By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s so weird. Tom Brady — aka the greatest quarterback who ever lived, aka the international superstar, aka the age-defying force who remains intent on shattering records and winning Super Bowls — has some real potential to leave the Patriots, to wear a different uniform for the first time in his 20-year career, to breathe new life into a franchise looking for a history-altering savior. And around here, the only place Brady has ever known as his professional football home, the overwhelming sentiment seems to be, “ALL RIGHT, ALREADY, CAN WE GET THIS OVER WITH?!”
Of course, ascribing an emotion to large swaths of people is an inexact science. Still, the constant efforts of the media to drive this story into the ground and then continue driving it through the mantle and into the core of the Earth? It’s led to some exhaustion in the soap opera that has been The Tom Brady Offseason Of 2020. And the crazy part is, the actual meat and potatoes of that process has not even really begun.
No, instead of contract negotiations, roster-building philosophies, and nitty-gritty details on what it would take to sign Tom Brady, team coaches and executives are busy out in Indianapolis artfully dodging tamper-rific questions regarding the QB at the NFL Combine. Some are doing a better job than others. (We’re looking at you, Bruce Arians.)
As such, though, the speculation has really begun as to which teams might actually make a real, bona fide run at Brady. If some of those teams end up being Brady’s choice, it won’t be particularly shocking. Others will make for a total earth-shaking stunner.
Here’s an effort to rank that potential level of shock, based on a scale of one to five Shocked Bradys.
Destination: New England Patriots
One-half of one out of five Shocked Bradys
This is not to suggest that the Patriots are the favorite at this point in time. It’s unknown just how badly Brady wants to play for the Patriots, and it’s unknown just how badly the Patriots want Tom Brady to play for the Patriots.
That’s quite literally never been in question before. What a strange time to be alive.
Yet, if Brady and the Patriots do get together, map out a plan, figure out some financials, and get the band back together for Year 21? That could hardly be considered a shock.
Destination: Tennessee Titans
One out of five Shocked Bradys
It’s high time that America starts wrapping its head around the idea of Tom Brady becoming the next quarterback of the Tennessee Titans. And Mike Vrabel’s reaction of seemingly wanting to stuff Phil Perry in a trash can on Tuesday afternoon certainly made it seem like the Titans will come a-calling through the proper channels once it is legal to do so. (People who respond to questions with questions of their own are people who are just buying time as they try to create an answer in order to tiptoe around the truth. Everyone knows that.)
Provided the Titans re-sign Derrick Henry (and they should), the replacement of Ryan Tannehill with Tom Brady should make them instant contenders for the Super Bowl. No, that’s not hyperbole. That Tennessee defense gave off a very 2001 Patriots scent during that postseason run last year, and the addition of an accomplished, brilliant signal caller would have been the difference in the Titans winning or losing that AFC title game in Kansas City. (For proof, please refer to Brady’s performance in the AFC title game in Kansas City a year prior.)
Plus — and this is a big one — wouldn’t Vrabel just love to stick it to Bill Belichick by swooping in and stealing the franchise quarterback? Vrabel obviously has tremendous respect for his former boss, but even when he was a player, he enjoyed ribbing the Hall of Fame head coach whenever possible. After starting his career with a 2-0 record against Belichick, pulling off this heist would be a major coup.
Brady to the Titans? It makes far too much football sense to feel any sort of shock if it does down.
Destination: Las Vegas Raiders
Two out of five Shocked Bradys
Frankly, we’ve been hearing too many murmurs about the Raiders for too long to be fully shocked by this one. Plus, Mike Mayock’s admission that he’s willing to see if his team can get better at the quarterback position? Plus the obvious elation that Jon Gruden would feel if he became able to get Tom Brady in his office for 60 minutes every week? Plus that instant buzz in Vegas that would emanate from a Brady signing? It makes a whole lot of sense in that regard.
It does carry some shock, though, because it would be pretty surprising to see Brady put all of his eggs in a Mayock/Gruden basket, and it would be pretty odd for Brady to sign up for a job where he’d definitely have to play in Denver and where he’d, you know, have to contend with Patrick Mahomes and the reigning-champ Chiefs just to win the division, let alone the Super Bowl. The Raiders also haven’t won a playoff game since 2002 — TWO-THOUSAND AND TWO, folks! — and have made the playoffs just once in the past 17 seasons. So there is a little matter of a culture problem that might make the Raiders slightly unappealing, even if the location moves 500 miles from Oakland.
There’d be shock in that regard. But just for the fact that we’ve heard the Raiders linked to a pursuit of Brady for what feels like months, the shock level would remain relatively low if Brady were to don the Silver and Black.
Destination: Miami Dolphins
Three out of five Shocked Bradys
Of all the teams playing The Brady Game this offseason, the Dolphins’ strategy has been the absolute funniest. During Super Bowl week, owner Stephen Ross was basically like, Well, we’re a very bad football team so there’s no way Brady would want to play for lil’ old us! Then this week at the Combine, Flores echoed the same sentiment: We’re just the itty-bitty widdle Dolphins. Tommy wouldn’t want to come here!
It’s the ultimate slow play for a franchise that has been drowning in the search for a quarterback ever since Dan Marino hung ’em up 55 years ago. (Pro Football Reference says it’s only been 21 years since that happened, but I’m sticking with my number. Feels right.)
The Dolphins, obviously, were not good last year. Yet after trading away literally all of their most talented players, the team finished on a relative hot streak, going 5-4 over the final nine weeks, or 3-2 over the final five weeks, or 2-0 over the final two weeks, accentuated with a victory in Foxboro that essentially ruined the Patriots’ whole season. That refusal to give in to the expectations of being the worst NFL team of all time speaks to the attractiveness of playing for a team coached by Brian Flores.
Now sub in Tom Brady for Ryan Fitzpatrick … now imagine what can be done with close to $100 million in cap space … now imagine how many picks or trades can be made with their NINE picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts … and an instant rebuild is not entirely out of the question. (Pulling that off? Difficult, of course. It’s the NFL. But the elements are in place.)
Add in the attractiveness of spreading the TB12 health and lifestyle brand to a swanky-as-heck place like Miami? And the bonus ability of being able to remind the Patriots twice a year that they made a mistake in letting him walk? There’s more to like about the Dolphins than may meet the eye.
Destination: Los Angeles Chargers
Three out of five Shocked Bradys
It seems like the Chargers need Tom Brady more than Tom Brady needs the Chargers. I don’t know … something about being unable to have enough fans to fill a soccer stadium for two years suggest that the Chargers aren’t exactly ready for the big-time when they move into the new bazillion dollar stadium owned by the Rams.
Sure, there’s talent on the Chargers roster. No doubt about that. And L.A. offers everything Miami does and then some in the department of expanding the TB12 health/fitness/lifestyle brand for rick people. That’s all true.
Two problems, though.
Number one: Two years ago, the Chargers were the best team in the AFC. After winning on wild-card weekend, they flew to Foxboro and got stomped out by the Patriots. It wasn’t even competitive, with the Patriots rattling off 31 straight points to take a 38-7 lead in the third quarter. They could have won by 6,000 points if they didn’t let off the gas pedal.
That was a Chargers team that was loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and they were unable to compete. Is Brady going to be eager to join the team that has the same coaching staff in place?
Secondly, is Brady really going to leave New England so he can join the Jets of L.A.? The Chargers have made the playoffs just seven times since Brady entered the league in 2000, going 5-7 in those games. (One playoff win came against the Bengals, so it technically doesn’t even count.)
Destination: Dallas Cowboys
Four out of five Shocked Bradys
Let’s be honest, folks. This one would be awwwwwwwesome.
Just imagine the buzz that every Sunday would bring, with Tom Brady suiting up with a big fat star on the side of his helmet, playing for Jerry Jones, on national TV basically every single week. It would be wild.
And knowing Jerry the way we think we know Jerry, it’s hard to imagine he’s not sitting on his bus somewhere, sipping his Johnnie Walker Blue, picturing that very scenario.
It’ll be so awesome.
But is it likely? Hard to say. The Cowboys have been oddly noncommittal to Dak Prescott, though that might just be part of negotiations.
In any event, is Brady going to the Cowboys? Probably not. But if he did? Oh my my. The football world would go absolutely nuts, all day every day, from now until January.
The Destination: THE BOARD (Unnamed Teams)
Five out of five Shocked Bradys
There could be some “MYSTERY TEAMS” lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. Couldn’t you imagine John Elway sneaking in and making some crazy offer for Brady, the same way he landed Peyton Manning eight years ago? (Side question: How has it been EIGHT YEARS since Manning signed with Denver? Gosh, all of us are getting so old, except for Tom Brady.)
Maybe — I don’t know — Detroit gets involved somehow, despite all that money owed to Matt Stafford? Maybe … Indy? The Giants? (Nah. And nah!) Chicago? Minnesota? SAINTS??!!?!?!?!? (What?!)
Nothing is officially off the table, I suppose. And the very nature of the shock factor would require that any team not “in the running” at this point in time would have to be considered a full-on five-out-of-five BRADYCON 1 level of shock.
The Destination: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Five out of five Shocked Bradys
It’s easy to envision Brady in a number of different places. Tampa, Florida is simply not one of them.
It just can’t happen.
And really, head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht being so open about their interest in Brady kind of reflected a point of desperation on the franchise, didn’t it? It did. (This is my story, so I get to answer my own questions.)
“We’re not saying we don’t want Jameis,” Licht said Tuesday. “We just want to see what’s behind door number two. We just want to gather all of our information.”
Meanwhile, Arians was asked which quarterbacks he’d theoretically take calls from if his phone was buzzing this offseason.
“Tom Brady,” he answered. “Philip [Rivers] is another guy. We’ll see.”
A “lower-ranking Bucs source” even blabbed to The Boston Globe that Brady-to-the-Bucs makes sense.
Jeez, Bucs. We know that pewter is not the most flattering color. And we know that the creamsicle look just can’t make a full comeback. But desperation doesn’t look good on ya. The slow play of the Titans or Dolphins is the much more respectable look in this matter.
Suffice it to say, despite their obvious desire, Tom Brady won’t be calling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How sad for them.