The Athletic: The potential parting of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick has seemed inevitable for a while now

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By Ross Tucker Feb 11, 2020

I’ve always thought Tom Brady would finish his career playing for a team other than the New England Patriots.

Or at least I did — although truthfully I thought it would happen earlier than this, so the fact that he is finally about to be a free agent prior to his age-43 season certainly gives me pause on that. Still, I’ve been asked this so many times over the years and my stock answer has always been that I pictured Brady ultimately wearing a different uniform.

My reasoning is very simple, and it involves two people and two people only.

On the one hand, you have Brady. He is simply the most determined, self-motivated individual I’ve ever been around. I’ve told and written stories before about his epic beer-chugging prowess, the intensity with which he once paid for my dinner, and him treating every one of my snaps in OTAs in May like it was the most important play in the Super Bowl.

The guy is a total psycho — and I mean that with the utmost respect and reverence. It’s why he is who he is. And what is abundantly clear, and unsurprising, is that Brady believes he can still play at a really high level at this point in his career.

Then you have Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. I’m not sure there has ever been a person in the NFL better than Belichick at moving on from a beloved player. Right or wrong, he’s just not the sentimental type. Not when it comes to doing what he believes is best for his team. The list of guys who ended up on different teams at the end of their careers, from Willie McGinest to Mike Vrabel to Richard Seymour, is too long to count and in fact goes all the way back to Bernie Kosar when Belichick was coaching the Browns. No matter how good you were or how much you’ve done for the franchise there always comes a time to part ways.

I’ve often told people the time would come where Brady still thought he was as good as ever, but Belichick would realize that it was no longer the case and be ready to move on. If ever there was a time where this scenario would play out, it would be now, as Brady is merely a month away from unrestricted free agency for the first time in his NFL career.

And the mere fact that he is headed toward free agency at all is reason enough for others to believe the end is near.

“I’m putting my stake in the ground. I don’t think he plays for the Patriots,” long-time NFL executive and current sports business analyst Andrew Brandt told me recently on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast.

“I think there is a reason he renegotiated that contract to get out. I don’t think it’s just to look around and come back to the Patriots. I have no inside knowledge on this. Zero. But I just get the sense, ‘ok, we’re done.’”

There is only one person who can prevent the Patriots from being the next team to announce a “mutual parting of ways” with their longtime quarterback like the Chargers did after 16 seasons with Philip Rivers under center: Robert Kraft.

Unlike Belichick, Kraft is sentimental and emotional, at least as far as Brady is concerned. He’s made it clear publicly on multiple occasions that he would like Brady back and the idea of him wearing #12 for a different team is one he can’t stomach and certainly doesn’t want to have to see. Based on reports of what happened with the Jimmy Garoppolo trade it’s fair to wonder if it would have happened already were it not for Kraft’s involvement.

How involved will Kraft get this time? How well will Belichick receive that “involvement” if it entails Kraft interfering with what Belichick wants to do with his team? Will Belichick be amenable to giving Brady a contract befitting of a player of his stature even if Belichick doesn’t think he is worth it?

Nobody really knows at this point what Brady is going to do, other than perhaps Brady himself.

What we do know, or at least what I’ve always thought, is that this moment in time was inevitable.
 
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