Talk of Tom Brady finishing his career with a team other than the New England Patriots is nothing new. Bill Belichick obviously thought it was a possibility when he drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round back in 2014, and Brady has led the Patriots to three more Super Bowl victories since then. We have heard talk at various points over the past two or three years that Brady’s days in Foxboro could be numbered, and the result has always been the same.
But could this offseason be different?
Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston, who is one of the most plugged-in reporters with all things Patriots, believes Brady and the team are headed for a divorce barring a “radical course change” over the next three months. Brady is set to become a free agent this winter for the first time in his Hall of Fame career, and there’s a reason he had the Patriots agree to not use the franchise tag on him when he negotiated his latest raise.
The Patriots are winning this season because they have an elite defense. While Brady is still better than most of the quarterbacks in the NFL, he’s no longer good enough to make a cast of patchwork receivers look like Pro Bowlers. It would be wild to expect any 42-year-old quarterback to be able to do that, so what if Belichick simply feels he doesn’t need Brady anymore to compete at a high level?
There’s a wide-ranging belief that Patriots owner Robert Kraft would never let Brady leave even if that’s what Belichick wanted. However, that may no longer be the case. Belichick has indicated that he has no plans to give up coaching anytime soon, and his 32-year-old son Steve has taken on a significant role on Bill’s staff this year. That has likely made coming to work even more enjoyable for the elder Belichick. With that in mind, what if Belichick sits down with Kraft and tells him, “it’s either me or him?”
It would not be far-fetched to envision a scenario where Kraft chooses the coach over the quarterback. Brady has repeatedly said he wants to play until he’s 45, which would be three more seasons. Belichick, on the other hand, could easily coach well into his 70s. Assuming good health, there’s no reason he can’t stick around in New England for another decade. Would you rather have 10 more years of Belichick or three more years of Brady? That may be a question Kraft has to answer this offseason.
Brady’s father, Tom Sr., said this week that his son wants to keep playing but it will be “Bill’s decision” if he does so in New England. Brady has basically been open about the fact that he is not enjoying himself this season despite playing for one of the best teams in the NFL, which is a change from his usual approach of prioritizing winning above all else.
If the Patriots want to keep Brady, they may have to sign him to a multiyear extension. They may ultimately do that, but we can guarantee Belichick would rather not. The question will come down to how Brady is willing to compromise, and that question will be answered sooner rather than later. Should he decide he wants a change of scenery, well, we all know how Joe Montana’s career ended. It could happen.