Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time. Full stop.
It is hard to compare him leaving the Patriots to any other sports figure leaving town for another team. But Patriots Nation, I'm here to tell you that you are not alone and you will get through this.
The day was March 4th. The year was 2008. I had just moved into a new apartment and did not have access to a TV so I was listening to Brett Favre announce his retirement on the radio.
Like any life-altering event, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I can still smell the bleach of the cleaning supplies I was using to scrub down my new bathroom. I can still remember falling to the floor in a heap of tears as the quarterback I loved and rooted for since high school tearfully announced he was leaving Green Bay.
Of course we all know how this ends. Favre un-retired with the frequency most of us order things from Amazon. But that chilly March day was the beginning of a long period of grief and loss.
Here is my advice on how to move through the five stages of grief.
Hey Pats fans, you already went through this stage.
All of the top minds in football told you this day was coming. Every opinion show predicted an ending. (OK, maybe not the Buccaneers part.)
We told you that Tom was fed up. We told you Bill wanted to move on and you refused to listen. You spent the past three months in denial. It's time to move on to the next stage. And next time, maybe think twice before you call us in the media dummies. We were right. Nah na na na boo boo.
I'm not sure who gets the credit, but someone once said "holding on to anger only hurts you, not them."
So what. Get angry. Blame Bill. Blame Tom. Blame Robert. They all deserve some of your wrath. You feel cheated. You feel abandoned. Who are you supposed to cheer for now??? Do you root for Tom and Tampa? Are you a Bill loyalist? Why are you forced to choose? You know why? Because your team let you down.
I may or may not have thrown out my Favre jersey when he signed with the Vikings and yelled expletives at the TV every time he took the field in 2009. It felt good. Curse up a storm. Someone also said the more intelligent you are, the more you swear.
(Expletive) ‘em all right now.
I think I started going to church again after Favre left the first time. I thought if I prayed hard enough, Aaron Rodgers would seamlessly pick up where Brett Favre left off. The Packers went 6-10 in Rodgers' first year behind center. Make whatever connections you might like.
The good news is that in 2009 A-Rodg took Green Bay back to the postseason as a Wild Card and two years after that, they won another Super Bowl.
You'll make deals with the devil when Jarrett Stidham (or anyone else) takes over. And you should. Light candles. Wear your lucky underwear. Have Pedro Cerrano on speed dial. Even if it takes a few years, it might lead to another Lombardi.
This will come in waves. It is a constant.
The first time you see Brady holding a Bucs jersey at his introductory press conference. When he actually shows up to OTAs and is enthusiastic about working with young receivers. The first time he runs out of the tunnel at Raymond James Stadium.
All of the mile markers will send you into a sadness you thought had passed. But then…
Brady will throw an interception at a crucial point during the NFC Championship Game in the Superdome and you'll laugh.
You will laugh hard and mumble to your friends, "See, the grass isn't always greener. Even in Florida."
A guide for Patriots fans to manage the Tom Brady stages of grief originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston