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Following TB12 to Tampa: A Pats Fan's Confession

In 2018, the Patriots started the season 1-2, losing to the Jaguars and the Lions, and ended the regular season losing two of their last four games to the Dolphins and the Steelers. They finished 11-5, the first time they lost 5 games since 2009, but it was still enough to win their tenth straight division title. After earning a first-round bye, they manhandled the Chargers 41-28 in the Divisional Playoff and then in the AFC Championship they defeated the Chiefs in overtime 37-31, to advance to the Super Bowl where Brady won his sixth ring, beating the Rams 13-3, in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever.

Harry How. Getty Images.

Super Bowl win number 6 for Brady

In 2019 Belichick and Kraft failed to surround their 42-year-old quarterback with the talent he needed to be successful. Gronk retired and other than Julian Edelman (100 receptions) and James White (72 receptions), the receiving corp was lacking. At one point there was Antonio Brown (cut), Josh Gordon (waived), and Demaryius Thomas (cut, re-signed, traded), but when they were gone it came down to Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, an out of step Mohammed Sanu, and 39-year-old Benjamin Watson. Brady was used to throwing the ball before his receivers made their cuts and delivering the ball to a spot, but too often the ball ended up bouncing on the turf without an intended receiver close by. Some blamed an aging Brady, but those in the know could see his young receivers were not in sync with their HOF quarterback, and other than Edelman and White, there weren't too many other options. When the offensive line couldn't hold their blocks long enough, Brady ended up hitting the turf more than he was accustomed to, leading him to openly display anger and frustration that was at times, caught on tape. Remarkably, they finished 12-4, first in the AFC East, but lost in the Wild Card to the Titans 20-13. Brady did not throw a touchdown, had one INT, and finished the game with a 59.4 Passer Rating, very un-Brady like…

Scott Taetsch. Getty Images.

After winning eight straight to start the season in 2019, Brady hit the turf and lost to the Ravens 37-20

When Tom Brady remained unsigned beyond the 2019 season, a certain media hysteria took hold of the NFL. Where would Brady sign? There was a lot of speculation on potential landing spots and staying in New England was still one of them. Die-hard Pats fans held out hope that Brady would work out a deal with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and he'd be back in Foxboro wearing the familiar number 12. But something happened. Brady wasn't interested. Him and Gisele put their 12,112 square-foot mansion in Brookline up for sale (sold in August for 32.5 mil), Brady cleaned out his locker, and it became obvious TB12 was moving on except to those die-hard Patriots fans who were in absolute denial.

Icon Sportswire. Getty Images.

Patriots fans at the 2019 Wild Card game had already begun their plea to Brady…

When Brady finally made it official he was leaving for Tampa Bay, some Patriots fans turned rabid, especially on Patriots social media pages where they quickly drew the distinction between Patriots fans and Tom Brady fans. Battles ensued enough that I unfollowed those sites, not wanting to argue with rabid Patriots fans who had turned on Brady.

My initial reaction to Brady's departure was anger. How could he leave? But, as more information became available, the more it began looking like there had been friction between Belichick and Brady. Belichick made a calculated decision that with Brady approaching age 43, his quarterback was at the end of his career, and even after winning six Super Bowls together, he appeared heartless and ready to move on from him. In the past, Belichick angered Patriots fans with his decisions to let high-paid elite players leave, but after leaving a majority of them didn't do so well on their new teams and the catchphrase "In Bill We Trust" was never more relevant. Although he has been hailed by many as the best modern-day Head Coach in the NFL, a football genius, there were many of us who weren't big fans. His pressers were Seinfeld-esque, an interview about nothing, and his loyalty to players suspect. Letting Brady leave was revealing and the big question was "Who was more responsible for the Patriots' success, Tom Brady or Bill Belichick?". 

When Gronk signed with the Bucs the once dynamic duo was back, albeit in Tampa. The Brady to Gronk completion was one of my favorites and I looked forward to watching them, even during the advanced stages of their careers, and despite playing for a different team.

Ethan Miller. Getty Images.

Brady and Gronk together again in Tampa…

After the Buccaneers' opening day 34-23 loss to the Saints, the naysayers were having their way. But then the Bucs put together three wins in a row and life was getting interesting in Tampa. Meanwhile, at Gillette, there was little to indicate the Patriots could overcome the loss of their HOF quarterback and reality started setting in; the Patriots were no longer a Super Bowl contender. After losing starting QB Cam Newton to COVID for week four, they were 2-2 going into their bye week. Newton was back for Week 6, but not at full strength, and the Patriots lost three in a row and were a dismal 2-5. The Bucs at the same juncture were 5-2 and were starting to look like a team with playoff potential… 

The Patriots went on to finish 7-9, their first losing season since their 5-11 finish in 2000. The Bucs won their last four regular-season games, finished the season 11-5, and starting with the Wild Card, ran the table and took home the Lombardi Trophy. 

Tom Brady isn't the first NFL Quarterback to have a Hall of Fame career for one team and be traded or leave for another…

Doug Pensinger. Getty Images.

Peyton Manning is introduced as the next quarterback of the Denver Broncos 

After having neck surgery and sitting out the entire 2011 season, Peyton Manning was released by the Colts and signed by the Broncos. By the time he arrived in Denver, Peyton had lost a little off his fastball, but his vision of the field and his ability to audible at the line of scrimmage were still top-notch and his nickname "The Sheriff" was still valid. 

A lot of Colts fans couldn't let go of Manning. He had put Indianapolis on the NFL map, was a force behind the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium, and had become a charitable member of the Indianapolis community. There's the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent in Indianapolis and Peyton continued to visit the kids even after signing with Denver. He won eight Division titles, two AFC Championships, and one Super Bowl (2006) with the Colts and despite going to another AFC team, a lot of Colts fans followed him to Denver. He garnered a lot of support from Colts fans during his two Super Bowl runs with the Broncos, especially during his Super Bowl win in 2015, his last season. There were even split Manning jerseys, half Colts, half Broncos. Indy fans were willing to share but not willing to part with Peyton.

Peyton Manning Split Jerseys are available at https://www.coltsgoodsstore.com for $139.99

The Broncos were 45-12 with Peyton starting under center and statistically, he had four great years in Denver. His completion percentage was 66.5 compared to 64.9 over 13 years with the Colts, and his Passer Rating was 101.7 compared to 94.9. Peyton appeared in two Super Bowls with the Broncos and two with the Colts, and he was the first quarterback to win Super Bowls on different teams. 

Denver's "All-Time Franchise Quarterback" is, and always will be, John Elway, and Manning's four years in Denver wasn't about to change that. In Indianapolis, Peyton is their "All-Time Franchise Quarterback" and that will likely never, ever change, they love him there. For the Baltimore Colts (1953-1983) Johnny Unitas is the "All-Time Franchise Quarterback".

Doug Mills. Shutterstock Images.

A young Brett Favre during good times in Green Bay

There was a divide, but many Packers fans did not follow Brett Favre after he painstakingly and publicly pondered retirement before being traded out of the NFC to the Jets in 2008. Despite playing in Green Bay for 16 years and compiling a 160-93 regular-season record as a starter with a 61.4 Completion Percentage, 442 TD Passes, and an 85.8 Passer Rating, Packer brass, unhappy with Favre's playoff performances (12-10), seemed more than willing to move on from Favre and onto their talented backup, 25-year-old Aaron Rogers. After a few seasons with Rogers under center and after more Favre theatrics, the fans were all in.

Justin Lane. Shutterstock Images.

Brett Favre got off to a great start with the J-E-T-S

Farve started with a hot hand for the Jets, throwing for 6 touchdowns in Week 4's 56-35 thrashing of the Arizona Cardinals, one TD pass short of the NFL record. But the Jets lost 4 out of their last 5, Favre throwing only one TD with 8 INTs during that run. At the season's end, he finished with his third-highest Completion Percentage (65.7),  had a respectable 81.0 Passer Rating, and had a record of 9-7, a big improvement over the Jets 4-12 finish the year before. But after it was determined Favre had a torn biceps tendon in his throwing arm, he told Jets' ownership he was retiring. Once he was released from his contract and free to sign with another team, he was quick to sign with Minnesota, a Packers' rival in the NFC North. 

In 2009, at age 40 and playing for the Vikings, Favre won 12 regular-season games, two against the Packers, posted a 107.2 Passer Rating, threw 33 TD passes, earning a first-place finish in the NFC North. He came one game short of an appearance in the Super Bowl, losing to the Saints in the NFC Championship game. Tied at 28, it was a Favre interception with 14 seconds left in regulation that prevented a field goal try from 52 yards and forced overtime. But the Vikings had fumblitis and committed some untimely penalties and Favre's interception wasn't the only reason for the 31-28 overtime loss to the Saints, but it sure got the ire of Vikings fans.

Rick Wilson. Getty Images.

Jenn Sterger…

It was in 2010, two years after Favre allegedly sent emails with pics of his junk to Jenn Sterger, a sideline reporter for that Jets at the time and a dead ringer for his wife Deanna, that an article was published confirming the "Gunslinger's" lewd emails to Sterger. Favre was fined $50,000 for “failure to cooperate” with an NFL investigation… 

Kathy Willens. Shutterstock Images.

Favre on the run in Minnesota

Favre played his last NFL game with the Vikings in 2010 and in the 13 games he started he was 5-8. In the two seasons he played with the Vikings he was 17-12 with a 65.2 Completion Percentage, 44 TD passes, and a 92.2 Passer Rating.

Over 16 years with the Packers he won one Super Bowl and was a three-time NFL MVP. He was a first-ballot inductee in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016 and the 25th quarterback so honored.

Favre's replacement, 2020 NFL MVP (48 TD passes), Aaron Rogers, has spent 16 years in Green Bay, his first three seasons as a little-used backup. His record thus far is 126-63-1 with a Completion Percentage of 65.1, 412 TD passes, and a 103.9 Passer Rating. He's won one Super Bowl and has also won the NFL MVP three times.   

Time will tell which quarterback, Bart Starr (1956-'71), Brett Favre (1992-2007), or Aaron Rogers (2005-?) will be the Packers' "All-Time Franchise Quarterback".

Anonymous. Shutterstock Images.

Montana looks downfield for an open receiver

Joe Montana injured his elbow during the 1990 NFC Championship game when he was hit from behind by Leonard Marshall. The Giants went on to win 15-13. He reinjured it during the 1991 preseason and was forced to sit out the entire season. That gave 30-year-old Greenwich, Connecticut native, Steve Young, his opportunity to start in San Francisco. Young began his professional football career in 1984 playing in the USFL playing for the L.A. Express, where because of an annuity that was made part of his contract, he was nicknamed "The $40 Million Man". The league collapsed after the '85 season and he never got the money. As a starter for the Buccaneers in 1986, Young finished 2-12  and was traded to San Francisco where he shared playing time with Montana in '88, but then was reduced to holding a clipboard while "Joe Cool/The Comeback Kid" won two more Super Bowls ('89,'90). While Montana was out with the elbow injury, Young had become one of the NFL's highest-rated passers, and it looked like Montana was out of a starting job. When he became vocal about a fair competition between the two quarterbacks, the Niners caved and offered him starting quarterback guarantees, but Joe didn't want special treatment and demanded a trade. 

Montana spent 13 years in San Fran, was 4-0 in Super Bowls without throwing an interception, and won three Super Bowl MVPs. He compiled a record of 100-39 with a Completion Percentage of 63.7, threw 244 TD passes, and owned a 93.5 Passer Rating.

Bill Sikes. Shutterstock Images.

Montana suffered a concussion against the Bills in the AFC Championship and had to be helped off the field

In 1993, his first year under center in KC, Montana suffered wrist and hamstring injuries, but was 8-3 in games he started with a 60.7 Completion Percentage, 13 TD passes, and an 87.4 Passer Rating. Montana and the Chiefs beat the Steelers in the Wild Card 27-24 and then the Oilers in the Divisional playoff 28-20, but in the AFC Championship game he was hit hard by three Buffalo pass rushers at the beginning of the second half, suffered a concussion, and had to be helped off the field. He was replaced by backup David Krieg and the Chiefs lost to the Bills 30-13. 

In 1994, Montana and Young squared off for the first time on September 11th in Arrowhead. It was called "The Vindication Game". Montana minimized the game's personal nature, but Chief's running back Marcus Allen said of Montana's feelings, "It's deep, deeper than Joe will admit.". Montana remained under control the whole game, had plenty of time in the pocket and was 19-31 for 203 yards, 2 TD passes, and 0 INTs with a 101.9 Passer Rating. Two of Young's starting offensive lineman were on IR and Kansas City's pass rush took full advantage. Young was under pressure the entire game and took some vicious hits other quarterbacks may not have been able to get up from, but Young did. He finished the game 24-34 for 288 yards, 1 TD pass, and 2 INTs with an 81.5 Passer Rating. The Chiefs went on to win 24-17. 

Montana finished the season 9-5 but lost to the Dolphins 27-17 in the Wild Card in what would be his last game. Young was 13-3 during the regular season, beat the Bears 44-15 in the Divisional Playoff, the Cowboys 38-28 in the NFC Championship, and the Chargers 49-26 in the Super Bowl (XXIX). Young was 24-36 for 325 yards, with 6 TD passes and 0 INTs, with a 134.8 Passer Rating. He was named Super Bowl MVP and many believe that's when he finally got out from under the shadow of Joe Montana.

Montana was a two-time league MVP and a first-ballot  Hall of Fame inductee in 2000 and is considered by many to be the GOAT, despite the accomplishments of Tom Brady, who had grown up a Niners/Montana fan in San Mateo, California. 

Doug Mills. Shutterstock Images.

Emerging from the shadow of Joe Montana, Steve Young went on to have a HOF career

Young was different than Montana, he could scramble and move the chains with his legs. He finished his career in San Francisco with a record of 91-33 with a completion percentage of 65.8, threw 221 TD passes, with a 101.4 Passer Rating. With three Super Bowl wins and two league MVPs, Young made it easy for Niners fans to move on from Montana and remain loyal to the red and gold. Although Young did everything great quarterbacks do, Montana is still the "All-Time Franchise Quarterback" in San Francisco, although Young has a strong following that would argue on his behalf.

Is it the laundry or the player that fans are more loyal to? When Tom Brady left New England he took a lot of Patriots fans with him to Tampa Bay. I'll confess to being one of them. According to an article in boston.com, per CBS and Nielson, although overall Super Bowl LV viewership was down this year compared to last, Boston was second to Kansas City in viewership, 59.9-57.6, while Tampa Bay was third with 52.3. Apparently, I wasn't the only Pats fan still invested in Tom Brady…

Ashley Landis. Shutterstock Images.

Here are my top ten reasons for Following TB12 to Tampa:

10)  Brady spent 20 years in New England, winning the AFC East 17 times, the AFC Championship 9 times, and six Super Bowls, while compiling a 219-64 regular-season record as a starter. He gave up 60 MIL in salary to help make his teams more competitive. He more than earned my loyalty.

 9) Brady's Completion Percentage during his 20 years with the Patriots was 63.8, he threw 541 TD passes, and had a 97.0 Passer Rating. Year in and year out, Brady was an elite quarterback and the face of the Patriots.

8)  When Brady left he was replaced by Cam Newton, not Steve Young or Aaron Rogers, and the Patriots finished 7-9 in 2020, New England's first losing season since their 5-11 finish in 2000. It was a frustrating season for Pats fans and difficult to watch…

7)  Without Tom Brady starting under center, as a head coach in the NFL Bill Belichick is 53-58, a winning percentage under 48%. Brady's record as a starter in the NFL is 230-69, that's a 77% winning percentage. In the playoffs alone he's 34-11 for a 75.5% winning percentage. This season made me realize that what I liked most about Bill Belichick was Tom Brady.

6)  Brady signed with an NFC team, not an AFC rival, and that made it easier to follow him to Tampa Bay.

5)  Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement, signed with the Buccaneers, and the Brady-to-Gronk connection was alive and well in Tampa. Rooting for Brady and Gronk had a lot to do with muscle memory…

4)  The 2020 Bucs were a likable team with a strong defense and a high-scoring offense that featured a balanced attack, not too unlike the best Patriots teams of the past. 

3)  It was fun to watch the Buccaneers continue to improve as the season went on. Brady's work ethic and will to win had a huge impact on his new teammates, he constantly challenged them and made them believers. Ronald Jones II gained 978 yards with a 5.2 average per carry, but it was discarded Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette, who came on strong at the end of the regular season and kept it going through the playoffs. Fournette credits Brady with his winning attitude. That's what Tom does for his teammates, he makes them better.

2)  In a pandemic year, NFL football was a godsend, and watching Tom Brady turn things around in Tampa was a classic study in leadership, something you won't find in the stats…  

1)  The Bucs had to win a Wild Card game, Divisional playoff, and an NFC Championship (all on the road) to reach the Super Bowl. With seven Super Bowl rings and 5 Super Bowl MVPs, if anyone had their doubts, Brady proved he is the undisputed GOAT! But for those of us who have watched Brady for years we know he's still got two empty fingers and a thumb. He's not done yet!

I don't apologize for remaining a Brady fan even after he left New England for Tampa Bay. I rooted for him and Gronk all season long, and truth be told, I rooted for the Buccaneers too! 

And this longtime Patriots fan has absolutely no regrets.