My Pitch: Saying bye to a legend

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Last week marked the end of an era, as former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to put an end to his days in Foxboro.

Although it was hard to believe, and is still difficult to process, the writing seemed to be on the wall throughout last season and this offseason.

Brady had been asking for a contract extension since prior to last season, and has been seeking a long-term deal for the last 3-4 years. However, the Pats and Bill Belichick were reluctant to do so considering he is now well into his 40’s.

To make matters worse, the offense surrounding him last year was sub-par, and the Pats shifted into a defensive-minded club. It was evident throughout the season that Brady was frustrated, and it just seemed like this nearly 20-year marriage had run its course. As Brady threw his final pass in a Patriots uniform, which was a pick-6 in the final moments of the AFC Wild Card round, it was clear as day that this partnership had become stale.

Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the many people that felt that he would find his way back to Foxboro. This wasn’t the first time that he was dissatisfied with his place on the team, and it was not the first time that a potential departure was discussed.

Although this seemed a little more real than times in the past, all evidence pointed toward the two sides working something out.

That is what was so interesting about this situation. It was so obvious that Brady wanted out, but yet, it just did not feel like it was actually going to happen … New England sports fans now have to say goodbye to arguably the greatest athlete to ever compete in the region.

For me personally, Brady was one of the most influential athletes of my time. Before Brady, I was a young, 90’s kid that had the Red Sox and guys like Mo Vaughn, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek. Sure, Drew Bledsoe was a big name, but the Patriots were still an afterthought in Boston.

That all changed in 2001. Bledsoe went down, Brady stepped in, and the rest is history. Brady, alone, made Boston a Patriots town, and me an avid fan.

Brady epitomizes what it means to be a competitor. A few months back, I wrote a column on Kobe Bryant shortly after his passing, and while writing it, I felt like I was also writing about Brady … the two were so similar in their respective sports.

All Brady cared about was winning. He took pay cuts to allow the team to strengthen other areas of the roster, he was always the first to arrive and last to leave, he demanded the best out of his teammates both on game day and at practice.

More than anything though, he was the most clutch performer in NFL history, who did some of his best work well into his 30’s and even in his 40’s.

Now, he is walking into a franchise that is starved for a quarterback and some wins. Brady wants to finish his career in a place that will finally treat him like the living legend that he is, and the Bucs were certainly more willing to do that than Belichick and the Patriots.

Some people, in fact, most people are playing the blame game. Brady abandoned the team, Belichick ran him out of town. In my opinion, no one is to blame and each side made the right decision.

For Brady, he went to the place that gave him the best chance to win while also giving him a top-dollar deal. The Patriots would have always given him the best chance to succeed, but they were clearly unwilling to give him a lucrative contract … not because they did not respect him, but because they knew the team had other needs and that Brady would be 43 years of age entering next season.

Brady got the contract he wanted with a team that is loaded on offense. The Patriots got to save some money, address other needs, and get the ball rolling on the next generation.

Speaking of which, I am excited to watch next year. This is the most I have looked forward to a football season in quite some time.

Will the Patriots turn to Jarrett Stidham, their fourth-round draft choice from last season who was considered a developmental project? Will they hand the reigns to Brian Hoyer, who was signed for his third stint in New England the other day? Will they sign a free agent? Trade for a veteran? Draft another kid?

Regardless of what they do from here, the only certain is that Brady will longer be calling the shots, and New England fans will have get used to seeing another QB under center.

We may also finally get the answer to the great Brady-Belichick debate, which has been waged for the last two decades.

Also, imagine a potential Pats-Bucs Super Bowl? It’s unlikely, especially since the Pats will almost certainly take a step back next year, but if sometime in the next two years we get to see that, that will be must-watch theater and arguably the biggest event in American sports history.

To Tom Brady, thank you for making Sunday my favorite day of the week, and helping usher in a new, iconic franchise in New England. I can’t wait to see how you do in a new uniform.

To the Pats, let’s get to work.

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