Tom Brady is coming back for another season in New England in 2018. This you can take to the bank.
The Patriots quarterback has been doing some soul-searching, volunteering and vacationing with family in the last several weeks. The final episode of Facebook’s “Tom vs. Time” left everyone to think he’s having serious reservations about returning after all in 2018. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that No. 12 hasn’t confirmed his return to Foxboro for a 19th NFL season.
There are certainly issues to be hashed out. Brady is still underpaid in the world of 3-year, $84 million guaranteed deals for Kirk Cousins. Brady is due $14 million salary in each of the next two seasons. As The Athletic’s Jeff Howe suggested, now would be a good time to reach out to Brady’s representatives and show the love, if the Patriots are so inclined.
Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston neatly wrapped the hurricane of acrimony and tension that Brady has seen among his teammates, four of whom have departed, including his trusty left tackle.
But still and all, there are so many reasons why the most accomplished quarterback of his – or any – generation would come back for at least one more season with the Patriots.
Let’s take them one by one:
If you believe the Seth Wickersham story in ESPN The Magazine (which has since borne out more truth than not), Brady all but begged owner Robert Kraft to make it clear to Bill Belichick that he was going to play multiple years past 2017. This forced Belichick’s hand at an incredibly inopportune time and forced the Patriots to auction off Jimmy Garoppolo at the trade deadline to the 49ers for a second-round pick. To think Brady would give Brady and Kraft have long had a father-son relationship and to think Brady would leave Kraft out in the lurch without a viable, prepared replacement to take over at this point of the offseason is inconceivable.
Brady has spent the last eight years of his career building not just a career but an image in New England. He has told everyone that he intends on playing well into his mid-40s. If he were to change course this late after telling everyone who would listen that he is just going to stop because he’s lost his desire, that image would take a massive hit. No one, and we can’t stress this enough, NO ONE could possibly blame him if he took his five rings, eight Super Bowl appearances, four Super Bowl MVPs and three NFL MVPs with him and decided to vacation with Gisele and the kids in Costa Rica and Qatar. He’s done more than enough to justify his legacy as the greatest quarterback to play the game. But we’ve seen time and time again when a great athlete leaves in questionable circumstances, his lasting image takes a hit. And this matters to Brady, who is still building the TB12 brand through the TB12 Method and has recruited other athletes, including current Patriots like Rob Gronkowski to the program.
On the surface this may seem laughable. Brady doesn’t need to do a single thing to earn the adoration of a fan base that has long deified him. And if he weren’t to return, a majority of that base would still hold him on football high. But there would be a significant section of the base that would feel betrayed by him. This would surely sting Brady. But that sting would be nothing compared to the teammates in the locker room, many of whom placed trust in Brady that he would return at least for 2018. To pull out now not only leaves the franchise in limbo, it directly impacts those players left behind, many of whom either stayed in New England or chose New England in free agency (like Jordan Matthews) for a chance to play with the GOAT. Brady wants to be loved and leaving the team behind now could be a cruel blow.
In the penultimate series of Super Bowl LII, Brady had the ball in his hands with plenty of time to march down the field for the game-winning score. Instead, he was hit by Brandon Graham and stripped of the ball, losing it deep in Patriots territory. The turnover cost the Patriots three points and by the time the Patriots got the ball back, they were in Hail Mary mode looking for a desperate play to tie the game. Brady is intensely competitive and likely feels there’s one more run with Gronk (if he comes back).
If Brady is truly ticked off at his head coach for the sanctioning of Alex Guerrero and the revocation of certain key privileges inside Gillette Stadium, then taking his ball now and leaving would leave Belichick as the last man standing. Belichick is one of the brightest and intuitive people in sports (Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII aside). While leaving the team would apparently put the Patriots in position for a Grand Canyon falloff, it’s important to understand that the Patriots are going to turn to a new quarterback eventually. A Brady departure would allow Belichick to get a head start on a new signal-caller and give him the chance to prove that he could win with another quarterback at the helm. the Patriots would have likely gone 4-0 with Garoppolo to start the 2016 season if it weren’t for Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. Belichick went 11-5 in 2008 with the unknown Matt Cassel. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a season like that could repeat itself if the young and talented defense rebounds from Super Bowl LII with a breakout season.
Know this about Belichick, he’s going into the draft next week with a plan. One would assume that he’s going to make sure his backside is covered to some extent with a quarterback. Does that mean moving up to the Top 10 to take a quarterback like Josh Rosen (per NESN’s Doug Kyed) or Mason Rudolph? Maybe. But this much is certain, as long as he’s the head coach, he’s not about to let some hand wringing and subtle second-party innuendos from halfway across the world keep him from going forward, even if those hands belong to Tom Brady.
All of this because of one simple tweet from Adam Schefter on Wednesday morning, reiterating what we already know: Tom Brady is thinking long and hard about what his football future holds.