To steal a line from John Lennon, nobody told Tom Brady there'd be days like these. (Most peculiar, Mama. Roll.) Under .500. Finding himself struggling to score points and in the middle of the pack in the league in terms of passer rating. His demeanor on and off the field being called into question. His relationship with his coaches appearing to be strained. Beefing with his teammates at times. People wondering aloud if he wouldn't have been better off retiring after last season on a high note, more or less. In terms of performance if not with a ring.
And everything I just said also applies to Aaron Rodgers. Though he's someone else's issue, and Brady is mine. But it makes sense to draw a parallel between their two situations. And to wonder if either or both will play again next year. Which many are doing:
Which begs the question of if they do come back, where will that be? Again, focusing strictly on Brady, there's one potential landing spot that is the sexiest possibility of all. One that has been out there being discussed for a while. I was asked about it by Toucher & Rich on The Sports Hub a month ago. And once the EMTs hit me with the NARCAN and brought me back from the brink of death, I dismissed it as mere sports radio fodder. Red meat for the morning drive audience. Based on sheer speculation and nothing more. But they are not alone:
Source - [M]aybe hold onto your phone with two hands for this one — don’t ever write off the Patriots.
Brady and Bill Belichick still have an abundance of respect for one another. They’ve made points to say it publicly on multiple occasions since the QB departed for Tampa. They also spent 23 minutes together in the visiting locker room at Gillette Stadium following Brady’s return in 2021 — an appointment they set up prior to the game.
The Patriots are slated to have more than $50 million in cap space in 2023, so they can again address their flaws, this time on the heels of a couple impressive draft classes.
The issues? Not the egos. Not the pride.
For Brady, he’d have to know the offense is in capable hands. … Sure, Brady would return to run his offense, but he can’t also coordinate it.
For the Patriots, they should want clarity on Brady’s future. Is he going year to year? Do they need to fully guarantee a second season, something Belichick wouldn’t do before Brady walked in 2020?
Realistically, the Patriots wouldn’t even need to trade Mac Jones, whose rookie contract runs through 2024 plus the fifth-year option in 2025. While they certainly could — and as is the case with many starting quarterbacks, they’d start the trade conversations with the hopes of recouping a first-round pick — there’d be loads of value in Jones learning from Brady.
Maybe it’s a long shot. There might be better situations for Brady. But just when you think you’ve got Belichick figured out, he does something no one sees coming.
Before we dismiss this as insane, if not downright irresponsible thinking from Jeff Howe, one of Brady's oldest friends in the organization agrees it's not out of the realm:
For me, the most intriguing part of this is the notion that bringing Brady back for a triumphant return wouldn't cost them Mac Jones. I know that the fashionable thing to do at the moment is dump all over Jones. Saying he's reached his peak already and will never amount to jack squat is bigger than TikTok now. The whole of Boston sports media is ready to take to the streets holding blank 8.5 X 11s until he's benched or released. But Mac is a hill I am prepared to die on. The attempt to install a new offense and his injury dealt him setbacks, but he's played error free the last two weeks and is coming off his best statistical game. I'm still buying in while his shares are low. Yet I agree that spending spending a year sharing a quarterback room with Brady would hardly be a bad thing for his development. At the start of the 2024 season, he'd be 26. Which is the exact age Brady was in 2003, the season he elevated himself from a "caretaker" quarterback to a driving force who carried his team at times and propelled it to two straight championships.
But enough about Jones. I'm burying the lede here. If this were to happen, it would require a lot more than just cap space and a benchable QB2 option. This would mean a major change in philosophy by Brady, Bill Belichick, or both.
Yes, they have said all the right things publicly. And I sincerely believe they mean it. The respect is genuine and it is mutual. Of that I have no doubt. But there's a wide gulf between respecting one another and being able to live together. A lot of divorced couples hookup. (And for certain Brady and Belichick's football makeup sex would be TREMENDOUS.) But that doesn't mean you can co-habitate. In divorce circles, moving back in with your ex is referred to as "a triumph of optimism over experience." And in that battle, optimism rarely ever stays triumphant for long.
Let's not lose sight of the underlying issues between the two. Brady was visibily one unhappy pappy his last two seasons in Foxboro, if not longer. He managed to win a sixth ring in 2018 in spite of it. But for the most part in 2019, he carried himself like he was walking the Green Mile. And leave us not forget he was caught letting himself be tampered with by the owner of the Dolphins all that final year. The same Dolphins the Pats lost two in Week 17 when a win would've gotten them a playoff bye.
He went to Tampa for several reasons. Not the least of which was the fact the talent level was Super Bowl quality, which he proved. But also because they gave him authority and veto power over every decision he had zero chance of ever getting in New England. Is he going to want that kind of control as a precondition of a return?
And what about his Tampa work schedule. He was already skipping OTAs toward the end here, which didn't sit well with the coach. Particularly as he was trying to turn over the receivers and tight ends depth chart. Do we think for a hot second Belichick would sign off on his QB1 taking a week and a half-long sabbatical in the middle of camp and getting Wednesdays off? Not bloody likely.
Listen, on a lot of levels I love the idea. Mainly for the way it would break the internet and cause worldwide panic. I just can't see a scenario where these two impossibly successful winners could change their ways enough to work another full season together. No matter how fond of one another they are.
The next time Belichick and Brady are in a room together, it will be to announce Brady's return, alright. To sign a one-day contract and then retire a Patriot. Fun though it is to dream of something more, it'll never be anything more than just a dream. One that comes with an incredible shirt you need to own.