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.

NFL Rumors: Patriots would be perfect landing spot for TE David Njoku

NFL Rumors: Patriots would be perfect landing spot for TE David Njoku

Now may not be the best time for the Patriots to be wheeling and dealing, shopping and swapping.

They remain tight to the salary cap (a little more than $1.2M in cap space according to Pats cap expert Miguel Benzan), the number of players who’ll actually be allowed in training camp remains in flux, the NFL is pilfering one of their third-round picks for the videotaping silliness last season … there are just a lot of moving parts right now.

Still, Browns’ tight end David Njoku? That’s an enticing player at a position of need.

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And he’s sitting right there giving the Patriots a chance to take a mulligan on a spot they ignored in the draft for almost a decade.

Njoku, who turns 24 today (July 10) was a first-round pick in 2017, a year when the Patriots should have been drafting a tight end but took Derek Rivers, Antonio Garcia, Deatrich Wise and Conor McDermott.

Last weekend, Njoku’s agent Drew Rosenhaus let it be known Njoku wants out. That stance probably has something to do with the Browns signing Austin Hooper in free agency but it was also reported Njoku’s been unhappy there for a while.

As enthused as we all got over the Patriots finally drafting tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in April, Njoku is barely a year older than Asiasi, who turns 23 next month. And Njoku’s already spent three years in the league with 32 catches for 386 yards as a rookie and 56 for 630 in 2018.

Last year, he played in just four games because of a wrist injury — two in September and two in December.

The Browns picked up his fifth-year option in April, meaning they have committed to him in 2021 for about $6M. Njoku’s 2020 base salary is $1.76M which is the cap hit that would travel with him for this season if he were traded.

The Browns, according to longtime beat writer Mary Kay Cabot, were still very committed to Njoku when they picked up the option in April.

“(Browns GM Andrew) Berry effectively eliminated that uncertainty (over Njoku’s future role) when he stressed that the tight end was an integral part of the team’s future even though they drafted Harrison Bryant in the fourth round out of Florida Atlantic and signed Austin Hooper to a blockbuster, four-year, $42 million free-agent deal that made him the NFL’s highest-paid tight end at $10.5 million a year.

"To David in particular, our perspective remains the same,'' Berry said. "I have been pretty consistent this offseason in terms of we still have a ton of belief in David. He is very talented.

"Obviously, he was not on the field much last year, but he is a guy with outstanding physical tools, he has proven NFL production and we still think the future is very bright with him here. David has always been and continues to be in our plans, and we are going to continue to add competition all across the roster.”

Njoku, who missed 10 games last season with a broken wrist that required surgery, returned late in the year only to be a healthy scratch for two of the last four games after Freddie Kitchens lost faith in him. In four games, he caught five passes for 41 yards and one touchdown. But the Browns believe that Njoku, 23, still has plenty of upside and will be a big playmaker in Kevin Stefanski’s tight-end-friendly offense, which most often utilizes two tight ends and sometimes three.

The Patriots weren’t able to provide a capable tight end option for Tom Brady in his lone post-Gronk season with the team. And they didn’t do anything of consequence to plan for that period either. But even before signing Cam Newton, the team realized how deficient they were at the position and grabbed Keene and Asiasi.

As committed as the Browns GM sounded in April, there’s no doubt the asking price for Njoku right now will be high. Probably too high for any team to spend on a guy with just this year and next at $6M left on his deal.

But, like Tampa Bay tight end O.J. Howard, Njoku is now a former first-rounder who feels like he’s soon to be on his way out of his present situation.

Despite the drafting of Keene and Asiasi, tight end is a position that shouldn’t be seen as sewn up. It’s going to be critical to the success of a Newton-led offense and the Patriots can make up for lost time if they can convince Cleveland to cough Njoku up.

NFL players rip league's postgame jersey swap policy for next season

NFL players rip league's postgame jersey swap policy for next season

A tradition that became popular in international soccer has become a staple of NFL postgames in recent years, but it might not be allowed during the 2020 season.

Swapping jerseys with an opponent is now commonplace in North American professional sports leagues. We often see younger players swap jerseys with veterans who they grew up watching. Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a sought-after player for the postgame jersey swap. Multiple players from the Washington Redskins asked for his No. 12 jersey after a Week 5 game last season.

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Well, unfortunately for NFL players, swapping jerseys could be banned in the upcoming season as the league tries to implement social distancing measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the NFL and NFLPA have not yet agreed on all of the medical protocols for gamedays. NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported the latest information Thursday:

Players were not pleased with this development, to say the least.

One of the most outspoken players was San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who tweeted the following message. It earned a retweet from Patriots running back James White, among other players.

Many other players were not afraid to share their displeasure with the jersey swap potentially being banned. Here are some of those reactions:

With opposition so strong and coming from several of the league's stars, it'll be interesting to see if the league eventually eases up and allows jersey swaps to happen as normal next season.