By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Along the way, of course, there was always the possibility he would leave. Maybe there was even the probability. And yet, as news of Tom Brady’s departure broke this morning, there was a suddenness that felt, well, final.
Some of us believe this is what is best, ultimately, for Brady and the Patriots both. But let’s at least delay all of that, even if only for a moment. Tom Brady spent 20 years as a member of the Patriots, starting 283 regular season games and winning 219. He went 30-11 in the postseason. He took New England to nine Super Bowls, won six of them, changed the narrative here forever. And while Brady did not do it alone, of course, he was New England’s leader in the huddle, the face of this extraordinary age in Boston sports, the consummate winner in the ultimate team sport in the most intense sports market in America.
Brady quarterbacked through September 11. He quarterbacked through the Boston Marathon bombings. And he will quarterback through the coronavirus.
He just won’t do it all here.
Blame? Oh, there will be plenty, most of it likely falling on Bill Belichick, the stone-cold Patriots coach who has been every bit a centerpiece of this Golden Age as Brady has. Brady’s relationship with Belichick undoubtedly grew more strained in recent years, beginning with Belichick’s decision to draft apparent successor Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014. Garoppolo came and went, Brady stayed and challenged Father Time. But Belichick and the Patriots resisted giving Brady the final, multiyear contract he coveted, all but daring Brady to walk out the door when they granted his wish and effectively sent him into free agency.
Get ready for the spin, folks. The Patriots will tell you Brady wanted to leave. Brady will say the Patriots didn’t want him back. Both may be true, though this will be hard for Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft to ignore: Brady would almost certainly still be here if the Patriots had been willing to grant him a multiyear contract at any time over the last two years, something the Patriots resisted for the simple fact that Brady will be 43 in August.
But that doesn’t mean the Patriots are wrong.
Regardless, what happens from here is now anybody’s guess, and Brady could seemingly end up in a multitude of places – from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles to Miami to maybe even Dallas. Or Las Vegas. Or somewhere else. Meanwhile, the Patriots could have any number of quarterbacks as a replacement, from the recently-drafted Jarrett Stidham to Cincinnati Bengals veteran Andy Dalton to free agent Teddy Bridgewater, not to mention any other number of unnamed possibilities who might be as anonymous today as Brady was in 2000, when the Patriots selected him in the sixth round, with the 199th pick, of the annual NFL Draft.
Now Brady is a superstar, one of the greatest winners in the history of America team sports, and he is the architect of the TB12 Method and the founder of 199 Productions. He is a future Hall of Famer. He is the greatest player in NFL history. He is a husband to Gisele Bundchen and the father to three children. He is forever No. 12. He is a million times more than anything anyone ever thought he could be – except for maybe Brady himself – and he has forever made his mark as an honorary Bostonian, New Englander, one of us.
Even if he is, sadly, no longer a Patriot.
You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.