“I don’t want to talk about the past because that is not relevant to what’s important to my future,” Brady said on Tuesday.
It’s the free agent version of “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
Bill Belichick may no longer be Brady’s boss, but his influence will carry on.
Brady did reveal a few details, unwittingly or not. He said the decision to leave New England after two decades and six Super Bowl titles was made in full as he drove over to team owner Robert Kraft’s house on the evening of March 16.
Kraft has said he thought Brady was coming to iron out a new contract, typical of the family-style relationship they had. No need for power meetings among agents. This could be done at the island in the kitchen.
Instead, Brady told Kraft he loved him, he loved the Patriots, but he was leaving.
“We spoke, and we had a great conversation,” Brady said.
Maybe New England thought that, in the end, Brady would never leave. If so, the Patriots had the wrong game plan. If they wanted Brady to finish his career in Foxborough, then they needed to use the two-plus months from the season-ending loss to Tennessee until the start of the “legal tampering” period of free agency to lock him down.
That isn’t the Patriot Way, though. It’s certainly not the Belichick way.
It’s clear that once Brady started studying potential destinations, the equation flipped. That’s especially true as he zeroed in on the Bucs’ offense.
For one, coach Bruce Arians has a track record of offensive success.
“There’s a lot of great players who have worked with Coach Arians,” Brady said.
For another, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is considered a bright young coach.
“Everyone has positive things to say about him,” Brady added.
And, of course, all those weapons — Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Ronald Jones, etc. — to throw the ball to.
“There are a lot of very talented guys on this offense,” Brady said.
If you leave a guy who loves studying film two months to grind game footage, he’s going to start daydreaming.
“That’s what I do,” Brady said. “I watch film and study.”
Meanwhile, Arians and Bucs general manager Jason Licht were plotting on how to get Brady. They knew the team needed to move on from Jameis Winston, whose 30 interceptions upended a promising offense, put enormous pressure on the defense and led to a disappointing 7-9 season for a team with way more potential.
“[We] really never [dreamed] that Tom would be available,” Arians said. “His leadership ability [is what] we need in our locker room to go where we need to go. Once [Brady leaving New England] became a reality, it was full bore ahead to see if we could get it done.”
Very quickly, this became very easy. Brady didn’t ask to change the offense. He didn’t ask for say in personnel matters. He didn’t even request his iconic No. 12 jersey (currently worn by Godwin). He asked about the offense and asked for the phone numbers of his future teammates. The contract was simple: two years, $50 million guaranteed with $4.5 million in potential bonuses each season.
“There were a lot of things that were intriguing to me about the organization and the coaches and the players and the willingness to do everything to win,” Brady said.
Soon after his decision, he was off to Kraft’s house to break the news. Together, they started calling others in the organization.
“We spoke to Coach Belichick and it was a great conversation and got a chance to talk to Jonathan Kraft as well,” Brady said. “All three of those guys have been involved in so many decisions in my life, job-related and personal-related.
“It’s a world-class, first-class organization in every way and I wanted to leave it that way.”
Brady wouldn’t answer a question about if there was anything New England could have done. As expected, he tried to avoid saying anything negative about anything. He said he was blessed to keep playing. He said he cherished the memories. He did reveal that calls to certain now-former teammates were tough.
“The transition has been very emotional with a lot of guys I shared the field with,” Brady said. “And the relationships are what matter the most. I will be friends with my teammates and my former teammates and coaches my entire life. That isn’t going to change because of the jersey I am wearing.”
Brady is changing jerseys, though. To that end, he’s focused on learning a new playbook, learning new terminology, just learning everything he can. He’s been talking with his teammates already, trying to make a connection in lieu of face-to-face workouts that have become impossible due to the coronavirus.
“Football to me is about throwing to the guy who is open,” Brady said. “If he is open deep, that’s where you throw it. If he’s open short, you throw it there. If he is open outside, you throw it there. If he’s open inside, that’s where you throw it. You get the ball to the guy who can do something with it.”
There should be a lot more open guys who can do something with it in Tampa this year than there were in New England.
Know this, the Pats are in the rearview mirror. The Bucs are all that matters. That’s Brady. If he can make something great happen as a 43-year-old NFL quarterback, then this is the only way possible.
“It will certainly be different, but at the same time, that is how life is,” Brady said. “What won’t be different is my approach to football. I will go out every day and try to put us in position to win.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. That’s all I can say. I’m excited to do it.”
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