Early Tuesday morning, before sunrise in Los Angeles, Tom Brady tweeted a heartfelt goodbye to the New England Patriots.“You always embraced this California kid as your own,” he wrote. “I don’t know what my future holds but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career.”
Brady doesn’t tweet much but his last one on March 9 before his farewell to the Patriots might have offered a glimpse into his future plans. It was a retweet of a Deadline Hollywood story with the headline, “Where Is Tom Brady Going Next? Hollywood, To Launch 199 Productions.” Brady commented on his retweet, “Exciting times ahead, on and off the field!”
With New England in his rear-view mirror, there’s no better destination for a Hollywood ending to Brady’s storybook career than Hollywood.
Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots coincides with Philip Rivers leaving the Chargers after 16 years to reportedly sign a one-year, $25-million contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
Though the Chargers haven’t always made the best decisions since leaving San Diego for Los Angeles in 2017, their pursuit of Brady is the most important moment for the franchise since moving here.
If they sign him, they immediately move the needle in a city that has refused to embrace them since they showed up on its doorstep uninvited. If they don’t, they go back to being an afterthought in a crowded sports market.
It isn’t hyperbole to say the short-term success of the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles rides on their ability to sign Brady.
Brady is the only player in the NFL who can make the Chargers relevant in Los Angeles as they try to sell season tickets and seat licenses.
Despite winning six Super Bowls in New England and leading them to nine AFC championships, Brady is one of the most popular athletes in L.A.
Brady is one of the top five-selling athletes in Los Angeles when it comes to sports apparel at the store Fanatics. L.A. was the top-selling city for Brady merchandise on Cyber Monday last year. Yes, more people in Los Angeles bought Brady gear than in any city in New England.
While Brady’s popularity in Los Angeles might be surprising, his place among all athletes in the sports world is no shocker. He ranks just ahead of LeBron James, according to Fanatics, in terms of top-selling players in all sports nationwide. No player on the Chargers is in the top 15 and the Chargers are not one of the top-10-selling teams in L.A.
As much as it makes sense for the Chargers to pursue Brady, it also makes sense for him to come to Los Angeles.
Before James made the decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and sign with the Lakers in 2018, he created SpringHill Entertainment, a production company in Los Angeles, and laid the groundwork for what he wanted to do after he was done playing. Brady has carved a similar path with 199 Productions, which was named in honor of where he was selected in the 2000 NFL draft.
After Brady announced his decision on social media, James commented, “Earned Not Given!! Congrats Champ and looking forward to the next chapter!” David Beckham, who also came to Los Angeles in the twilight of his career, said, “The journey continues.”
Brady’s arrival to Los Angeles would be compared with James signing with the Lakers, Beckham signing with the Galaxy and Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Kings, but it is so much bigger than that for the Chargers. The future of those teams in this market didn’t hinge on those transactions.
Immediately after Brady announced he was leaving the Patriots, offensive tackle Russell Okung, whom the Chargers have agreed to trade to the Carolina Panthers for offensive guard Trai Turner, tweeted, “Tom Brady to the Chargers.” Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Matthieu tweeted, “Brady to Chargers.”
Many other former players and analysts went on television and radio Tuesday to say Brady joining the Chargers makes the most sense. “I talked to some people with the Chargers yesterday and I’m telling you they are putting everything on the table to get Tom Brady,” said former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin. “I would say, if I’m taking a guess, it would be the Chargers.”
Brady to the Chargers would not only be the most significant moment in the Chargers’ brief history in Los Angeles but it would for the first time show they benefitted by moving to Los Angeles. If Brady ends up coming to the Chargers it will be in part because they play in the No. 2 market, close to his production company, and are moving into the most expensive football palace on the planet — two things they simply didn’t have to offer before.
If Brady ends up signing somewhere else, none of the Chargers’ advantages of locating to L.A. will matter now or for the foreseeable future.