In the 2000 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots used the 199th pick on Michigan quarterback Tom Brady. In his first season as the Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick drafted Brady in hopes he would be the backup to starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe. On September 23rd, 2001, Bledsoe went down with an injury and the Patriots would start the season 0-2. Second year quarterback Tom Brady would step in to be the full-time starter and the rest would be history. Six Super Bowls, four Super Bowl MVPs, three regular season MVPs, fourteen Pro Bowls, five All Pros, and twenty years of dominance later have cemented Tom Brady as the greatest player to put on an NFL jersey. 

For as long as I have been alive Tom Brady has been the quarterback of the New England Patriots. I scoffed at the early rumors that Brady would leave the Patriots. It seemed like a media pushed narrative and, in the end, Brady would return after the Patriots win another Super Bowl. However, when the Patriots suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs the possibility of Brady leaving became more of a reality. On March 20th Tom Brady made it official, he was a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. After twenty years it really happened, but how did we get here?

Image: Paul Rutherford, USA Today

Brady’s departure wasn’t a knee jerk decision or something that happened over a few weeks, this was something brewing for a long time. One of the reasons Brady departed from New England was a rift between him and Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick; this rift began in October of 2017. New England was coming off a fifth Super Bowl victory after a historic comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons, but trouble was brewing in paradise. The Patriots had two young quarterbacks on their roster, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. Bleacher Reports’ Matt Miller said that quarterback needy teams called New England once a week trying to acquire one of the two young players. In September, Belicheck dealt Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts but still had Garoppolo who was highly touted around the league. At the trade deadline in October, Belicheck sent Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for only a 2nd round pick, which Matt Miller says was shockingly low. Before that deal was made Belicheck made the 49ers a shocking offer. Belicheck offered them Tom Brady.

Once he became aware of the situation, Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft vetoed the deal keeping Brady in Foxborough. When Brady learned of this, he was furious. Brady would lead New England to two more Super Bowls, but the foundation of his departure was being built. Brady ripped up contract extensions during the 2017 and 2018 seasons but signed one in 2019. Tom Brady agreed to a contract that stated that the New England Patriots would not be able to franchise tag him, guaranteeing that he would be a free agent for the first time in his career. 

Image: NBC Sports Boston

From my perspective, from the outside looking in, it seemed that the Brady Belichick relationship was always strong. However, we know now that winning doesn’t cure everything. Greg Joyce of the NY Post reported that before Brady signed his extension in the summer of 2019, he and Belicheck had a meeting that resulted in a “blowup” between the two sides. In the weeks leading up to free agency, the two sides had a phone call that reportedly did not go well. New England wanted him back, but only on their terms. More evidence against Belichick being the main reason Brady left was a comment made by owner Robert Kraft. He compared losing Brady to losing your wife because a grouchy person, like a father or mother, makes life impossible for the both of you forcing you to move on. Bill Belicheck would be that grouchy person. 

Going into 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now a Super Bowl contender. They’ve surrounded Tom Brady with the best offensive weapons in years along with a solid offensive line. Brady looks to prove he can succeed out of New England and without Bill Belicheck. Where does New England go now? They have second year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, but he has not yet started an NFL game. They also have veteran Brian Hoyer, but neither are Tom Brady. The 2020 season will look very strange with Tom Brady suiting up in Buccaneer red while the Patriots try and move forward without #12. 

Image 1: ProFootballFocus
Image 2: SkySports

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