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Why Tom Brady left the Patriots

It still feels weird to see Brady in a Bucs uniform.

AFC Wild Card: Tennesee Titans Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Tom Brady playing in another Super Bowl is not surprising, but it is shocking that he’s again playing on football’s biggest stage for a team other than the New England Patriots. On March 20, Brady announced that he would sign a two-year, $50 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After 20 seasons and six Super Bowl championships with the Patriots, the star QB’s move to Tampa was startling even after months of rumors.

Brady and head coach Bill Belichick became synonymous with the Patriots’ success for two decades. Brady was the quarterback New England drafted and developed after taking him with the No. 199 pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Belichick was hired by New England months before Brady was drafted. They would go on to form what is likely the greatest football dynasty ever. But somewhere along the way, the relationship between the two titans started to go sideways. That ultimately helped lead to Brady’s departure and eventual arrival in Tampa Bay.

No one had known Brady without the Patriots, and for many, they could not remember the Patriots before him. His move to the Buccaneers left people asking questions, so here are the reasons he high tailed it out of New England to Tampa Bay.

Brady wanted a long-term contract. The Patriots didn’t want to give him one

The main reason Brady left the Patriots is because the two sides couldn’t agree on a multi-year contract that would allow Brady to retire with the organization.

The Patriots were able to build a dynasty in large part because Brady was consistently giving the team a bargain on his contracts. Business Insider estimated that Brady left at least $60 million on the table to help New England acquire other players that let the team compete for Super Bowl after Super Bowl. NBC Sports has a full history of Brady’s contracts with the Patriots.

Brady made it clear that he wanted to play into his 40s. He made it clear it was his preference to retire as a Patriot. Belichick — not just the team’s head coach but also their head decision maker in the front office — seemed to look at Brady like any other player. He wasn’t going to give him a golden parachute-style contract as his production on the field began to wane. He wanted to make sure the Patriots could maintain flexibility to continue building championship-level rosters throughout the depth chart.

When Brady’s contract came up again at the end of the 2019 season, the team reportedly declined to give Brady the contract he was looking for. Instead, the Pats essentially handed Brady a one-year contract that paid him mostly through his signing bonus. He would be able to become a free agent for the first time in his career at season’s end if the two sides couldn’t agree to an extension.

Brady didn’t feel appreciated by the Patriots

In April of 2018, Brady was publicly asked if he felt appreciated by Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. His answer: “I plead the fifth.”

Brady and Belichick had gotten into bickering matches over the years and seemed to button it up and make it look professional on game day, but that gets tiring. In an interview with NBC during the 2019 season, Brady said he was the “most miserable 8-0 quarterback in the NFL.”

The lack of appreciation for Brady wasn’t just about money or the stability of a long-term contract. When the infamous Deflategate scandal happened, Brady reportedly felt Belichick and Kraft let him take the fall despite the fact that he previously stood by the franchise through another scandal, Spygate.

There was also conflict between the Patriots and Brady’s business ventures. From ESPN:

The team was defending its fifth Super Bowl, and for the first time, Brady used his platform to advocate a philosophy other than the Patriot Way. He used it to advocate his own business, TB12 Sports, and its accompanying book, “The TB12 Method,” which he wrote with the help of his trainer and friend, Alex Guerrero. The issues in the Patriots building caused by The Method — how it pitted players against the team training staff, how Belichick felt forced to curtail Guerrero’s access — are widely reported and well-known, but the heart of the problem between Brady and Belichick in late 2017 was the same as it was in March 2020: Brady wanted a contract extension.

Brady’s play fell off in 2019. He’s rebounded in 2020.

It looked like Tom Brady might be finished after his final season with the Patriots, when he posted the worst numbers of his career. Somehow, he become revitalized at age-43 playing in Tampa Bay under Bruce Arians. Here’s a look at Brady’s numbers from the last two years.

  • 2019 with the Patriots: 4,057 yards passing, 6.6 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 88 QB Rating.
  • 2020 with the Bucs: 4,633 yards passing, 7.6 yards per attempt, 40 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 102.2 QB Rating.

Ultimately, it was time for both sides to move on

After months of speculation, Brady announced he was moving on from the Pats early in the offseason despite still not knowing where he would end up. Per ESPN, Brady’s decision reportedly came down to the Chargers vs. the Bucs.

On March 20, he made his move to Tampa Bay official.

You can listen to Brady explain why he chose Tampa Bay at his introductory press conference here:

Twenty season, six titles and a lot of history was not enough to hold the dynasty that was Brady and the Patriots together. Everyone wants to feel valued and paid what they deem they are worth, Brady is not exception. He wasn’t getting that, so he walked.

Now, he is set to take the field for Super Bowl LV, but this time in a Buccaneers jersey. For many of us, we never thought we would see the day Brady stepped on the field in anything other than a Patriots uniform, let alone be one win away from a title with another franchise. No amount of history and winning can prevent a player from feeling undervalued.

Usually, winning cures all, but for Brady, that alone wasn’t going to cut it. Brady wanted to choose a healthy work environment and he wanted to win.

With the Bucs, he got both.