Tom Brady and the New England Patriots knew this day was coming.
Clearly, the team was prepared for a painful parting with the only quarterback in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.
So it wasn’t long Tuesday after Brady announced on social media that he would be starting the next chapter of his career with a yet-unnamed franchise that Patriots owner Robert Kraft and typically taciturn coach Bill Belichick released effusive statements about him.
“How do I possibly sum up the depth of my gratitude to Tom Brady for what he’s given us these past 20 years, or the sadness I feel knowing it’s ending?” Kraft said. “I love Tom like a son and I always will. He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans.”
Brady, 42, has long insisted he wants to play until he’s 45 and is looking for a team willing to make that commitment to him. The Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the leading candidates to do so, although the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts are outside candidates. In an interesting wrinkle Tuesday that could further change the quarterback landscape, the Carolina Panthers have given Cam Newton the green light to seek a trade. The Panthers likely will sign free agent Teddy Bridgewater.
Early Tuesday, Brady posted on social media: “I don’t know what my football future holds but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career.”
Brady, a sixth-round selection in the 2000 draft, is the first quarterback and fourth player overall to play 20 seasons with one franchise. An 18-year captain, he led the Patriots to the playoffs 17 times, including a record nine Super Bowl appearances. In addition to his six rings, he was named Super Bowl MVP four times.
“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program,” Belichick said in a written statement. “He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between. This is a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again.
“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.”
Kraft said he looked forward to the time the Patriots could bring Brady back to New England to honor him and celebrate his career.
“I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship,” Kraft said. “Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality. While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community.”
Said Belichick: “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.”