Warm statements from Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft Tuesday don't mask their sad effort to make it seem like Tom Brady's an ex-Patriot because Tom Brady walked out on them.
It's disingenuous, unfair, silly and a futile attempt to muddy the waters so that people can't clearly see the very apparent truth. Brady isn't here because he finally took the hint. He was only here until Belichick could come up with a better solution.
Until he did, Brady was going to be the outdated behemoth TV in the corner of the living room Belichick remodeled around. The kind of thing he'd look at and sigh, thinking, "We gotta get a new one…"
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But instead of owning that practical approach - an approach we long ago got used to around here - the Patriots decided it was a good idea to make it seem like Brady was ghosting them.
The effort actually started last week with the fleet of tweets from ESPN's Field Yates articulating the Patriots (read: Belichick's) side of things and stating in part:
"Brady & the Patriots discussed a new deal, including a multi-year extension. Brady's preference was to not add any years to his deal."
Anyone paying even passing attention to this process knows Brady's "preference" every step of the way was an extension. To suggest otherwise is absurd.
Last August, when Brady's extension failed - again - to materialize and he eventually wrestled a raise out of them, I was told by a source close to negotiations that the template for getting Brady extended was easy. A deal exactly like the Saints gave Drew Brees: two years, $50M.
Tuesday, in Chris Gasper's column wrecking Belichick for the way this played out, there was a tidbit embedded that the Patriots had offered Brady … two years and $50M.
Hmmm. Something tells me the fine print on the Patriots' two-and-50 was a lot different than that of New Orleans.
But now that Brady is in the past, it was safe for someone with the team to fling that to Gasper context-free. Just to win the day.
Would they do that? Hell, last August, the team filtered out news that they'd agreed on an "extension" with Brady when it wasn't an extension at all, but rather a raise. And it took Brady making it clear he was ready to walk to get that raise.
Tuesday, in a round of interviews with reporters, Kraft did a great job getting the message out how important Brady was to him, how much he loved him and how sad it was that the two were parting.
Unfortunately, he couldn't leave it at that. He had to spin it. He had to make it seem like he and Belichick were both crying, screaming, pleading, clutching at the quarterback's coat as he headed for the front door with his suitcase.
"If Tom Brady wanted to stay, we would've worked it out," Kraft told Stephen A. Smith. "But Tom Brady wanted to leave."
Try this: "If Tom Brady wanted to stay for another year, be paid half what Kirk Cousins makes to be part of an offense that was fun-free and punchless in 2019, get his ass to OTAs for a change and stop with the post-game sad-sack routine while we rebuild, we would've worked it out. But Tom Brady wanted to leave."
I hate to be cynical, but since the Super Bowl, Robert Kraft made it very clear that the decision to keep Tom Brady rested with Bill Belichick. Now that Brady's gone and it's just Bill and Robert? Clearly, it was Tom's choice to go.
I asked Kraft point blank on Tuesday if the Patriots could have done more to negotiate with Brady.
"This wasn't about that," Kraft said, offering absolution to his head coach. "Tom was not going to be happy being in our system."
That realization by Brady didn't just crystallize Tuesday morning and send him to Instagram.
He wasn't going to be happy in the Patriots system because the things he needed for that comfort - contractual commitment from the team, a few more skill-position players that weren't plucked out of the remainder bin, an optimistic atmosphere - haven't been there for a while.
And when the Patriots let the rest of the league sniff around Brady's hindquarters without shooing them away, Brady had seen enough. He shared his decision to leave which - tellingly - was separate from his decision on where he'll go. It was an "I'm not playing there anymore…" declaration.
Even though Brady was the one to make the announcement, everyone can still tell this was the Patriots' decision.
And, as such, they are the ones with more to lose here.
As free agency opens, the team is in the midst of a semi-sell-off. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Duron Harmon and Danny Shelton are all out on the defensive side of the ball.
Brady, of course, is gone from the offense. The roster is getting younger. Money is being saved. If the team had drafted productively over the past few seasons, they'd have plenty of burgeoning young talent ready to fill in. But they haven't.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff turnover and restock that began after the 2017 season is still ongoing. This is a rebuild.
There's some time to pass between now and the start of the season, but how they'll do better than 12-4 (2019's record) with Jarrett Stidham in for Brady ... I don't see it.
Meanwhile, Brady is going to a team that went 7-9 last year with a quarterback that was singlehandedly responsible for 38 turnovers (30 picks and eight fumbles). He's joining an offense with talented skill position players and the trickle-down effect of him not giving the ball away is going to help the Tampa defense.
The Bucs lost seven games by seven points or less. Brady is the app for that.
And if he's not? What if Tampa is Brady's Waterloo? What if Bruce Arians' downfield passing scheme and Brady's short-game brilliance don't mesh? What if the perceived slippage of Brady last year was not just everyone around him, but actually him? What then? Will it then have seemed a mistake that he left New England?
We can tell you now, the answer is no. The Patriots let him know it was time to go. No matter what you might hear.