You're going to feel how you're going to feel. Tom Brady’s (kind of?) retirement announcement will elicit emotions in you that are unique to you.
But if you’re a Patriots fan, alongside the happy memories conjured up by Saturday's internet montages, it’d be reasonable for you and others like you to revisit his 2020 departure from the team he called home for two decades.
And now that you know he's (maybe?) retired after two seasons with the Bucs, some of you may feel differently about how things went down with Brady in 2020. Many of you will not. And that's OK.
Conflicting reports suggest that Tom Brady is calling it a career
For those who might still sting, news that Brady will hang 'em up probably didn't help much. Brady was arguably the best quarterback on the planet the last two seasons. Aaron Rodgers will likely win his second-consecutive MVP award this year, but the Bucs threw a boat parade last year. And one could make a very compelling case that Brady deserves the MVP for 2021.
But keeping Brady in New England for the last two seasons and trying to field a championship-contending team felt like delaying the inevitable, in my opinion, particularly given how "miserable" he was in 2019. That year, those close to him thought a breakup was nigh. Then came the breakup. And in October of this past season, closure.
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Having the Greatest of All Time finish his career where it started would've been the way to go for most, of course. But for Patriots fans the aftermath of the separation could have been significantly more painful than a playoff berth in Year 2 and having a quarterback worth working with, as the Patriots are and do.
For those who want to play the alternate-universe game, if the team hadn't moved on from Brady when they did, the biggest domino that probably never would've fallen would've been the Foxboro arrival of young Michael McCorkle Jones in last year's draft. That's because through the end of Brady's actual tenure, after trading away the succession plan personified by Jimmy Garoppolo, their approach was clear: bolster the offense around Brady.
First-round picks were spent not at quarterback, preparing for the future, but on a left tackle (Isaiah Wynn), a running back (Sony Michel) and a receiver (N'Keal Harry). Real money was spent trying to turn Antonio Brown into a staple of the offense. A second-round pick was spent on what ended up being less than half a season of Mohamed Sanu.
It would stand to reason that that approach would've continued into 2020 and 2021. Those drafts, with Brady still in the mix, probably would've been more about supporting a 40-something quarterback in his final years rather than planning to replace him. Which might've meant no Jones.
Who, then? And when?
Had Brady stayed, the 2020-style "reset" the team experienced might've come in 2022. The high-end draft choice at quarterback might not have arrived until the following spring. Bit of a wait.
Opinions vary on Jones. But he has promise. There was no guarantee of the Patriots running into a rookie quarterback with that particular characteristic anytime soon after their Hall of Famer's departure. Right now, though, it looks like a player with the right work ethic and the right skill set for the Patriots offense fell into their laps nine months ago.
It may be hard for Patriots fans who revered Brady and still do -- who considered him a part of their families, or named parts of their families after him -- to say all's well that ends well now that he's reportedly retired. Understandably so, given what he accomplished after he took off for Tampa. Those opinions may never change. And that's OK.
But the reality is it could've been far worse.