Tom Brady‘s extraordinary spell in New England came to a surprising end last month, when the veteran quarterback announced he had decided to leave the Patriots as a free agent after two success-laden decades and sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Since being drafted as the No. 199 overall pick of the 2000 draft, Brady has won an unprecedented six Super Bowls, along with three NFL MVP awards—tied with Jim Brown, Brett Favre and Johnny Unitas for second-most all-time in the NFL behind Peyton Manning—and four Super Bowl MVP crowns.
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Despite establishing himself as arguably the greatest quarterback in football’s history, however, the 42-year-old remains as hungry as he was when he first stepped into the league after four seasons at Michigan.
Writing in The Players’ Tribune on Monday, the veteran quarterback explained he was eager to prove himself in a new environment and relished the role of being a mentor to younger players in Tampa Bay.
“A lot of veteran players were mentors to me during my years as a Patriot. They were there for me when I signed a second contract,” Brady wrote.
“Along with the opportunity to win championships, the support of older teammates is an amazing part of playing for a team. Doing whatever I can to help younger players evolve as people and players matters a lot to me. I’ve learned so much during my 20 years in New England—and I want to bring those things to a new team. Right now, though, I have things to prove to myself.”
The Bucs will certainly offer Brady a challenge. Tampa Bay’s first and so far only Super Bowl triumph came in 2003, when it thrashed the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, California.
The franchise, however, missed the postseason in the two following seasons and has only reached the playoffs twice since, with its last appearance dating all the way back to the 2007 season.
Brady arrived in New England just months after the Patriots had appointed Bill Belichick as their head coach. After reaching the Super Bowl just twice in the 40 years before Brady and Belichick pitched up in Foxborough, in the two decades the duo worked together the Patriots competed for the Vince Lombardi Trophy nine times, winning the AFC East for 11 consecutive years.
For all their success, however, Brady and Belichick did not always see eye-to-eye and grumblings of discontent between the grew louder over the last couple of seasons. Two years ago, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, whom the latter had drafted in 2014 to be Brady’s understudy.
Convinced sticking with Brady was the right thing to do, however, Kraft made his opinion known to Belichick. The Patriots coach and Brady found themselves on opposite sides of the divide again a few months later, when the former pulled the plug on Alex Guerrero, Brady’s trainer and business partner, who lost the privilege of traveling with the team.
While Brady and Belichick have repeatedly expressed their respect for each other—the Patriots coach was particularly complimentary of his former quarterback after he signed with the Bucs—the suggestion Brady had grown tired of Belichick’s strict methods was often cited as one of the factors that may have convinced the former to seek a new challenge.
While the six-time Super Bowl champion did not go as far as confirming he had reached the end of his tether with Belichick, he made clear it was time for a change.
“Playing for one team for 20 years has been an amazing ride and experience,” he added.
“But doing the same thing year after year brings its own challenges. A familiar rhythm can be comforting and great. But it can also make you lose sight of other rhythms, newer ones that remind you of everything that hasn’t been done yet.”
Almost from the moment the Patriots won their first title when they triumphed in Super Bowl XXXVI, the football world has interrogated itself over whether the New England dynasty was down to Brady’s brilliance or Belichick’s coaching.
The answer may eventually be revealed this season and the veteran quarterback is clearly looking forward to the challenge.
“Changes and challenges are part of life,” Brady added.
“They’re part of athletes’ lives. They’re supposed to happen. They need to happen sometimes.
Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, talks with Tom Brady #12 before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Brady’s two decades in New England came to an end last month. Kathryn Riley/Getty