After tormenting the NFL for the past 20 years and collecting six Vince Lombardi trophies along the way, it would appear that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are finally—finally!—going their separate ways.
In a pair of Instagram posts that instantly broke the internet, the fourteen-time Pro Bowler woke up bright and early on Tuesday to announce that his historic tenure with Bill Belicheat and the axis of evil is a wrap.
“I wanted to say thank you to all of the incredible fans and Patriots supporters,” he wrote. “[Massachusetts] has been my home for twenty years. It has truly been the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life and I have nothing but love and gratitude for my time in New England. The support has been overwhelming—I wish every player could experience it.”
He continued, “Pats Nation will always be a part of me. I don’t know what my football future holds but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career. [...] Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments.”
Considering Brady will be 43 when the 2020 season kicks off, a divorce between him and the Pats seemed inevitable, but it doesn’t make his announcement any less surprising—especially since it came on the same day that the Saints re-signed their own legendary quarterback, 41-year-old Drew Brees, to a 2-year, $50 million deal that will ensure that Brees retires a Saint.
So where exactly did Brady and the Patriots go wrong?
There’ve been rumors since the offseason began that the three-time NFL MVP wasn’t on the same page with his former team, and with Brady primed to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday for the first time in his career, the Bucs and Chargers have reportedly offered as much as $30 million per season for his services—a far cry from the $23 million he collected last season.
But the Pats being the Pats, infamous for moving players too soon instead of waiting too late like so many other teams, failed to even offer a contract or make a “tangible effort’ to retain Brady outside of an impromptu meeting Monday night with owner Robert Kraft.
“Tommy initiated contact last night & came over,” Kraft told ESPN. “We had a positive, respectful discussion. It’s not the way I want it to end, but I want him to do what is in his best personal interest. After 20 years with us, he has earned that right. I love him like a son.”
Head Coach Bill Belichick, who’s steered Brady’s career since his rookie season in 2000, released his own statement once the news of Brady’s departure began to circulate.
“Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone, but that has not been the case with Tom,” Belichick wrote. “He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”
Twitter also had some thoughts about the shocking news:
Brady has yet to announce where he’ll play next season, but trust and believe his phone is blowing up right now with suitors ready to cut that check and cash him out. But if a mobile QB who may or may not be damaged goods is more your thing, then feel free to give three-time Pro Bowler Cam Newton a call instead…Because word on the street is that for the right price, he’s available too.