Column: Brady leaves a lifetime of memories

  • FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2020, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shakes hands with a fan as he leaves the field after losing an NFL wild-card playoff football game to the Tennessee Titans in Foxborough, Mass. Tom Brady is an NFL free agent for the first time in his career. The 42-year-old quarterback with six Super Bowl rings said Tuesday morning, March 17, 2020, that he is leaving the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File) Bill Sikes

  • FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds up the game ball after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Foxborough, Mass. Tom Brady is an NFL free agent for the first time in his career. The 42-year-old quarterback with six Super Bowl rings said Tuesday morning, March 17, 2020, that he is leaving the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File) Elise Amendola

  • FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2017, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds up Super Bowl trophies along with head coach Bill Belichick, right, and team owner Robert Kraft, left, during a rally in Boston to celebrate the win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game in Houston. Tom Brady is an NFL free agent for the first time in his career. The 42-year-old quarterback with six Super Bowl rings said Tuesday morning, March 17, 2020, that he is... Elise Amendola

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2020 6:06:47 PM
Modified: 3/17/2020 7:32:19 PM

New England fans, it’s time to face reality. 
The writing has been on the wall for months that Tom Brady was going to leave the Patriots this offseason. Stories were reported that he wanted out, that he wanted to explore his options and try something different after 20 years playing for New England. Still, it was hard to accept that he was actually going to leave the greatest dynasty American Football has ever seen, one in which he was one of the three pillars alongside Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft that held it up. 

Yet here we are. Brady took to social media Tuesday morning to announce his divorce with the Patriots. Like a breakup, it’s hard to swallow. The writing was on the wall that it was over but the brain doesn’t want to comprehend it. 

For those out there like me, a 23-year-old who grew up in a New Hampshire household where watching Patriot football on Sundays was a religion, it’s easy to go into denial. After all, all I’ve ever known as a football fan was seeing No. 12 line up under center wearing the blue, red and silver. No matter what happened in an offseason, no matter what players or coaches went in or out the doors at 1 Patriot Place, there was always hope knowing that Brady, Belichick and Kraft were in charge. Now, one of those pillars is gone.

Since Super Bowl 36, where Brady marched New England into field goal range to defeat the Greatest Show on Turf and win the Patriots their first Super Bowl title, there was always a belief that the Pats were never out of a game with Brady as the signal caller. He proved it over and over again, from the countless game-winning drives to leading New England back down 10 in the fourth quarter against Seattle to 28-3 against Atlanta. 

As I sit here trying to fathom all of it, it’s bittersweet knowing the end of an era is over in New England. Sports may not be important in the grand scheme of life, but it’s an outlet to escape reality, and since I was five years old, Tom Brady brought a lot of happiness to this spoiled-rotten fan who has seen No. 12 bring the Patriots to nine Super Bowls, a run I’m quite certain I’ll never see again in my lifetime. 

It won’t fully set in that he’s gone until next season when Brady takes the field in Buccaneer red. It won’t set in until the likes of Jarrett Stidham or whoever Belichick plugs as the replacement are under center with two minutes to go in a tie game, and the belief that the Pats will drive down and score that I’ve had for the last two decades turns into fear that they don’t have the guy to get the job done. 

While it’s all right to go back and watch old Brady highlights and Super Bowls to try to get over it, it’s time for Patriots fans to turn the page. Living in football bliss for two decades has been nothing short of wonderful, but it had to come to an end at some point. Brady wasn’t going to play forever and it’s rare that the storybook ending ever actually comes to fruition in reality. We can dream of Brady riding off into the sunset after another Super Bowl win with the Pats, but history has tried telling us that probably wasn’t going to happen. 

The only thing to do now is try to have a positive outlook on the future. Sure, the Patriots won’t be the same without Brady, but with Belichick at the helm of the organization, there is always hope. 

For anyone saying the Patriots should go into rebuild mode now that the franchise quarterback has left should go back and rewatch the 2019 season. The offense was stagnant and out of rhythm but the team still went 12-4. I don’t blame Brady for the offensive struggles from a year ago, but it would be hard for them to be much worse in 2020 even without No. 12 under center. 

The Pats roster is still loaded with talent. The defense might take a step back from a season ago, but the secondary is one of the best in the NFL and the front seven has talent. On offense, bringing back Joe Thuney and the hopeful return of David Andrews gives New England one of the better looking offensive lines on paper. A bounce-back year for Sony Michel is hopeful, and the team should look to add playmakers at wide receiver and tight end whether through free agency or the draft. 

The winning formula won’t be for whoever’s playing quarterback to toss the ball around 50 times a game like Brady was able to. It will be to run the ball and rely on the defense to win games. Will it be enough to topple the Chiefs in the AFC and go to the Super Bowl? Probably not. Do the Patriots have enough talent and coaching to win the AFC East? I’d bet they do. 

I’m eager to see how Belichick attacks the season. We all know Belichick has been waiting for the opportunity to prove he can win without Brady, and we all know his goal of breaking Don Shula’s all-time win record is well within reach. He’s proven before he can win without TB12 — going 11-5 with Matt Cassel, getting two wins out of Jimmy Garoppolo and winning a game on a short-week with a rookie Jacoby Brissett against the Texans — but the challenge of fully replacing Brady certainly won’t be easy. 

It’s a sad day in New England, but the future isn’t as bleak as some may think. For now, it’s best to look forward, as the legend of Tom Brady in New England will be talked about for the rest of time. 

Tom Johnston is a Recorder sports reporter. He can be reached at tjohnston@recorder.com


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