FOXBORO, Mass. — Tom Brady might have played the final game of his New England Patriots career Saturday night. Or maybe he comes back for another go-around next season. Perhaps he retires, though that’s, in his own words, “unlikely.”
But all options are on the table after the Patriots shockingly lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the Tennessee Titans. And Brady, who will be a free agent in March, wouldn’t commit to anything immediately after the 20-13 loss.
“I love the Patriots,” Brady said. “I mean, they obviously — this is the greatest organization, and playing for Mr. (Robert) Kraft all these years and for Coach (Bill) Belichick — there’s nobody that’s had a better career, I would say, than me just being with them.
“So, I’m very blessed and I don’t know what the future looks like and I’m not going to predict it. So, I wish we would have won tonight and wish we would have done a lot of things better over the course of the season, but we just didn’t get the job done.”
Brady, 42, was more direct when asked if there’s a possibility he could retire this offseason.
“I would say it’s pretty unlikely, but — yeah, hopefully unlikely,” Brady said.
He’s previously said he wants to play until he’s 45.
Reading between the lines, it seems Brady would only retire if he doesn’t receive any offers when he becomes a free agent. That’s, once again in Brady’s own words, “unlikely.” Brady’s contract with the Patriots will void on the final day of the 2019 league year, March 17. He’ll be open to sign with any team, including the Patriots, on March 18. New England cannot franchise Brady. They could sign him to an extension before that date.
Perhaps complicating issues is that Brady’s longtime offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, will be interviewing for head-coaching opportunities with the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns this week. The Dallas Cowboys also still could fire head coach Jason Garrett and show interest in McDaniels. McDaniels is the hottest coaching candidate coming from the NFL ranks. He seems destined to leave if the situation is right for him.
If Brady were to leave the Patriots, he likely would want to bring his offense with him to a new team, but the Giants, Panthers, Browns and Cowboys aren’t ideal fits. Former Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea could hook up with Brady in New England or a new destination since he was fired by the Miami Dolphins this week. The Patriots’ Erhardt-Perkins offensive scheme also isn’t exactly rare in football.
Before Saturday, the Patriots hadn’t lost — or even played — in the wild-card round of the playoffs since 2009. They hadn’t lost their first playoff game since 2010, and they’d made the AFC Championship Game every year since 2011.
But does this loss hurt since Brady is close to the end of his career?
“I think we’re all running out of time and chances every year that goes by,” Brady said. “So, I don’t think I’m the only one in that category in this room, or probably in any of these rooms.”
Brady has won six Super Bowls with the Patriots since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He’s never played with an NFL head coach other than Bill Belichick, who wasn’t entertaining questions about the QB’s future.
“Right now, we just finished the game, so we’re focused on the game,” Belichick said.
So, will Brady be back? He didn’t seem dishonest when saying he has no idea what the future holds. He’ll need to meet with Belichick, Kraft and perhaps other teams and then find his best fit.
“I don’t want to get too much into the future and stuff,” Brady said. “I mean, this team has fought hard. We battled every day, we tried to get better, we worked hard to improve, and I was proud to be a part of this team. Not only this year, but every year. Again, I just don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m not going to predict it.
“No one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football, I love playing for this team. I’ve loved playing for this team for two decards and winning a lot of games. And again, I don’t know what it looks like moving forward, so we’ll just take it day by day.”
Those days leading up to March 18 might be long ones for Patriots fans.