When Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady takes the field as a visitor for the first time in his career on Sunday, Oct. 3, it will undoubtedly be a very emotional moment for many Patriots fans. Their golden boy, their hero, in a different uniform and competing against their team. Many will sit back and wonder: How could this have happened? How could you let a guy like that just get away? What was Bill Belichick thinking? These are all questions you should consider when the Pats are trailing 38–7 in the third quarter. I kid, but in all seriousness, the breakup of the greatest coach-quarterback combo ever was not only inevitable but necessary for both of them.
Brady's last year in New England, 2019, was a trying one, despite the team's 12–4 record. Brady had, statistically, the worst season of his career as a starter, putting up career lows or near lows in almost every major statistical category. Despite starting the year 8–0, the Pats went 4–4 down the stretch, missed out on a first-round bye, and ended up getting bounced by Tennessee in the wild card round. You know the rest. Brady leaves, dominates in Tampa, wins another Super Bowl, while the Pats stumble to 7–9 and miss the playoffs. The story of "Tom won! Bill lost" is so played out on Boston sports talk radio that hearing even a snivel of it makes you want to call PETA to report animal abuse in the form of continually beating a long-dead horse. But that does beg the question: Would Tom Brady still be dominating at the level he is in Tampa if he was still in Foxborough? The answer: probably not.
For all the haranguing about "Not givin' Tawm [sic] enough weapons!", the Patriots actually did make a concerted effort to surround him with talent in his last year. They drafted a wide receiver in the first round, N'Keal Harry, who has yet to show that he can play at the NFL level. They signed Antonio Brown, who ended up getting himself cut due to off-the-field problems. They traded a second-round pick for veteran wideout Mohamed Sanu, who, I'm sorry, was just awful. The point is, Belichick tried to give Brady weaponry to work with; it just didn't pan out. It happens.
Compare this to Tampa Bay, who, even before Brady went there, had arguably the best starting wide receiver combo in the league in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But that wasn't enough. He got the Bucs to sign Antonio Brown and trade for his longtime tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots, hamstrung by salary cap issues heading into 2020, had no ability to give him such weapons. If Tom was still a Patriot in 2020, however, would they have been at least better, if not great? Probably. But being 9–7 instead of 7–9 would not have been good enough for the GOAT. He wanted to be somewhere he could play at the level that he wanted to play at. It became painfully clear after 2019, that said place would no longer be New England. As somebody once said, all things must come to an end, Brady spent 20 years as the Darth Vader to Belichick's Emperor Palpatine, as the two combined to rule the NFL galaxy with an iron fist. But eventually he wanted to strike out somewhere different, and he should be proud of his success there. That should not diminish, though, all that he accomplished beforehand.