Why theories Tom Brady might leave in 2020 don’t make much sense
Speculation over Tom Brady’s future beyond this season continues to grow and dominate the NFL news cycle… but it feels like smoke without any real fire.
Based on everything we know, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has every reason to be happy.
First, there are the football reasons that are happening here and right now:
He’s the starting quarterback on the AFC’s only remaining undefeated team. His defense is undoubtedly the best unit in the NFL, and it’s making a strong case to be considered among the best ever. His offense is among the highest-scoring units in the league; even if you subtract the 37 points the Patriots defense and special teams have scored against opposing teams, the New England offense is still a top-10 unit in scoring and points per game. And that same offense is bound to get better with the upcoming additions of Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, and probably Isaiah Wynn.
Next, there are the football reasons that are already set in stone and unchangeable:
Brady has already won more Super Bowl titles than any other player in NFL history. His six league championships, nine conference championships, and 16 division championships are all records. He’s first in every major postseason category as far as records go, and he’s either first or second in every major regular season career record category as well. Quite simply, he’s the winningest quarterback in NFL history, and arguably already the greatest player in NFL history as well.
Finally, there are the non-football, personal reasons:
He has been married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen for over a decade now, and the two of them seem to be the rare celebrity power-couple who honestly enjoy each other’s company and remain very much in love. He has three children, all of whom he appears to dote on whenever given the opportunity. He’s fabulously wealthy, he’s still doing what he loves at an age many thought he’d long since be retired by, and he has already set himself up for a life post-football with his TB12 sports, wellness, and nutrition brand.
And yet despite all of these reasons, a growing narrative in the NFL media landscape right now is that Tom Brady isn’t happy at all. He somehow feels underappreciated or marginalized by playing second-fiddle this season to his head coach Bill Belichick and a dominant Patriots defense. He maybe wants a change of scenery – or perhaps he even wants to retire altogether – despite the fact that he’s repeatedly told the press that he plans to play until he’s 45 (Brady is 42 currently).
On ESPN’s morning sports-talk show “Get Up!” that aired Thursday, several prominent former football players and sports journalists had a roundtable discussion that centered on Brady and his possible discontent with the Patriots organization, and NFL expert Adam Schefter was on the dais of participants.
Earlier in the week during the network’s coverage of Pats/Jets, Schefter had floated a theory that Brady might be headed for a divorce with the team following the 2019 season. He didn’t exactly give any specific reasons why, but because he’s a well-respected member of the reporting community who has hundreds of sources feeding him insider information on the daily, the notion of course caught on like wildfire and has since dominated headlines around the team.
Asked to further explain his line of thinking, here’s what Schefter said in defense of his view during the “Get Up!” segment:
"“There are three options right? He’s either staying in New England, he’s retiring, or he’s going to go play somewhere else. I would think of those three, that staying in New England, to me, would seem like the least likely option of the three.”"
Schefter probably knows more about the inner-workings of the NFL and the most private thoughts of its constituents than any other human being working in the media today, but he still came across as awfully cryptic in those remarks. Perhaps he’s purposefully trying to withhold some of what he knows, or perhaps he’s being intentionally vague to protect his sources… or perhaps he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about at all.
There’s nothing wrong with offering up one’s own opinion, of course. If Schefter wants to air out his personal thoughts and predictions on national television, he certainly has that right – he’s presumably getting paid millions of dollars a year to do just that actually.
Still, this is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots that we’re talking about. This organization is more buttoned-up and tight-lipped than some governmental agencies.
And yet here we are again, less than two years removed from that other ESPN bombshell expose of sorts on the Patriots provided by Seth Wickersham, and we’re still talking about discord and friction between New England’s major power players.
Never mind that the team is favored to make its fourth straight Super Bowl appearance this season; or that Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Pats have won three of the past five NFL championships.
Mike Greenberg, the host of “Get Up!”, referred to the notion that Brady would go to another team next season and play there at the age of 43 as “ludicrous.” His cohorts on the panel didn’t seem quite so sure: both Damien Woody and Domonique Foxworth seemed to align their viewpoints closer to Schefter’s stance.
Woody cited Brady and Belichick’s professional relationship as being potentially unsustainable because they’re “two Alphas.”
This theory may have made more sense a decade ago, but after 20 years now of the “two Alphas” working in tandem as co-Alphas to rewrite all the history books and become the winningest head coach/quarterback duo of all-time, Damien’s opinion doesn’t really hold water.
Here’s some more rationale for Brady picking up and leaving after the end of this season, this time according to Foxworth:
"“There’s nothing left for (Brady) to gain in New England potentially… winning seven titles isn’t going to make us think any more highly of him. If he goes somewhere else and wins a championship and gets past Belichick, it’s something, it matters.”"
Out of everything offered up by the participants of the discussion, Foxworth at least has a supported point of view that feels stronger than just blind, empty speculation. His reasoning taps into the whole “who’s more responsible for New England’s dynastic success?” argument between Brady and Belichick, a debate that will probably rage long after both men have retired from the sport they revolutionized.
Even still, it’s a flawed supposition that Tom Brady has nothing left to gain at this stage in his career by staying with the Patriots.
One could argue – pretty convincingly in fact – that winning a seventh title with New England would be the ultimate accomplishment for the future Hall of Famer. While he certainly doesn’t need the seventh Super Bowl ring to cement his legacy as the GOAT, it is ludicrous to believe that someone as uber-competitive as Brady would be content to share the record for most Lombardi Trophies with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Could he win a seventh championship somewhere else? It’s possible, yes… although it’s probably unlikely. Would winning with another franchise end the Tom Brady versus Bill Belichick debate in New England? That’s also possible… but it’s about as likely New England wins a title with Belichick and not Brady as it is that Brady wins a title without Belichick while playing for another team.
What we should all probably agree on, what really isn’t up for much debate, is that Brady and Belichick both have the best odds of improving their own individual accomplishments and career resumes by staying together at this point.
Who’s to say that Belichick’s defense this year could win the NFL title with another quarterback directing the offense? And who would make his offense significantly better that’s realistically even available to him? Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson… these quarterbacks might have more tread left on their tires, but none of them are more of a lock to win in the postseason today than Brady. Besides, none of them are going anywhere anytime soon.
Similarly, where could Brady go where he’d be better off than in New England with Belichick?
It might be a juicy idea to imagine him playing for his childhood team in the 49ers and supplanting the quarterback that he was originally supposed to be supplanted by (Jimmy Garoppolo). But if Brady really does have his heart set on another title, he’d be a fool to try for one in San Francisco… or anywhere else honestly. Not only are the 49ers inferior as a team to the Patriots; the NFC is also absolutely loaded with contenders, whereas the AFC is generally weak, top-heavy, and New England’s conference to lose.
Simply put, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick may have their fair share of differences, and their relationship, like any working relationship, undoubtedly gets tested and strained at times. But the one great thing they have on their side is the one great thing they’ve always had on their side, and that’s their shared, deeply-rooted obsession and infatuation with winning.
They’ve been able to successfully set aside everything else that could have destroyed their partnership for 20 years now in the sole pursuit of winning. Nothing either one of them has said or done suggests that common goal has changed, so why on earth would they jeopardize the great thing they have going now?