The game clock hadn't expired yet in the NFC Championship when speculation began about quarterback Tom Brady joining the 49ers next season.
However, Brady -- who officially announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday -- never considered packing his bags for San Francisco. ESPN's Jeff Darlington reported Wednesday, citing sources, that Brady's decision was down to two options.
"He called [the Tampa Bay Buccaneers] at 6 a.m. this morning to let them know he would be retiring," Darlington reported on ESPN's "First Take" on Wednesday. "Despite obvious speculation, and understandably so, Brady had maintained all along -- especially to those in the organization -- that he was either going to return to the Bucs to hopefully try to be part of the solution, or he was going to retire."
On paper, Brady signing with the 49ers was a perfect fit.
The greatest quarterback of all time could join one of the NFL's most complete rosters in the twilight of his career. Brady, the winner of seven Super Bowl rings, could finally get coach Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers over the hump after three empty trips to the NFC Championship Game in the last four years. The move would also mark a homecoming for Brady, who was a 49ers fan growing up in San Mateo, Calif.
Many NFL pundits also marked Brady as the answer to San Francisco's short-term questions under center.
The 49ers have two young, promising talents at quarterback in Brock Purdy and Trey Lance. However, both enter the offseason nursing injuries.
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Lance still is recovering from a season-ending ankle injury sustained in Week 2 that required two separate surgeries. Purdy suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow Sunday in the 49ers' season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and will almost certainly miss the entire offseason program.
But Brady is moving on. He won't be arriving in the Bay Area to mentor the 49ers' young quarterbacks or lead the franchise to a storybook Super Bowl title next season.