It sure sounds like Tom Brady isn’t coming back to New England, but Patriots fans would be foolish to panic.
Even-keeled and Boston are not two things that typically go together. So it should come as no surprise that rumors of Tom Brady — a sacred son of Beantown — leaving the Patriots to finish his career elsewhere would cause stir.
More accurately full scale hysteria.
It wasn’t expected that Brady and the Patriots were going to immediately come to terms on a new deal this offseason. For a number of reasons, egomania being chief among them, a game of chicken has ensued that has slowly whipped up enough seemingly legitimate paranoia that we’ve all talked ourselves into a fervor of paranoia. What once seemed like chest puffing is rapidly morphing into the idea that Brady returning to New England would be the most unexpected outcome in all of this, not the other way around.
Careful how much you read into this, Patriots fans, because right now anything is possible.
A quick story to explain this:
Two men are seated next to each other on a flight from New York to Chicago. They make small talk about how one of them has never flown before and the other is a well traveled businessman. The businessman assures the newbie flyer that he’s done this a million times and nothing has ever gone wrong. As the plane takes off over the ocean, the businessman’s face drops and he begins to explain that this isn’t right and a plane flying to Chicago should be flying west, not east. This, of course, alarms the newbie flyer who begins to full on panic and calls the flight attendant to say he’s on the wrong flight. It’s at this point the businessman, who knows how flight paths work, smiles and puts on his headphones, proud of the little bit of entertainment he’s created for himself.
This is that.
There aren’t any massive red flags or telltale signs of a breakup outside of usual bravado. Brady has bent over backwards for years to accommodate the Patriots salary cap situation and has earned the right to play hard ball. The Patriots have made a dynasty out of tossing loyalty to the side and ruthlessly cutting useful players when they begin to ask for what they’re worth.
Unstoppable force meets immovable object.
Take all of that into account and of course it looks like Brady and the Patriots aren’t going to meet each other in the middle. But none of the players New England has tossed to the scrap heap over the years have been as crucially important to their dynasty — because none of them have been Tom Brady.
There’s a chance this ends in divorce. Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, and so many other legends of the game ended their careers on different teams. Peyton Manning, Brady’s contemporary and the single most important Colts player of the last half-century, ended his career by winning a Super Bowl in Denver. Compound that with the idea that Brady winning a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick does more petty goodness for his legacy than winning another one with him.
So it’s possible this goes where everyone seems to be pointing. And it’s okay to panic or feel uneasy about uncertainty (Boston, your feelings matter and you shouldn’t be afraid of them). But just like how you can’t count the Patriots out until they’re actually out, don’t trick yourself into thinking Tom Brady will be playing anywhere other than New England until he walks out of someone else’s tunnel Week 1.