Nothing about the bitter end of the incomparable end of the Tom Brady era in New England surprised me.

That’s how it ended, because that’s how this always ends. With the athlete’s market value far above the level of a sane business decision for the franchise that shared in his glory days. With fans squarely in the player’s tank for two decades suddenly sharing wise cracks about UGGs, avocado milkshakes, and rising hairlines.

Kalle Oakes, Sports Columnist

It’s the same phenomenon that gave us Joe Montana as a Chief, Brett Favre as a Viking and Peyton Manning as a Bronco. It’s identical to the human nature that will keep Philip Rivers in Indianapolis, quarantined away from his family of 10, for whatever season we get this fall.

And don’t kid yourself: No matter how much Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees are interwoven with the fiber of Pittsburgh and New Orleans, even money says they’ll ride off into some other cities’ sunsets. The writing’s already on the wall with Big Ben, throwing out non-verifiable claims such as “my arm hasn’t felt this good in 10 years” while employed by a team that’s always made the difficult decisions necessary to avoid hitting absolute rock bottom.

Nor is this a pattern exclusive to quarterbacks, or even football players. Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron all closed the book in places willing to foot the bill for a fading shadow.

The good news, if you’ve been a Patriots fan since the highs and lows of the ’70s and ’80s and the wretched early ’90s, is that you won’t have to suffer the cringe-worthy sight of Brady in one of those XFL-ready Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ uniforms very long.

If and when 2020 football ever begins, Brady will be 43 years old. That’s basically Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde and George Blanda hanger-on territory. There is no body work by a Hall of Famer anywhere near the top of his game that is fit for intelligent comparison. Brady’s two-year contract appears the absolute outer limit, no matter what Gisele-inspired experiments he is conducting with his diet and fitness regimen.

Of course, the bad news is that there’s just enough left in his tank to crush your soul one time. Montana and Favre each defeated their old teams and guided their new one to a conference championship game. Manning executed enough crisp hand-offs to help Von Miller win a Super Bowl.

One look at the head coach, wide receivers and potential free agents Tampa Bay has in place makes it foolish to believe the Buccaneers don’t have a legitimate title run in them after the Brady signing. Also, if you expect anything other than a Tampa triumph when Brady returns to Gillette Stadium in his probable farewell tour of 2021, then you haven’t watched enough sports in your life.

On top of it all, the Patriots almost assuredly will take another step or two backward, because let’s face it, how could they not? The past two decades are a statistical anomaly, unprecedented in the expansion era and unthinkable under the auspices of a salary cap.

We’ll then be inclined to second-guess every Patriots’ front-office maneuver of recent vintage, because that’s the extent of most modern sports analysis, and because native New Englanders engage in it with more breathless, panic-stricken, in-the-moment fury than anyone.

I’d beg you in advance to stop, particularly those of you who have been hanging onto Jimmy Garoppolo stock for the past five years.

You’re wrong on two fronts. One, what you saw in the second half of the just-completed Super Bowl is what you’re going to get from him for the duration. Two, the bottom line is winning championships, and New England added Lombardi trophies five and six after the Garoppolo trade.

Letting Brady escape to the land of shuffleboard and canasta now is a sound business decision for the Patriots. Dealing him while he was plausibly close to the top of his game to cast their lot with his understudy would have been the absolute wrong one, and the hardware bears that out.

Now the timing is right to rip off the band-aid and grow some new, hopefully thick skin, and see where this leads.

That means giving it four or five seasons, and not simply rushing to judgment after the next one or two, while Brady graces a different fan base with what’s left of his shelf life. It means not panicking over every minor move, such as the resigning of Brian Hoyer as a warm body for training camp.

It means recognizing that defense, a running game and a serviceable signal-caller (see “Tennessee Titans”) are capable to taking you deep into January. It means recognizing that nearly every previous NFL dynasty or prolonged powerhouse took forever-and-a-day to recover from excessive loyalty to aging players and/or dated philosophies.

The time was right for both Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to hit their respective reset buttons. Brady needs offensive weapons to complement his current skill set and capitalize on the small career window that remains. His former team needs the wiggle room to reload and remain viable for whoever is its next long-term solution at QB, whether it’s the No. 199 pick this year or a No. 1 down the road.

It isn’t an easy ending to digest, but in a world where the greatest among us don’t tap out without kicking and screaming, it was the inevitable one.

Kalle Oakes spent 27 years with the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Kepe in touch with him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.