It wasn’t an official farewell tour, but Tom Brady knew, with reasonable certainty, that the 2019 season would be his last in a New England Patriots uniform.
During a long, wide-ranging interview Wednesday morning on “The Howard Stern Show” on SiriusXM Radio, Brady opened up about his decision to leave the Patriots after 20 seasons to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I don’t think there was a final, final decision until it happened,” the quarterback said. “But I would say I probably knew before the start of last season that it was my last year. I knew that it was just, our time, you know — our time was coming to an end.”
Last August, Brady signed a pseudo-contract extension that included voidable years in 2020 and 2021 and prohibited the Patriots from placing the franchise or transition tag on him, meaning he would become a free agent if he and the team could not agree to a new deal before the start of the 2020 league year.
The Patriots went 12-4 in 2019, but Brady endured one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, and New England’s undermanned offense struggled. The QB did little to hide his frustration, openly venting about the team’s offensive issues after a November win in Philadelphia that pushed New England’s record to 9-1.
A stunning home loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17 prevented the Patriots from securing a first-round playoff bye, and the Tennessee Titans bounced them in the wild-card round, Brady’s earliest playoff exit since 2009.
“Before last (season), I had a contract that was restructured,” Brady told Stern. “Basically, from my standpoint, I knew that at the end of the year, I was going to become a free agent for the first time in my career. I had spoken with the ownership with the team, Mr. (Robert) Kraft; he was good with it. I had spoken about it with Coach (Bill) Belichick; he was good with it. And that’s what we decided to do.
“Over the course of the season and the offseason, there wasn’t a ton of substantial conversations we had to continue. We had some, and we both thought about it, and then in the end, it was just a great way to end two decades. We had a great conversation, and I’ve said this before: There’s no bigger fan of the New England Patriots than me. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that I could continue to play there at the highest level. And I feel like I want to prove to myself that I can still perform at the highest level.”
The night before his announcement, Brady met with Kraft and called Belichick to inform them of his final decision.
“I was crying (during the meeting),” Brady admitted. “I’m a very emotional person. … I have a deep caring for the people that I work with, and I wish (them) nothing but the best.”