MINNEAPOLIS – The Patriots chosen motto for the 2017 season – the name of their damn 24-7 Super Bowl channel out here at the Mall of America – was “Not Done”.
Hence, they can’t bitch about the discussion and speculation that causes. This Super Bowl Sunday has been laced with it.
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If they win the thing, do they hand out “DONE!” t-shirts and scatter on the wind – Josh McDaniels to Indy, Matt Patricia to Detroit, Bill Belichick to “VI Rings” and Tom Brady to his family and the TB12 empire? That’s kind of the implication the marketing people dropped in the team’s lap.
But it’s not groundless either. The end is near. Whether it’s looming or visible in the distance, we don’t yet have a clear view.
Too much football still going on.
Yet breadcrumbs have been dropped.
Brady’s Tom vs. Time documentary is underpinned by Brady’s acknowledgment that he isn’t the father or husband he wants to be because of his in-season dedication to football. His wife, Giselle Bundchen, has lobbied for years to get Brady to retire and she pleasantly (on-camera, at least) points out that she’s at about 100 percent workload with the kids for seven months a year.
Brady, in the first episode of Tom vs. Time, says, “If you’re going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life. Because I’m giving up mine.”
The implication is that – as “alive” as being the Patriots quarterback makes him feel – there’s a life apart from his vocation that he must someday return to.
I’ve written before about how Brady’s life mirrors the heroic structure that a man named Joseph Campbell’s once defined as the Hero’s Journey. Brady is near the final step, the one where the hero returns home, changed forever.
12. Return With The Elixir
This is the final stage of the Hero's journey in which he returns home to his Ordinary World a changed man. He will have grown as a person, learned many things, faced many terrible dangers and even death but now looks forward to the start of a new life. His return may bring fresh hope to those he left behind, a direct solution to their problems or perhaps a new perspective for everyone to consider.
The final reward that he obtains may be literal or metaphoric. It could be a cause for celebration, self-realization or an end to strife, but whatever it is it represents three things: change, success and proof of his journey. The return home also signals the need for resolution for the story's other key players. The Hero's doubters will be ostracized, his enemies punished and his allies rewarded. Ultimately the Hero will return to where he started but things will clearly never be the same again.
So there’s that. Which is dramatic and cinematic but, in my opinion, this year isn’t the year.
While Jonathan Kraft has said Brady can determine for himself when he wants to leave (which may have caused Belichick to raise an eyebrow), the fact the Patriots traded Brady’s successor in October practically commits him to staying.
At the top of Brady’s skillset is leadership. Even if he really felt now was the time, I can’t foresee him pulling the rug out on his teammates with no succession plan in place. As much as they’d say, “He’s 40, we get it, he’s given enough…” parachuting out after Jimmy Garoppolo was traded and both coordinators left would be a nut-punch to the organization and – after all he’s done to build it – I couldn’t see him wanting to see it in some disarray.
The same goes for Belichick. The tension, uncertainty and BS is real but – having gotten to know him after nearly two decades covering him – all of that doesn’t trump the passion for building, teaching, planning, strategizing and competing that is his lifeblood.
Saturday night, I was at a party with folks close to both the quarterback and head coach. The feeling I got when the topic was broached was that, while it wouldn’t “surprise” them if either guy left without a long goodbye, neither is done this year.
History matters. We’ve known that with Belichick. We now know that with Brady.
Possible slogan for 2018?
Still not done.