Tom Brady, like his idol Joe Montana, will end his illustrious NFL career with a different team than the one he started with.
Brady, nearly 27 years after Montana was traded from the 49ers to the Kansas City Chiefs, left the New England Patriots and signed a two-year contract with Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Montana told USA Today that he doesn't know who's at fault, but the Pro Football Hall of Famer felt "somebody made a mistake" letting the quarterback leave.
“I think when you look at the whole situation, you try to figure out how you want to get away from things that are there,” Montana told USA Today's Jarrett Bell. “I had a different story, where they had made a decision. He, obviously, they never would have gotten rid of. I still don’t understand how New England let him get away. I don’t understand that.”
The 49ers traded Montana in April 1993 after he missed all but one game during the 1991 and 1992 seasons. An elbow injury knocked Montana out of the lineup, and Steve Young seized the starting role during Montana's absence. Montana told the 49ers he wanted out of San Francisco after then-coach George Seifert named Young the starter heading into 1993, agreeing to a deal with the Chiefs after the 49ers gave him permission to negotiate with other teams.
The Patriots have a young QB in Jarrett Stidham, but they don't have an obvious successor to Brady like the 49ers did to Montana with Young. Montana's last season with the 49ers coincided with Young's first MVP award, while Stidham has thrown four regular-season passes. Yet New England's relationship with Brady reportedly was well past its breaking point, and the Patriots seemingly weren't willing to match the price the Bucs ultimately paid.
That's something Montana could relate to.
“They say it and it comes up all the time, but it becomes a business," Montana told Bell. "At some point, it’s business. That’s why I had long talks with (Hall of Fame former 49ers coach) Bill (Walsh) about our relationship, after he retired. The relationship that happens, everybody makes it look like there’s friction, but in the end, he goes, ‘I just had to keep my distance to a certain point from you because I can’t become your best friend. Because I have to make a decision on you at some point.’ Although Bill didn’t make the decision, and I don’t think he would have made the same one that was made.”
Montana, wearing No. 19 rather than the No. 16 he made iconic with the 49ers, led the Chiefs to back-to-back playoff appearances -- including an AFC Championship Game -- in his final two seasons. The 63-year-old looked back on his change of scenery as rejuvenating, and he expects the same will be true of Brady.
“It actually brings a new excitement to you, to a certain degree," Montana said. "Because it’s not going to be the same-ol', same-ol' going into the same locker room that you’ve been going into for so many years, seeing the same people over and over. He doesn’t need a fresh start, but it gives you a great feeling inside, looking forward to trying to help the team move forward. And everybody believes in him, looking forward to watching him play.”