Things with Tom Brady appear to be reaching a breaking point as the team closes in on the start of free agency and signs are beginning to point to the very real possibility of the future Hall of Fame quarterback not being under center for the Patriots in 2020.
Oddly enough, as we creep closer to this bizarre potential reality, there even appear to be people who after an offseason of relentless speculation and reports, they’ve seemingly surrendered and reached the point where they’ve accepted a future that might not include the guy who gave them so many unbelievable moments.
If you fall into this category. You need to stop it.
Check that. If you’re not realizing the gravity of what seems to be unfolding, you may want to take a second and realize that your football life is going to be drastically different moving forward. And you’re really, really not going to like it.
With the daily – and usually conflicting – reports of Brady’s future circulating in the media and spiraling in a variety of directions, it’s done a pretty good job of making people numb. They start thinking maybe it’s time for a reboot. After all, Brady is closer to the end than the beginning and this time was coming anyway, so it just makes sense to move on. Bill Belichick has always talked about getting rid of players a year early instead of a year late, so why not now?
We can debate that logic, but this is a little different. Brady’s not a wide receiver. He’s not a defensive end. He’s not a linebacker. Granted, he’s heading into uncharted territory thanks to his age, but he’s been arguably the most consistent player in football both in his work on the field and the way he’s maintained his body off of it. But he’s not like most of his peers at this point in his career. He’s physically shown no signs of letting up and appears he still has at least a couple of more championship caliber seasons in him.
Yet there seems to be a real possibility that it could all be ending.
And there are some of you who seem to be O.K. with that.
I just don’t understand it.
Some of this mindset may simply come from how you view things in your day to day life. Maybe you’re not someone who tries to squeeze every last bit of the best out of everything. Maybe you throw out your toothpaste tube when it’s close to the end and starts taking a little bit of effort to get any out, leaving you having to use your thumb and force it. Maybe you trade your car in once it’s outside the warranty, instead of milking it for 260,000+ miles (the mileage of a car I just parted with after the transmission finally gave out) and getting every last mile out of it. You just use it up until you finally grow tired of it and move on to the next one, whether you could have gotten more out of it or not.
If that’s how you feel, you may be willing to walk away from a player who you know likely still gives you the best possibility to win, but you’re just ready for a change. Maybe you’re bored of the idea of having one more championship to throw in the face of opposing fans who spit fire at the mere sight of the Flying Elvis on your T-Shirt. Seeing them irritated is one of the most delicious things fans in New England have been able to enjoy. But you’re O.K. of letting that go. Having a 43-year old quarterback doesn’t make any sense and you just feel like it’s time to make a change.
Really? You don’t like that feeling? You don’t enjoy knowing that it’s been a reality each of those fans have been forced to live with for 20-years? Every year they all have hope..right up until they find their team with the Patriots standing in their way each season. Then that usually means that it’s back to the drawing board, having been left with the irritation of knowing that next season might also be just as frustrating for them.
Brady’s been behind all of it. After all, we’re talking about a guy who has been the heart and soul of this franchise for the last 20-years, with arguments and debates raging over comparisons with other quarterbacks who struggled to help their teams reach the top of the mountain. Those include players like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, who collectively still don’t have as many championships as Brady has.
With Brady under center, winning was always the likely outcome.
Stop and think about that. Each of those players kept their teams competitive year after year and even those guys couldn’t make enough plays in key moments to consistently cap off the success they each have had year after year during the regular season.
Manning only made it to the Super Bowl twice during his tenure in Indianapolis, having run into Brady several times in the postseason before being sent home. The two exceptions came in 2006 where a flu-riddled defense wore down in the heat of the RCA Dome in the second half, which saw Manning beat a pathetic Bears team for his lone title with indianapolis, beating a Chicago club who somehow even knocked out Brees with Rex Grossman at the helm to get there. In 2009, the Baltimore Ravens did the dirty work and knocked the Patriots out in the wild card round, clearing the path for Manning who eventually ended up on the wrong end of a 31-17 loss to Brees and the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. That defeat ended up being Brees’ lone victory.
In Denver, it was a different story. With the altitude and home field on his side, Manning beat New England twice, with his defense leading the way in his final battle against Brady at the end of the 2015 campaign after the Broncos hit the Patriots QB nearly 20 times (it was 20 initially before the league, after review, lowered that total to 17), sacking him 4 times. Brady still managed to put them in a position to tie it late, but they came up just short.
Manning made hit there twice with the Broncos, having been blown out 43-8 against the Seahawks at the end of the 2013 campaign before eventually managing to walk away from the game on top two years later with a 24-10 win over Carolina where a neck injury that season left him a shell of his former self and he did just enough to win the contest. He wisely retired immediately after, leaving the NFL at the age of 39.
The Colts ultimately replaced Manning with Andrew Luck but while they were competitive, Luck never elevated them to a level that made them a championship-caliber club. The Colts then became fun to watch when Jacoby Brissett came on board and were competitive, but took another step back and still aren’t close to winning a title.
That’s likely a hard pill for Colts fans to swallow. They came into every season believing they had a shot going back to 1998 when Manning came on board. Now they’re still without a viable long-term answer as they try and fill the void Manning left behind.
Unlike Brady, Aaron Rodgers has typically been a spectator in February.
You can scoff at the notion but that only scratches the surface of where this is going. With Brady, the Patriots became a dynasty that even Manning wasn’t really ever able to get past with any success until much later in his career. Most of the time, the Patriots were a wall that most opponents, Manning included, slammed into and saw their once-promising seasons come to an end. Brady has been that type of player where you never had any doubt going into a game that the Patriots had a good chance to win.
The same could likely be said about Manning by Colts fans, or 49ers fans with Joe Montana and Steve Young, or Cowboys fans with Troy Aikman and going way back while staying within the AFC East, Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills and Dan Marino in Miami. The latter two haven’t seen consistent success since and both San Francisco and Dallas haven’t been able to come close to getting back to what they were during their glory days.
That’s stunning to think about. Fans here in New England might be willing to put their faith into Bill Belichick believing that he can somehow keep it going, but it still takes a special player who can make plays in key moments to get it done. The 49ers learned that the hard way last month after Jimmy Garoppolo’s atrocious 3-for-11 4th quarter played a role in San Francisco’s 10 point lead evaporating as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs sent them home. Jimmy G played well, but he couldn’t close it out. Seeing it done and doing it are two very different scenarios and given how tough it is to even get there, who knows if he’ll ever make it back.
Guys like Brady know how to close those games out. They know how to do what it takes when the pressure is on. Brady’s been so good for so long that most fans usually go into every one of those moments with zero doubt in their mind that the ability to do it is there. The only question has ever been whether or not the guys around him would help him get it done. If there was enough time on the clock, you always felt like Brady would deliver the dagger, provided the defense could hold up their end of the deal. You never had any doubt.
That’s an amazing asset that’s about to walk out of here. Let’s face it, the 2019 campaign was bizarre because the whispers about his future were there but no one ever really took it seriously. If Brady walks away, it will come on the heels of one of the most anti-climatic seasons in NFL history where it was never looked at as a possible farewell tour. The build-up for that possibility was never there. Coming off a Super Bowl victory earlier that year, everyone was instead focused on the next game and the next possible championship run.
Could this really be it for Brady in New England?
That all came to a screeching halt in January, with the gears switching quickly as the media started realizing that things were about to get real. Since then, we’ve learned that Brady’s future in New England may truly be in doubt and that the future of the franchise is now in question.
With rumors swirling at a record pace, most fans are mentally worn out and some have even reached the point where they’re “good with a reset” if that’s what it comes down to. You may find yourself left with a team that’s competitive, maybe makes the playoffs and maybe even goes a game or two deeper. But that confidence you had won’t be the same.
Maybe you’re ready for that. But if you are, just get ready to deal with the reality that you could be joining fans like the ones in New Orleans, Green Bay and Seattle who still go into every season with their fingers crossed at maybe getting one more shot.
With Brady here, the Patriots were the ones with the best chance of standing in their way. Now, instead, you could find yourselves frustrated that your quarterback couldn’t make enough plays as you head into another offseason wishing things had turned out differently.
While that’s been the story of this offseason, hopefully you remember that a year ago at this time, things worked out a little differently. You also probably know that with another additional weapon (or two), the results could have been different and should still be very different next season.
But either way, with Brady you know reaching the top of the NFL mountain remains a possibility. Without him, this team might be heading toward a new reality you may not be happy with.
Being competitive is fun. Being a champion is better.
Unfortunately, if Brady walks away, that difference may become a little more obvious.
We’ll find out in the coming days what reality we’re all about to be left with. Whether or not we’re going to like it will be another story.