Joe Montana, Tom Brady’s childhood idol, once faced the same career-defining decision that the New England Patriots quarterback now approaches.
Despite coming from different eras, Tom Brady and 49ers quarterback Joe Montana are often paired with one another when telling the story of the NFL’s history.
Arguably the top-two at their position all-time, both set records for Super Bowl victories, and both completely changed the sport once they took the field. Brady, incidentally, was a huge fan of Montana and the 49ers as he grew up in Northern California.
As Brady nears the end of his career, he may adopt another feature in common with Montana: a late stint with a new team.
When asked about Brady’s future in an interview with NFL.com’s Michael Silver, Montana remarked that he shouldn’t leave New England if he “doesn’t have to”.
Montana famously joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, where he played two seasons before his retirement. Given his cautious advice to Brady, one might think Montana had a rough couple years in KC, but this wasn’t the case.
He actually reached the AFC Championship in 1993, and threw for 3,200 yards in a respectable final season. So why is Montana advising against a switch?
It may not seem like it, but contextually, there are big differences between Brady in 2020 and Montana in 1993. For one, Montana was 36 when he signed with the Chiefs, an age that certainly still holds potential for future success as a QB. Heck, Aaron Rodgers is 36.
Additionally, Montana was reunited with his old QB coach-turned-offensive coordinator Paul Hackett on the Chiefs, who designed the offense very similarly to San Francisco’s during his time on the team. It was as smooth a transition as any older QB could have with a new squad.
If Brady wants to pair with a coach that has rich experience with New England’s scheming, his options are limited. Maybe he’ll join Bill O’Brien in Houston and replace Deshaun Watson – just kidding (probably).
As much as New Englanders (and Brady himself) like to tout his seemingly infinite youth, it’s hard to imagine him playing at an elite level at age 43 and with a brand new team. It just seems a little too late.
Another contrast between the two QBs comes from the teams they leave behind. As much as Joe Montana meant to San Francisco, they remained in great hands with the rise of QB Steve Young, who kept the 49ers as playoff regulars with the help of the unparalleled Jerry Rice at WR.
Tom Brady, on the other hand, has an untested QB Jarrett Stidham following him up, who would be working with one of the least impressive WR corps in the NFL. On one hand, Brady’s clearly tired of a weaponless offense, but he also presumably doesn’t want to leave Pats Nation sitting in the dirt with a sour taste in their mouths if he leaves.
Finally, let’s check out what Montana himself said during the interview, as a player who experienced the same torn feeling:
"“It’s not easy to go to another team and get accepted, no matter how much success you’ve had and how many years you’ve played. They still want to see you come in and be the same player and be that loyal to them as you were to the other team you just left. So, it’s not easy [for] guys looking at that change, especially at the quarterback position….. It’s a process to go through, and it takes time to get used to the team.”"
Montana also adds, regarding the New England Patriots organization itself, “I just can’t see how they would let him leave there.”
Pats owner Robert Kraft has a great relationship with Brady, and I have faith that he’ll pour everything he has into getting Brady to finish his career in a Patriots uniform. If it takes an enormous contract to do so, Kraft may just bite the bullet to keep his legacy pure.
Even though it’s just from an interview, I feel like Brady might be swayed by Montana’s remarks. Not only did Brady idolize Montana as an aspiring quarterback, but this cautionary advice is coming from someone who actually had success in a new city.
At this point, Brady probably treats the millions of hot takes and suggestions for his future as white noise. There isn’t a Patriots fan or beat writer around that would be able to change his mind. Joe Montana, on the other hand, is one of the few people on the planet that could.