The hits just keep coming in 2020. A year that is not even three months old has been riddled with bad news. The death of Kobe, coronavirus cancels sports, and now 42-year-old Tom Brady breaks up with the New England Patriots. But instead of retiring, he will join a new team and continue playing.
The Patriots have dominated the NFL for the last 20 years. Think about that . . . 20 years! Tom Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick have been the dynamic duo at the heart of this organization as they appeared in nine Super Bowls, winning six. (Although, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report has indicated the two have been at odds for an extended period of time.)
Tom Brady is synonymous with “the best quarterback in NFL history.” And it’s hard to argue against that. In addition to his six Super Bowl rings, he dominates the NFL record books, listed at or near the top of many quarterback categories.
Now he has announced he’s leaving the Patriots as a free agent, and is reportedly signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That brings up a popular debate in the sports world: can Tom Brady succeed at this point in his career? Can he succeed without Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization? Or should he simply retire?
There are plenty of examples in sports history when we can point to superstar athletes who play too long (see Shaquille O’Neal, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre). They change teams and lose their edge. You could even say they embarrass themselves or tarnish their legacy by not knowing when to hang it up. Will that happen to Brady? As a sports fan, do you want to see Brady stumble in the final stretch of his career? Or do you want to remember him going out near the top of his game like John Elway?
In 2019, Brady’s QB rating was 88.0 according to ESPN.com stats. That’s his lowest since 2013. His 253 yards-per-game were the fewest he’s thrown since 2010. And his 24 touchdown passes were the fewest since 2006. Numbers rarely lie, and these numbers seem to point to an NFL QB on the decline.
One could argue that the Patriots’ 2019 roster was not strong enough. The receivers were subpar, running game was inconsistent, and O-line was weaker than past seasons. One could argue those points. Even with all of that, the Pats still finished 12-4 at the top of the AFC East, only to make a surprising first-round playoff exit at the hands of the surging Tennessee Titans. That turned out to be the last time Brady would wear the New England jersey.
As a sports fan, I fully appreciate and respect what Tom Brady and the Patriots have accomplished over 20 years.
Their historic run during the two-decade stretch is a sports feat that may never be duplicated. So what does Brady have left to accomplish? Why continue playing? He’s 42 years old and already considered the greatest of all time. He has a beautiful wife and kids whom he claims to enjoy being around.
The only answer that makes sense is that he loves the game and he loves a challenge. Perhaps being part of the New England Dynasty felt a bit like Groundhog Day—the same story on repeat. Now, he’ll get a change of scenery and the opportunity to succeed outside of the Belichick shadow.
So a dynasty is officially dead. I prefer to root for an underdog anyway. Brady has just left a dynasty and as a result, he instantly becomes an underdog. Who knows? Maybe Brady will shine in the Florida sun and silence all the critics who think he’s too old, or too far past his prime.
If he really insists on playing still, I wish him the best of luck.
I’m one who loves to watch athletes overcome the odds. With declining stats, an aging arm, and a new team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007, Brady has one heckuva challenge ahead of him. If there’s one player who can do it, it’s TB12.
Good luck, GOAT.