Maybe we should have seen this coming?
While it long seemed like Tom Brady would finish his career with the New England Patriots, the overall vibe surrounding his connection to the organization — more specifically, Bill Belichick — seemingly changed over the past few years.
This isn’t to suggest there was any ill will, per se, especially with Brady expressing nothing but love for the Patriots when announcing Tuesday via social media he wouldn’t return to New England for a 21st season. But something just felt different — even more so as the 2019 campaign progressed and free agency arrived.
FS1’s Skip Bayless explained Tuesday night, after reports surfaced indicating Brady planned to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that he believes the relationship between the quarterback and Belichick really went south during Super Bowl LII in February 2018.
“I still say the bridge was burned, Brady to Belichick, and vice versa, in the Super Bowl against the Eagles when Belichick inexplicably benched Malcom Butler, who had played the most defensive snaps of anyone on that unit that year — not just DBs, of any defensive player, most snaps — and it remains unexplained why he was benched the whole game,” Bayless said in a video posted to the “Undisputed” Twitter account.
"I still say the bridge was burned, Brady to Belichick, in the Super Bowl against the Eagles when he inexplicably benched Malcom Butler….and it remains unexplained why he was benched the whole game."
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) March 18, 2020
Now, Brady obviously played two more seasons in New England, even winning another title, interestingly enough because of a sensational defensive effort spearheaded by Belichick against the high-powered Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. But there were rumblings of discord in Foxboro even before New England’s Super Bowl LII loss to Philadelphia, so maybe it’s not too far-fetched to think the relationship between Brady and Belichick took another hit that night in Minnesota.
“Tom Brady put up 33 (points). He threw for a playoff record 505 (yards),” Bayless said. “He did drop a pass that was straight over his head from (Danny) Amendola, I think it was, and you can argue this and that, and he finally lost the ball at the end of the game in a desperate situation. I will give you that. But he did put up a Super Bowl loser’s record 33 points, and that defense of Bill Belichick gave up 41 (points) to a backup quarterback who’s now on the outs in Jacksonville, Nick Foles.”
Who knows? Maybe Bayless is making a mountain out of a molehill — wouldn’t be the first time — and Brady simply wanted a change of scenery after the Patriots didn’t make much of a tangible effort to re-sign him this offseason.
Brady’s departure is such a crazy plot twist in his storied NFL career, however, and it’s difficult not to wonder when the thought of potentially playing for another franchise first crossed his mind.