When the 49ers' 2020 opponents were announced, a few non-divisional games stuck out. Among them was a trip to Foxboro, Mass., to face the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.
Then, as the offseason began churning, it seemed like a realistic possibility that Brady would leave New England for perceived greener pastures. Rumors that Brady could join the 49ers who would then send Jimmy Garoppolo back to the Patriots crept into the picture. As ludicrous as those rumors sounded, the thought of Brady the 49er leading his new team to face Garoppolo the born-again Patriot at Gillette Stadium was a juicy possibility.
However, that storyline is one for fairytales and video game simulations. While Brady did announce Tuesday that we would indeed be leaving the Patriots, the six-time Super Bowl winner reportedly will be headed South to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and not West to be a 49er.
While Brady joining the Bucs will give the 49ers another team to contend with in the NFC, it does deprive us of the Brady vs. Jimmy G showdown at their old stomping grounds that was three years in the making.
Brady and the Bucs will face a tough road to the Super Bowl. After spending 20 years bullying the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins in the AFC East, Brady now moves to one of the most competitive divisions in football. He'll have to duel with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan each twice a season, and Matt Rhule's rebuilding Carolina Panthers are sure to be feisty even without Cam Newton.
As for the 49ers, they'll have to avoid the "losing the Super Bowl" hangover in order to get back to the biggest game in sports. Only eight teams in NFL history have returned to the Super Bowl the year after suffering a loss with the Lombardi Trophy on the line and only three were victorious. Getting back to the playoffs hasn't even been a guarantee of late, as four of the last 10 teams to lose the Super Bowl have missed the playoffs the following season.
If the 49ers can beat the hangover and make it through an NFC West -- that got even stronger with the Arizona Cardinals adding DeAndre Hopkins -- perhaps they'll see Brady and the Bucs in the playoffs.
That's something we all can root for.