Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. He has won a record six Superbowl titles, and outside of Head Coach Bill Belichick, he has been the only constant on the most dominant dynasty the league has ever seen.
But the NFL is primarily based on the “what have you done for me lately?” ethic. After suffering back-to-back home losses to the lowly Miami Dolphins in week 17 and the surging Tennessee Titans in the wild card round of the playoffs, and the fact that Tom will be 43 years old when the 2020 NFL season begins next September, many are wondering if he has thrown his last pass in the NFL.
Return to the Patriots
Much like Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, pedigree goes a long way when a team is deciding whether to give a player another chance. Adam’s skills have diminished, but he earned a roster spot for the 2019 Colts based on his past success and his future Hall of Fame status. Unfortunately, his skill had indeed diminished, and the team would have been better off searching for another option.
Brady began the 2019 season well with a 64.76 completion percentage over the first nine games. Over the final eight games, including a playoff loss at home vs. the Titans, his completion percentage dropped to a dismal 55.61. Many factors played into that drop in production, yet the Patriots still managed to win the AFC East, a division they have dominated since Tom took over the starting quarterback gig in 2001, compiling a 12-4 record and narrowly missing a first-round playoff bye.
With all the success that Tom has achieved, and the beating that his body has taken over a 20-year career, it would certainly be the path of least resistance to retire and enjoy some free time with his wife and family. With many endorsement deals in place and a potential broadcasting career on the horizon, it would seem to be an extremely enticing option at this point in his life.
Will he retire? Not likely. Tom has frequently stated his intent to play until he is 45 years old, and he remains by far the best game manager in the NFL. With Belichick’s expertise, the Patriots can quickly build around Brady and make up for his declining arm strength and athletic ability. In 2015, Peyton Manning was able to win a Superbowl in his final season with the Broncos with a fraction of his skills still intact, so why should anyone expect less of the GOAT?
Go to a new team
With Tom becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, if the Patriots decide not to sign him to a new contract, there is a good possibility that he would opt for a new team that has a chance at immediate success and has the right players and coaching staff already in place. But the question is, are there any teams that are set up for this scenario that would be willing to sign him?
Los Angeles Chargers
The rumor mill is swirling, and interest seems to be high to bring Tom to Los Angeles just in time for their new stadium’s debut. Although the Chargers feature many weapons on offense and defense, the offensive line struggles to protect Philip Rivers, and the move to bring in Tom seems more intended to sell tickets and draw interest in the team than anything else. Tom is looking for a place to win immediately and not just to draw a paycheck for a few more years. This option would only be acceptable to Tom if no other contending team offered him a contract.
The Bears could be the most attractive landing spot for Brady. The team is not exactly thrilled with the results they’ve gotten from their 2017 first-round draft pick, Mitch Trubisky. The offense has many short-range receiving specialists, a promising young running back in David Montgomery, and the defense is loaded with talent and is ranked near the top of the league in points scored against. The only downside is that the NFC is loaded with juggernaut contenders like San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay, and the Rams, which will provide a tougher path to the Superbowl for Tom.
Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett has shown flashes of brilliance over his career but has yet to establish himself amongst the elite. The Colts offense offers Brady a solid number one receiver in T.Y. Hilton, a pair of accomplished tight ends in Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, something Tom has dearly missed since Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, and a proven young running back in Marlon Mack. The defense is ranked towards the middle of the league, but Tom will have an easier path to success in the AFC as the conference offers much less top-tier teams than the NFC.
A move to the Broncos doesn’t make much sense strategically, but general manager John Elway will be salivating at the opportunity to sign a legend like Brady and will likely make him an attractive offer. There is still enough of a defensive presence, and there are a few weapons on offense that might be enough to entice Brady to join the team. Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay are an effective two-headed monster in the offensive backfield, and Courtland Sutton is developing into a reliable number one wide receiver. Look for Elway to go all-in on Brady if he becomes available.
As shocking as the Patriots’ early playoff loss at the hands of the Titans was, it seems a lot less embarrassing now since Tennessee bounced the Baltimore Ravens, the previous Super Bowl 54 betting odds favorite, from the playoffs with a stunning 28-12 victory the following week. Although there was a sudden decline Brady’s statistics on the back half of the season, the Patriots would be ill-advised to let Tom go, and if they do, he’d have many reasons to try and achieve further success on another team, so long as they are not a perennial loser that would endanger his long term health.
The situation would be different if the Patriots had a quarterback on the team that could replace Brady, but the team is not prepared to pass the torch to Jarrett Stidham just yet. Ultimately, Tom’s best opportunity for success in 2020 is as a member of the Patriots, and New England’s best chance for success is with Tom Brady at the helm.