The biggest story of the offseason probably will wind up as much ado about nothing when Tom Brady re-signs with New England. But what if the 42-year-old quarterback actually leaves his team of 20 years and six Super Bowl titles and, to quote Lebron James, takes his talents to Los Angeles or Las Vegas or Tampa Bay?
The ripple effects would be league-altering, starting with the shocked Patriots organization looking for a new starting QB for the first time in almost two decades.
Joy would filter through the AFC East, a division Brady has owned. Tom Terrific’s new team would immediately rise to the top of the national TV pecking order with prime-time games galore. Brady himself would feel a pressure unlike any in his storied career as he would try to validate another team’s belief in him while learning a new offense and counting on a new supporting cast.
The New England media would have a field day of stories to write about Brady’s departure. The Pats fan base would be analyzing the free agents and incoming draft class like never before with the expectation that coach/general manager Bill Belichick and personnel director Nick Caserio (if he stays) will quickly identify Brady’s successor. They’ll expect another playoff team amid the transition, and I also would expect the Patriots to adjust in short order because of the quality of their organization and leadership.
But it’s a lot easier said than done when the team’s marquee player and on-field leader has departed.
I’ve seen first-hand how the vibe in an organization changes so dramatically when a Hall of Fame-caliber QB ends his long, successful run and moves on. In the case of the Vikings in 1978, it was when 38-year-old Fran Tarkenton retired after a storied career.
Like Brady, Tarkenton was a gregarious personality who was media savvy, always a focal point in the locker room and when the team played home or away. When Tarkenton left, there was a minor depression among the coaches and front office for a short period due to the loss of a legendary and charismatic player who seemingly had been there forever.