By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — We all like to think we’re pretty smart. Some of us have the fancy degrees to “prove” it. Smartest Person On Planet Earth, our coffee mugs might even say.
Yet when you really get down to it, we’re all just dogs chasing fast cars, aren’t we?
How else can we explain what’s gone down in the past 24 hours with regard to the tale of Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels?
Forget that Gary Myers kind of came out of nowhere with his report of a broken relationship between the QB and the OC. Forget that Gary Myers may have leaned out over his skis juuuuust a touch when he noted that the warm weather was high on the list of reasons that Brady wanted OUT of Foxboro. Forget that Gary Myers wrote some fan fiction about Bill Belichick leaving the Patriots for the Giants in 2018. (Actually, don’t forget that. That was hilarious.)
Forget all of that and try to recalibrate your amygdala to set this one in stone: The Patriots did not want to re-sign Tom Brady. The Patriots did not try to re-sign Tom Brady.
Perhaps, given the state of our mental caducity in the modern age, we’ll need to add some bold lettering to the mix: Tom Brady is not on the Patriots because the Patriots didn’t try to keep Tom Brady.
Eh, one more time, and let’s bump up that font size to really drive the point home:
The Patriots Did Not Make An Earnest Effort To Keep Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
That ought to do it. For at least a few minutes, anyway.
While yes, we media mongrels all pounced on the salacious scuttlebutt passed along by Myers on Monday, too few of us framed that reporting in proper perspective. It’s as if the past two decades never happened. It’s as if past two months never happened.
Over the past two decades, Brady’s had a working relationship with McDaniels. Has it been perfectly harmonious from start to finish? Well, has anyone’s relationship with anybody ever been perfect?
Ups. Downs. In-betweens. It’s called life. While it’s a fact that Brady was told to take a back seat in the on-field instruction department with his teammates, and while it’s also likely a fact that Brady could not have been happy to be playing the Giants on national TV when two undrafted rookies in the sixth week of their careers were lining up as his second and third receivers all night long, the reality is that Brady and McDaniels had weathered every type of storm possible in all of their years together.
To suggest that whatever happened in 2019 damaged the relationship beyond repair is akin to suggesting that the greatest quarterback of all time left the only franchise he’s ever known because he wanted to feel some solar warmth on his sunburn-proof skin.
Ah, but … well … nevertheless. The columns are being written, and the fangs are out. Maybe Brady’s ATTITUDE was the REAL problem with the PATRIOTS, and not the COMPLETE LACK OF TIGHT ENDS, or the extreme reliance on a 33-year-old Julian Edelman to carry the offense, or the addition of a street free agent to man the left tackle position for half of the season, or the installation of a career backup to the center position all year long. Nope, those aren’t the reasons that the offense struggled in 2019. The reason was Brady’s ARROGANCE and ATTITUDE and his UTTER CONTEMPT for EVERYBODY around him.
(I don’t know if the columns say exactly that. I read the headlines and quickly scanned. I think that was the gist. Again, dogs chasing cars here, people. Ain’t got no time to actually read.)
That’s all … dramatic and intense and makes for a great and compelling narrative tale. But I can’t help but notice that people are overlooking a couple of very important factors.
1. The Patriots didn’t really make an offer to Tom Brady. Seems significant.
2. The Patriots have about 19 dollars’ worth of cap space at the moment. I’m not a math major nor am I an expert on salary cap maneuvers, but I know that it would be a real pickle for the Patriots to try to fit $25 million for the quarterback into that equation.
The first point became clear when Field Yates filed a Twitter report in March that read like direct communication from Belichick himself. That report, filed in the days before the start of free agency, said this: “Many have wondered when the Patriots will make their offer to retain Brady, something that they did in August already.”
That message right there made one thing very clear: The offer we made to Brady last summer is the best one we’re going to give him, and he can take it or leave it.
(Ian Rapoport also reported in more plain language that “there was no offer from NE.” Which was … noteworthy.)
That was, of course, a rather insincere message, because Brady had indeed already left it. That’s why he was set up to become a free agent in the first place, because the offer made the previous summer was not what he wanted. And that was the offer made to him only after he ha-ha-just-joking-but-not-really implored media members to tell Robert Kraft to draft up a new contract for him.
From that point forward, you can speculate any which way you want. Maybe Brady was hoping the team would reconsider matters and make him a more reasonable offer after the season. Maybe Brady was secretly happy that he would be freed from the shackles of Foxboro and free to let loose in a place like Tompa Bay. Maybe he still dialed up McDaniels on the speaker phone on his drive home from every game to go over what worked and what didn’t work in an effort to improve at all times. Maybe he instead flipped to the Yacht Rock channel on Sirius because he didn’t think improvement was possible.
It’s most likely that after getting that perfunctory offer last summer, Brady realized that a better offer wasn’t coming. So he put his house on the market, disengaged from some local commitments, and perhaps even felt slightly bummed out that the greatest partnership in sports history was coming to an end.
Maybe maybe maybe maybe maybe. He is a human being, after all. We think. So he does ride the ups and downs that human emotions produce. To act like he’s immune to feelings would be an odd course of action, no doubt.
But it would be much stranger to act as if any disagreements over play calls or personnel had larger impacts on Brady’s departure than the Patriots not making a bona fide effort to retain his services.
That is … that is the only factor that really matters.
You’ll likely hear 11 million more stories about the end of Brady’s time in New England. But … please. Just try — try — to remember that crucial aspect.