About two hours after future Hall of Fame New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced via his Instagram account that he would depart the team as a free agent, New England’s head coach Bill Belichick issued a statement filled with praise for the 42-year-old, six-time Super Bowl winner — whose next team remains uncertain.
Saying that Brady was one of the “original creators” of the Patriots’ program, as quoted by CBS News, Belichick called Brady, “a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”
Brady started his career as an unlikely choice to become “the greatest quarterback of all-time.” Drafted by Belichick 199th overall in the 2000 NFL draft out of the University of Michigan, Brady got a shot at the starter’s job only when then-starter Drew Brees went down with an injury in the second game of the 2001 season.
He went on to lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory in that same season. After missing the playoffs in 2002, Brady guided the team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories in the following two seasons.
“Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was,” Belichick said in his statement, as quoted by CBS News. “It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.”
Team owner Robert Kraft said that he did not participate in negotiations to keep Brady with the Patriots, but that the quarterback personally informed him of the decision to leave the team on Monday night, according to an ESPN report. Kraft said that Brady visited him at his home.
“We had a positive, respectful discussion. It’s not the way I want it to end, but I want him to do what is in his best personal interest,” Kraft told ESPN reporter Mike Reiss. “I love him like a son.”
ESPN also noted that Brady’s 20-year career in New England was the longest by any quarterback with a single NFL team. Despite his six Super Bowls, three MVP awards, and 13 AFC Conference Championship games — of which he and the Patriots won nine — his final game with New England was a 20-13 loss in the 2019 Wild Card round to the Tennessee Titans. In fact, Brady’s final pass was an interception returned for a touchdown by his former teammate Logan Ryan.
Yet, the Patriots reportedly never even made Brady a “tangible” offer to stay with the team in the 2020 season, according to longtime Boston sports journalist Tom E. Curran.
The Titans, who are coached by another former Brady teammate Mike Vrabel, were strongly rumored as a possible destination for Brady. But over the weekend, Tennessee instead opted to re-sign their 2019 quarterback Ryan Tannehill, according to USA Today. After defeating Brady and the Patriots in the Wild Card game, Tannehill took the Titans to the AFC Championship before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.