Out of the Park: Brady and Patriots deserve to move on

I was 12 years old when right fielder Ichiro Suzuki was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees. I didn’t keep up with sports news at the time, but the sense of betrayal I felt when I saw the player who had been playing for the Mariners all my life in a Yankees jersey was overwhelming.

The loss of such a big name in Northwest sports was tough, and that’s why I can’t imagine what it will be like for New England Patriots fans to see Tom Brady suit up as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

In an unprecedented time when nearly every league had already suspended or canceled play due to the coronavirus, the news of Brady’s departure from his team of 20 years was perhaps just as unfathomable for those who grew up watching him play.

Although fans knew Brady’s contract was ending, that didn’t make it any easier when he announced his decision to leave the team on Twitter. Brady was flooded with positive messages about his legacy, but there were also many fans who wondered why he would choose to spend the last years of his storied career anywhere other than Foxborough.

One user commented, “Stop it. Retire. For the love of god, stop Favreing,” comparing Brady to quarterback Brett Favre, who came out of retirement three times before officially calling it quits at age 41. Like Brady, Favre spent the majority of his career with a single team — the Green Bay Packers — before short stints with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.

Beyond leaving his longtime franchise, the move can be a risky one for Brady’s continued success as a player. If he wants his seventh ring, he might not earn it on a Bucs squad that went 7-9 last season and faces tough competition in the NFC.

Brady has been part of the same winning formula for two decades under head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, so the traditionally more cautious quarterback’s play under Bucs head coach Bruce Arians is sure to be an intriguing storyline.

Overall, though, Brady’s decision to leave at this point in his career serves a mutual benefit to both him and New England. And I’m not just saying he made the right choice because I’m tired of the Brady-Belichick combo beating my Pittsburgh Steelers.

For a team that reached the AFC Championship in eight consecutive years, losing in the 2019 Wild Card had to be a major letdown, especially given that Brady’s last throw was a pick-6. The Brady-led Patriots squad trended downward last year, starting out a perfect 8-0 before going 4-4 to end the regular season.

I’m not pinning the Patriots’ turnaround entirely on Brady by any means, but this Patriots team appeared very different from the powerhouse we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. When that happens and your quarterback is 42 years old with an expiring contract, it makes sense for the franchise to make some changes.

The Bucs offer Brady an exciting new challenge. Shockingly enough, Brady actually pitched himself to Arians and Bucs general manager Jason Licht, and it makes sense if you think about it. The Bucs haven’t made the postseason since 2007, but Brady will surely take advantage of their receiving corps. He now has the opportunity to see what he can do for a franchise that doesn’t have it all figured out yet.

Brady also has little to lose, which is something that can’t be said for Belichick and the Patriots. Struggling for a small-market team wouldn’t put him under nearly as much fire as struggling for the traditionally top-tier Patriots.

There is always the possibility that Brady’s numbers continue to decline and that he misses the playoffs for the first time since 2008. There are always critics who insist that a 42-year-old has no business continuing to play football, and maybe they’re right.

But whether Brady goes 0-16 or 16-0 with the Bucs, his legacy with the Patriots won’t change. 

Whether you love him or hate him and whether you love or hate his decision, let Tom Brady go out how he wants to — he’s given the league 20 of the best seasons it has ever seen from a player.

Amanda Sturges is a sophomore writing about the impact of sports. She is also a features editor for the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Out of the Park,” typically runs every other Tuesday.