Peter King Offers Theory On What Led To Tom Brady’s Patriots Departure

'It was time for the divorce'


September 29, 2021

There are plenty of theories about the chain of events that led to Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before last season.

Many of them involve Bill Belichick and Brady’s evolving relationship — or lack thereof? — with his longtime head coach.

On Tuesday, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio asked NBC Sports’ Peter King how he’d describe Brady’s relationship with Belichick during the quarterback’s two decades in Foxboro.

“I think, during the 20 years, it was obviously a tough-love relationship between the two,” King said. “You know, you remember the story of Tom Brady actually being called out by Bill Belichick in 2007, in their first team meeting that year. Randy Moss is there, he’s sitting in the audience and he hears Bill Belichick criticize Tom Brady for a throw he made in their last game, the playoff loss to close 2006, and he calls him ‘Johnny Foxboro’ — ‘Johnny Foxboro could’ve made that throw.’ And so I think Belichick viewed that that’s how he’s going to treat his players — and I mean all of his players, and forever.”

Brady, a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, spent 20 seasons with the Patriots, during which he won six Super Bowl titles alongside Belichick and established himself as the best quarterback of all-time. To say it was a successful run would be a major understatement.

But sometimes, change is necessary. And there obviously came a point where a split between Brady and Belichick felt inevitable, despite them reaching unprecedented heights together in New England.

King on Tuesday offered his overall theory on the breakup.

“I think, at the end, Tom Brady wanted two things: He wanted to experience a new brand of football,” King told Florio. “Remember, 2019 was his 29th season of football — high school, college and pro. All 29 years, he played for a defensive coach. So, I think he really wanted to go somewhere — whether it be Frank Reich, Kyle Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Bruce Arians — he wanted to go to a place with an offensive coach who he felt like would have more of an understanding of him.

“I think that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will embrace (at the Pro Football Hall of Fame) in Canton 12, 15 years from now, whatever it is. But I do think Brady wanted a breath of fresh air.”

It’s obviously easy to question Belichick and the Patriots in hindsight for not going all-in to keep Brady, who’s coming off a Super Bowl title in his first season with the Bucs and still is thriving at age 44.

But Brady’s continued dominance over Father Time is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. So, Belichick likely felt it was in the organization’s best long-term interest to move on, a decision that eventually opened the door for New England to choose QB Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

“Look, here’s the other part of this: Belichick knows that football is a continuum,” King said. “He had a quarterback who was going to be 43. He knows that he’s gotta A) move on and set up the franchise for whatever is next.

“I don’t fault Belichick at all. And I don’t fault Brady at all. It was time for the divorce.”

Belichick and the Patriots will host Brady and the Buccaneers this Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, marking Brady’s first game against New England as an opposing player.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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