Why did Tom Brady walk away from Patriots, Bill Belichick after 20 years?

Why did Tom Brady walk away from Patriots, Bill Belichick after 20 years?

Do we want to do “blame” or do we want to do “reasons”?

We can do both but — out of respect for the end of the greatest run by any franchise in NFL history — I’d rather lay off the blame for why Tom Brady is no longer a Patriot.

Let’s stick to reasons.

One thing, though? Tom Brady didn’t “decide” to leave the Patriots. That’s for sure.

He decided to leave the same way a person “decides” to get out of the car when it pulls into the driveway, is put into park and the engine is turned off. Ride’s over. Time to get out.

The Patriots made very clear to Brady over the past few years that they weren’t in it with him for the long haul anymore.

They made it clear before the 2018 season when — instead of the extension he’d been trying to extract — he was given some incentives to hit in order to sweeten his salary.

At the time, a source texted me, “Remember, this is a club that would not pull the thorn out of the lion’s paw if presented with the situation.”

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He didn’t hit any of those incentives.

Before the 2019 season, it took Brady seriously considering walking out of training camp before the Patriots gave him a raise and agreed to remove the franchise tag for 2020.

“Year-to-year! Year-to-year! Everybody wants to be year-to-year!”

That was the buff-and-shine put on the lack of a deal taking Brady through to the end of his career.

No, the Patriots wanted to be year-to-year. Brady — in asking to have the tag off the table — was only leveling the playing field by making it so that he had the same control over his future the Patriots had been exercising.

If the ride weren’t over, if Bill Belichick wasn’t ambivalent about re-upping with Brady for his 43-year-old season, there would have been an offer made over the past two months since the season ended.

There would have been more than just one phone conversation. There wouldn’t have been an intimation that the first move in negotiations needed to be made by Brady.

The door for Brady was left wide open. He just walked through it.

Doing that — leaving the door open — is Belichick’s right. Further, that fiscal responsibility is his duty. It’s a large part of why the team has been able to go on and on and on at the top of the league. They never got themselves over a financial barrel with one player the way so many other teams have.

That raise the Patriots gave Brady last August actually flew in the face of their economic philosophy because it threw $13.5M worth of dead money forward into the 2020 season.

Philosophical differences. That’s why Tom Brady’s not a Patriot anymore.

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Bill Belichick couldn’t get his brain around paying a player born in 1977 as if he were born in 1997.

Brady couldn’t get over the fact that — after all the years he’d spent showing his DOB didn’t matter — his bosses just wouldn’t believe it.

I do think the timing of Brady’s announcement is telling. He waited to make sure an offer would crystallize — and it did with Tampa Bay and the Chargers.

And then — with no offer and no effort from the Patriots — he could tell them that enough was enough. He was not going to go back hat-in-hand at the end of the week and ask if New England wanted to match.

The Patriots had their time. Their silence spoke volumes.

Today’s announcement by Brady was well-orchestrated in that it allows the news to stand alone and be processed (as much as any sports news can “stand alone” with a pandemic sweeping the planet).

The two decades preceding deserves that.

Watching this unfold over weeks, months and years, it became hard at times to comprehend the emotional distance Belichick almost always maintained from Brady.

We’d get press conference odes to Brandon Bolden and verbal bouquets thrown to Patrick Chung or Devin McCourty and on down the line. Brady? Shrugs. Generalities. “Tom always does a good job. Always prepared. Like a lot of our players.”

That wasn’t just at the podium. You could see during their NFL 100 appearance together on NFL Network that Brady still looked to Belichick for validation 20 years on.

That Brady recalled what Belichick told him in a limo the day after Super Bowl 36 — “Tom, just want to let you know you had a pretty good year” — illustrated what that relationship was like.

It is what it is and Brady managed OK. But for a person who appreciates positivity and optimism, one could see where Brady would over the years wonder if his coach could throw him a frickin’ bone.

Their relationship was akin to those hug-free, father-son relationships from the 1950s where the kid is never sure if his dad truly loves him. Only later does the kid find out how much he really meant to the old man.

Reading Belichick’s statement today on Brady today felt a little like that.

Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation. Tom’s success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional. Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone’s adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.

Examples of Tom’s greatness are limitless, going back even before he was drafted. We witnessed how he prepared when he wasn’t playing, how he performed when he got his opportunity, what he did to continuously improve, his leadership, his mindset, the example he set, and of course, the person he is. I am extremely grateful for what he did for our team and for me personally.

Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.

I’ll be on TV and radio and right here on your internet talking about this non-stop over the next few weeks and months.

And I know that a lot of what I say will get into speculation of who did what wrong to get to this point. Blame-laying.

But I swear to God I won’t forget the reason there’s any discussion of blame at all 20 years after Bill Belichick drafted Tom Brady is because of the thousands upon thousands of great things they did together that deserve hours and hours of crediting.

I am staggeringly lucky to have been front-row for all of it.

Tom Brady takes shot at Charles Barkley after 'The Match'

Tom Brady takes shot at Charles Barkley after 'The Match'

Tom Brady engaged in plenty of trash-talking with his opponents Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods during "The Match" on Sunday. But they weren't the only ones going back-and-forth with the six-time Super Bowl champion.

NBA legend Charles Barkley was a commentator for the charity golf match and didn't hold back from letting Brady hear all about his lackluster performance through the first few holes. On the seventh hole, however, the ex-New England Patriots quarterback birdied a par-5 with what was unquestionably the best shot of the day to silence Barkley. 

The real mic drop from Brady came after the match, though, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB jabbed Barkley for his inability to win a championship during his NBA career.

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Boom, roasted.

Of course, the trash-talking was all just good fun. And it provided phenomenal entertainment while those involved in "The Match" helped raise more than $20 million to go toward COVID-19 relief efforts.

'Man In the Arena' producer sheds light on what to expect from Tom Brady documentary

'Man In the Arena' producer sheds light on what to expect from Tom Brady documentary

Last week it was revealed Tom Brady will have his own Last Dance type documentary titled Man In the Arena.

ESPN will air the nine-episode series, with each episode covering one of the ex-New England Patriots quarterback's nine Super Bowl runs. Gotham Chopra, a name Pats fans may recognize as the director of Tom vs. Time, is a producer for the docuseries which is set to premiere in 2021.

Chopra recently caught up with Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated's MMQB to chat about the upcoming documentary and what fans should expect.

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“It’s not Tom Brady’s Last Dance,” Chopra told Breer. “It’s not that. That may or may not exist 20 years from now, I don’t know. There’s this sort of immediacy to this.… The premise [of The Last Dance] was telling stories about the seasons, whereas [Brady’s], it does feel a little bit more real time. Tom continues to be an active player. So the idea is, ‘O.K., let’s talk about these nine seasons, this incredible body of work across 20 years, and how it’s still sort of affecting him.’”

“Jordan’s sitting on a couch, looking back, literally looking at stuff on the iPad, reminiscing about things. Tom’s kind of, just when you’re talking to him, it’s still very fresh, because he’s still processing a lot of things that may have happened across a season.”

As for who else will make appearances in the series, that remains to be seen. Chopra notes the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the interview process, but important figures in Brady's career such as Bill Belichick and Drew Bledsoe have already been reached out to.

“This is inside the mind of Tom,” Chopra said. “So we’ll ask Tom, I’ll use the most obvious one, 2001, What was it like working with Drew [Bledsoe] that season? Got it, now we go talk to Drew, and get his perspective on that. So yeah, there are other voices, other players, coaches, etc., and people off the field that had a lot of influence across those specific seasons that we’re trying to get. Now, we’ve got the added layer of complexity of getting to those people, like everyone else in the world, we’re dealing with that.”

Along with the Super Bowl appearances, Chopra says Man In the Arena will cover both the "Spygate" and "Deflate-gate" controversies. As for whether Brady's 2020 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be included in the series, Chopra says there are no plans for that as of now.