In retrospect, Tom Brady spent the 2019 season giving hint after hint that he was prepared to leave the Patriots. Not that the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League really planned to; familiarity and prolonged success provided ample reasons for him to stay. Rather, he felt he needed to show all and sundry that sentiment would be taking a back seat to sense, and that he, as a result, was prepared to cut ties with the only franchise for which he has ever suited up. Respect, he insisted, was due him for all his physical and financial sacrifices, and if he wasn’t going to get it in-house because the so-called Patriot Way cuts no slack, then pack his bags he must.
And so Brady did what he had to, giving warning signs en route. In August, he negotiated a salary that would net him much less than his market value, but he got, in exchange, the freedom of choice once his one-year contract extension lapsed. Over the next two months, he and personal trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero put their homes in Massachusetts up for sale. In December, he stepped down from his longtime position as regional ambassador for an annual fund-raising event to benefit the disabled. Meanwhile, he seemed to have no qualms openly displaying his frustrations with the Patriots’ offense, all the way through their disappointing wild-card loss last January.
Still, there can be no doubt Brady tried to continue his career in New England. As a free agent, he met with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, and then with owner Robert Kraft, in an effort to get commitments on remuneration he believed reflected his worth. With the latter deferring to the former, however, the very ruthlessness that punctuated his achievements wound up working against him. The signs of decline he appeared to finally show last year reinforced the arguments that projected contributions no longer justify his own assessment of his value. The end result: they gave him a number he was not happy with, ultimately compelling him to walk away.
By all accounts, Brady will be signing with the Buccaneers, who just so happen to have ample cap space to welcome him at his asking price AND an offensive line with which he figures to do wonders. Head coach Bruce Arians has a well-deserved reputation as a “quarterback whisperer,” and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is certain to adjust to his strengths by instituting formations that lead to shorter air time. To be sure, his body of work speaks for itself, and he’s likely to thrive in his new environs. And if, by chance, he doesn’t, it won’t matter a whit; there can be no erasing what he has done, and why, if and when he opts to exit stage left, his place as the best of the best is already secure.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.