A Patriot No More
Ryan L. Fox
Quarterback Tom Brady was the 199th pick overall in the 2000 NF L Draft, taken in the 6th round by the New England Patriots. After riding the bench during his rookie year, he was thrust into the starting role during a Week 2 match-up against the New York Jets after starting QB Drew Bledsoe was knocked out of the game due to injury. Since then, Brady would go onto having a career that would encompass 6 championships, over 70,000 yards passing, over 530 TD passes thrown, multiple All-Pro and MVP awards, and be considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
But then on May 17, 2020, there was a big announcement that shook the sporting world. That after 20 years playing for the New England Patriots, 20 years playing up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, 20 years of playing under the Flying Elvis that the man who was synonymous with “Greatness” and “Championships” and considered an ageless icon in Bostonian sports history would play in a different uniform for the 2020 NFL Season.
Yup, you read that right folks. Tom Brady is no longer a member of the New England Patriots.
There’s a lot to consider when you look over the course of 20 years of the Tom Brady Era in New England. You can pretty much break up his Patriots career into 3 distinctive parts.
First there is the beginning part, stretching from 2000 to 2006. The humble begins of one TB12.
During this time, No. 12 was not the driving force that he was today. There were no seasons where he threw for 30+ touchdown passes, no MVPs or First Team All-Pro accolades, and he only broke 4,000 yards passing just once during that entire span (4,110 yards in 2005). He was merely a quarterback who did his best to help manage the offense while the defense and special team units did the bulk of the work.
Although he was a part of the early goings of the Patriots Dynasty, winning 3 Super Bowls during that span, people mostly remember that it was on the foot of then Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri that brought home 2 of those championships while the defense bewildered their opponent in the 3rd Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLIX back in the 2004-05 NFL Season).
But then as the vaunted Patriots defense started to age out, you saw glimpses of potential greatness within Brady. After a changing in offensive coordinators (from Charlie Weis to Josh McDaniels in 2005), Brady started to emerge as a potential elite quarterback. Pats fans saw this especially back in 2006 where Brady carried an offense with no-name receivers (i.e. Jaber Gaffney, Reche Cadwell, Doug Gabriel) all the way to the AFC Championship game, only to fall a hair short to the eventual Super Bowl Champions that year the Indianapolis Colts.
Next you have the middle part, stretching from 2007-2013. This was when the Tom Brady that we know started to explode onto the scene.
The 2007 season was Brady’s ‘Coming Out’ party. After the Patriots traded for receivers such as future Hall of Famer Randy Moss and Wes Welker, you saw a boom in the play of Tom Brady. He not only set the record for most passing touchdowns in a single season (at the time) with 50, Brady threw single digit interceptions (8) for the first time in his career, had a QB rating of over 100 (117.2, which has not been matched ever since). He was the engine behind a juggernaut offense that set various offensive records that year and made a run at perfection, only to fall flat on his face in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants.
But it was also during this time that Brady suffered his worst injury of his NFL career in a torn ACL he suffered in a Week 1 match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs that ended his 2008 season. He then saw backup QB Matt Cassell able to lead the team to an 11-5 record, barely missing the playoffs. This then lead up to the belief that Tom Brady was more or less a product of the Patriots offense, a cry that many of his doubters (as well as Patriots critics) used.
He was able to make a rebound back in the 2009 season, throwing for 4,000+ yards, 25+ touchdowns, getting voted to the Pro Bowl, and winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for that season. Unfortunately, the Patriots ended up getting shellacked in the playoffs by the Baltimore Ravens. This would be a trend during this time for Brady. He would end up putting up the numbers, win various awards, but would ultimately fall short of the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. This led to the discussions that Brady was starting to get up there in age and the possibility of the Patriots moving on from him started to creep into conversations.
Then you have the ending part, stretching from 2014-2019. The part that is still fresh in the minds of everybody that the younger generation of Patriots fans are familiar with.
The part where Brady proved that he could still play at an elite level despite commentators saying he was washed up. The part that saw Brady get suspended for 4 games in 2016 for ‘DeflateGate and still lead his team to the Super Bowl. The part where he led arguably the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, overcoming a 28-3 deficit to win in overtime and cement himself in Bostonian sports lore. The part where despite surviving an up-and-down season in 2018, to go into Arrowhead Stadium, knock off the AFC #1 Seed Kansas City Chiefs, and then lead his team to their 6th championship, cementing his place as one of the game’s greatest winners of all-time and the greatest quarterback of all-time.
Also, this was the part of Brady’s tenure with the Patriots that everybody saw him take a different personality that they have not seen him take.
Early in his career, Brady was all about team. During this part of his career, many start to see that Brady’s tone shifted from ‘team’ to ‘me’. Whether fans and media members wanted to admit, this new personality of Brady was a stark contrast to his older one.
Brady started to advertise and market his new brand of "TB12" almost at nauseum. Whenever he was in front of a camera or speaking, you could always bet that he would find a way to drop a marketing ad for TB12. Then you had him preach the "TB12 lifestyle" he designed with the help of his business partner, 'nutritional guru' Alex Guerrero. This included Brady talking about drinking lots more water to ‘combat sunburns’, removing certain foods from your everyday diet and replace it with, yup you guessed it, alternate 'healthy foods' that TB12 could provide.
On the football field, there was also a drastic change. In the past, Brady would be at QB/Receivers practices and OTAs to work with his receiving corp to not only develop good communications with them but also develop timing patterns that could be applied to real game situations. But then in 2018, we saw Brady skip those practices and OTAs to gallivant on cruises or cliff-jump off of waterfalls. When pressed upon why he skipped it, Brady simply responded that he wanted to 'spend more time with his family' and while also claiming it was 'hard on him not to be with his family while it was he was in training camp' even though that A. His family was living in Brookline, just few towns over from Foxborough, and B. There were other Patriots players in similar situations like Brady but still showed up to practice.
Then there was the subtle squabbles between Brady and the Patriots' front office about Brady's contract. In the past, when it came to contracts that Brady always took the 'hometown discount' for the betterment of the team, that he understood that by agreeing to such a contract the Patriots could use the money and build a championship caliber team. Now, it seemed like whenever he had the chance to, Brady would let out a subtle message that he was 'underpaid' and deserved a high pay raise.
Not to mention that during the 2019 season, there were instances that Brady would complain about the personnel and that the team didn't do enough to surround him with talent to be able to win games. This also included throwing a minor tantrum after the Patriots had cut newly acquired WR Antonio Brown after just one week with the team due to run-ins with the law off the field and then liking nearly every social media post Brown every time the troubled receiver made outbursts or hurled subtle insults at the Patriots.
It was during this time span that you heard about rumblings of Brady v. Belichick, how the coach-quarterback duo that had brought so many championship titles to Foxborough had begun to turn against one another.
This ranged from reports (and opinions) of how Belichick 'threw Brady under the bus' and make him take the fall for DeflateGate, how Brady got Jimmy Garoppolo, a young quarterback that Belichick coveted and tried to groom as the next Patriots QB, traded to the San Francisco 49ers for practically peanuts, the constant squabbles between the two over Brady's contract talks, including in 2018 where Belichick made Brady play for meager incentives (a majority of which he wasn't able to make) to increase his 2018 salary to a more respectable amount after coming off a 2017 MVP season, and how the Patriots roster was constructed going into 2019 (i.e. forcing Brady to throw to the likes of rookie receivers Jakobi Meyers and N'keal Harry and journeymen tight end Matt LaCosse instead of bringing in high-quality/proven veterans in each position)
Looking back on all this, one but can’t help but wonder why Tom Brady couldn’t simply retire as a Patriot. He was a Boston sports icon that brought championships and glory to a franchise that was known for being mediocre and sloppy. He was a legend in the same breath as Bill Russell and Bobby Orr. He was the G.O.A.T, the ultimate Patriot and nobody could ever replicate what he did in that uniform.
But instead, millions of Patriots fans will see Tom Brady put on a #12 jersey for another team in 2020.
Many Patriots fans will try to place blame on somebody. Some will look to blame the Patriots front office for not doing everything in their power to keep Tom Brady, even accusing the Krafts and Belichick of pushing Brady out the door. Some will look to blame Brady himself for thinking of only trying to get a payday instead of trying to win another Super Bowl in a Patriots uniform.
But whatever the case maybe, whatever decisions were made, whatever words were said, it won’t change the fact that No. 12 will not be coming out of the tunnel onto the field in Gillette Stadium on Sundays in the fall.
There is no chance for Robert or John Kraft to swoop in and save the day, no chance that Belichick will have a change a heart and try to give Brady the appropriate contract that he has earned, no chance Brady will jump out of whatever deal he has with his new team to take another hometown discount contract with the Patriots.
Tom Brady is a Patriot no more.
The King is dead. Long live the King.
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