By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Here’s a fun one. (Well, it’s still not fun if you’re from New England, but it’s fun for the rest of football fans.)

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While we know now that Tom Brady left the Patriots last year and surprised everybody by joining up with Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped a little nugget this week that indicates Brady could have ended up with the New Orleans Saints.

That possibility obviously closed when Drew Brees decided to return for his age 41 season.

“Lo and behold, [Brees] came back in March. And by the way, if he hadn’t come back, I really believe that there’s a chance that Tom Brady would’ve been the Saints’ quarterback this year, and he would’ve been playing in New Orleans, not Tampa,” Schefter said on The Rich Eisen Show. “But that’s a different story.”

Schefter was talking about Brees and the possibility that he might actually play in 2021. But the Brady story is frankly much more interesting.

It’s fascinating in the sense that one could create an entire hypothetical timeline for both the Saints and the Buccaneers throughout the 2020 season.

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For the Saints, it has to be tantalizing to wonder how much the offense could have benefited if the stronger-armed Brady had worked in conjunction with Sean Payton. Brees missed four games due to broken ribs, so the statistical comparisons don’t exactly line up. Nevertheless, Brady averaged 29 more passing yards and 0.4 more touchdowns per game than Brees (and that’s even when eliminating Brees’ brief work vs. San Francisco, when he suffered the rib injuries). Brees outperformed Brady in both regular-season head-to-head matchups (Brady had one of the worst games of his career in the second meeting), but Brees was terrible in the playoff meeting, throwing three interceptions with just 134 yards on 19-of-34 passing.

Brady’s durability (the most underrated asset of the course of his eternal career) and ability to play through January came through yet again, while Brees suffered the fate of most mortals who try to play tackle football after the age of 40.

From the Bucs’ perspective, it’s even wilder. We know now that the team was certainly good enough to win a Super Bowl. Would they have reached that promised land if they had re-signed … Jameis Winston? Not likely. They also wouldn’t have gotten Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, the two players who caught Brady’s three touchdowns in the Super Bowl. They might not even have gone after Leonard Fournette, who scored the Bucs’ other touchdown in Super Bowl LV.

Considering they were coming off a mediocre 2019 campaign with largely the same roster, the Bucs — a team with two playoff appearances and zero playoff victories in the 17 years after their first Super Bowl win — seemingly would have continued to blow in the breeze as a largely forgettable NFL franchise.

Instead, they got Tom Brady, and now they’re world champions.

We’ve witnessed the type of impact that Brady can instantly have in joining an organization (taking the Bucs from 7-9 to the Super Bowl) and also in leaving an organization (the Patriots dipped from 12-4 in 2019 to 7-9 in 2020). While the Saints were always going to leave the door open for their franchise cornerstone, it’s nevertheless fun to wonder how differently the 2020 NFL season would have been had Brees walked away and Brady shown up to work in the Superdome.

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As tends to be the case with most matters involving Brady, NFL history would have been changed forever.