TB12 to TB
The Coronavirus pandemic has turned the world, and specifically the sports world, upside down. March Madness canceled, MLB postponed, NBA postponed, and the list just goes on and on. In a time where some Americans are wondering if they will have a job when they wake up tomorrow, the NFL owners and franchises are throwing millions of dollars at players to join their teams. The constant breaking news of NFL free agency has managed to provide something to talk about for sports fanatics out there desperate for something… anything.
Well, if people weren’t already sold that the world was ending, just try imagining Tom Brady in any jersey besides the New England Patriots. Yeah, you can’t. But somehow, something that seems so far from possible, has become a reality. For Patriots fans, they woke up to their worst nightmare on Tuesday morning as TB12 said farewell to the New England faithful.
There had been speculation about Brady leaving the Patriots since 2018 when he said he felt “underappreciated at work.” Now, how could a 6-time Super Bowl champion and possibly the greatest quarterback ever feel disrespected and unappreciated? Well, enter – Bill Belichick – also 6-time Super Bowl champion coach and the mastermind behind the Patriots success for the past 20 years. Many football fans, including myself, have speculated who deserved the majority of the credit for all of their success together. To be brief, the duo has compiled six Super Bowls, 17 AFC East division titles, and an unprecedented winning percentage of nearly .800(!!) since Brady took the reins in 2000. But, the speculation only grew after the 2019 season concluded as the Patriots suffered an uncharacteristic Wild-Card Round loss to the Tennessee Titans. One week prior, they collapsed against the lowly Miami Dolphins to force them out of a first-round bye. The 2019 season for New England and Brady was considered a “down year” even after amassing 12 wins, and Brady throwing for over 4,000 yards. For any other team that far exceeds any expectations, but that explains the Patriots’ standards of championship or bust.
If the Pats legend was really going to leave New England, though, where would he go? I always found it inevitable that Brady just wanted to experience free agency and the feeling of being wanted, but that he would eventually resign with the Patriots and probably win another Super Bowl there before he retired. With that said, there were a number of possible suitors for the 43-year-old quarterback had he decided he did want to go elsewhere. I’m going to list out my top five teams that I thought Brady would ultimately consider for the 2020 season, and the reasons that he might want to go to these teams.
1. New England Patriots
This one is obvious. He could remain in one jersey for his entire career, similar to the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, and continue to be a playoff and Super Bowl contender year in and year out. With that said, Brady complained throughout the 2019 season about not having enough weapons around him and he was often seen yelling at his receivers on the sideline. So, would the Patriots go out and sign some weapons to surround him with for the 2020 season? Or would Brady look elsewhere to find his next Moss, Welker, or Gronk?
2. Tennessee Titans
In this scenario, Brady signs on to play for his former teammate in Mike Vrabel, who he won multiple Super Bowls with as a player. He also would likely get his best backfield mate of his entire career in Derrick Henry, who just led the NFL in rushing yards while singlehandedly carrying the Titans to the AFC championship game. In terms of receivers, though, AJ Brown, a 1,000-yard receiver last season, is the only real weapon that might entice Brady and I don’t think that alone would make him jump at this situation.
3. San Francisco 49ers
Brady was born and grew up nearby in California before heading to play ball at Michigan, so this would be like a homecoming for him. The irony behind the situation, however, is that he would replace his former backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who many believe Bill Belichick wanted to be Brady’s eventual successor. The 49ers wouldn’t suffer much of a cap hit with limited guaranteed money left in Garoppolo’s contract, so this situation is one that makes some sense. Also, the talent on the 49ers roster is evident as they return the majority of their Super Bowl roster from last year. From the 49ers’ perspective, though, would they want to get rid of a QB in Garoppolo that is 28 years old and just went to the Super Bowl in exchange for a 43-year-old in Brady who might not have much left in the tank?
4/5. Las Vegas Raiders & Los Angeles Chargers
The final two teams on my list were kind of irrelevant in the pursuit of Brady in my opinion. Both of these teams would be more enticing to Brady due to their geographic location rather than actual football reasoning. Both the Chargers and Raiders are opening seasons in new, highly anticipated stadiums and they both are either in or near Los Angeles. The importance of the proximity to Los Angeles is for Brady’s ability to brand himself and begin his possible life after football during his last few years of his playing career. The biggest downfall for either of these moves comes in the form of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Would Brady really want to move to a division where he has to play Mahomes twice and go through the defending Super Bowl champs?
In the end, like none of us probably thought after the Patriots season ended, Brady has reportedly committed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At first glance, I immediately questioned this move for the aging quarterback; but after looking more into the Buccaneers, it doesn’t look like too bad of a move. Looking at the AFC South division, he will have to compete with future hall of famer Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints two times a year, but the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers both look primed for down years or rebuilds. Therefore, Brady and the Bucs should be able to make the playoffs as at least a wild card team and have a chance to make a run. Then, looking into the roster, he will be surrounded by two 1,000-yard receivers from last year in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Tight-ends Cameron Brate and OJ Howard also supply Brady with plentiful pass catchers. The other Buccaneers players, as well as their above average defense, were so often overshadowed by the questionable (and sometimes hilarious) play of former starting QB Jameis Winston. Although he led the NFL in passing yards and was second in passing touchdowns, he also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. The Jameis Winston “era” in Tampa Bay can be summed up by simply looking at his final pass there: a pick six to lose the game. Tom Brady will instantly provide the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with some security and assurance at the quarterback position.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am a Brady and Patriot hater, as I probably root harder for them to lose each Sunday than I do for my Seahawks to win. However, even amidst the couple cheating scandals and deflated footballs, it is hard to question the success and cold-hard facts that are put in front of you. I believe the saying is “Numbers don’t lie.” And in the case of the Patriots and Tom Brady, they sure don’t. Brady’s greatness is evident, but one thing we haven’t seen him do is succeed in a different uniform or with another coach besides Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. So, who will attempt to replace a seemingly irreplaceable QB position in New England? Will the Patriots succeed with Belichick but without Brady? And how will TB12 fare in Tampa without Belichick anchoring the ship? Only time will tell, but one thing I’ve learned is not to bet against either Brady or Belichick.