks, if not months. Of course, there’s always the chance that he and the Patriots reach agreement before then.

But don’t hold your breath.

In the interim, here’s a question that is worth asking: do the Patriots really want him back? Does Bill Belichick? Does the Kraft family? This past offseason, Brady wanted the right to become a free agent, asking the Krafts to forfeit the right to use the franchise tag on him. And they gave it to him. Since that time, Chris Gasper of The Boston Globe reported that Belichick has been empowered to make the final decision on the greatest quarterback who has ever lived, and we all know that Bill has the nerve to do things no one else would do.

The last time Brady’s completion percentage and quarterback rating went down in consecutive years, after all, Belichick drafted Jimmy Garoppolo.

Today, Brady is five years older than he was then. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels appears headed out the door. The Patriots look ready for a significant rebuild – and offense and defense – and the end seems nearer than ever before.

Will be Brady be back in Foxboro for another run? Do the Patriots even want him back?

The answer to both questions seems the same.

Pretty unlikely.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.