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Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots?

Vincent Frank

Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots? It’s an age-old question — one that has so many different layers to it.

Back in March of 2020, Brady shockingly signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after spending 20 seasons in New England and winning a whopping six Super Bowl titles.

Rumors of a rift between Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick acted as a backdrop here. There’s also a belief that the two had just worn out their 20-year relationship. That’s a long relationship when it comes to the professional sports world.

There’s a ton of different layers to this. We’ll look at all of them when answering the following question: Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots?

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Tom Brady contract situation in 2019-20

tom brady contract
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of the things we must consider when looking at why Brady left the Patriots. For the seven-time Super Bowl champion, it was not entirely about money.

In fact, Brady’s average annual salary of $25 million ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks, behind the likes of Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo. Tampa Bay knew this when it signed him to that two year, $50 million contract.

For Brady, it was all about building a roster capable of Super Bowl contention and some type of long-term commitment. Reports at the time of Brady’s departure from New England concluded that he wanted said commitment from the Patriots. Estimations were that Brady left a total of $60 million on the table during his time with the Pats to help them build a Super Bowl contender.

Once the 2020 offseason got going, Brady’s sacrifices had apparently grown tired. This came following an offseason in 2019 that saw Brady look for a longer-term contract from the Pats.

It never came to fruition. Instead, New England restructured Brady’s contract as a way to save cap room in 2019. In return, the Pats gave GOAT a guarantee that he wouldn’t have the franchise tag placed on him in March of 2020. Hence, why he hit the open market in the first place.

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Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots? He wanted more roster input, clashed with Bill Belichick

why did tom brady leave the patriots?
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to Brady’s contract issues, it became clear that he was upset over not having any real say over roster construction. Belichick acts as the Patriots’ general manager. He continued to have roster control and barely interacted with Brady within the confines of the decision-making process.

For Brady, this was one of the last straws. He had given up so much financially to help build a winner in New England. Where was that money going? Was it helping create sustained success with the Pats?

As for Belichick, he apparently had a differing opinion on this.

“Belichick told associates that every organizational decision now was in support of Brady, geared toward pleasing him and making him successful – and that Kraft meddled with the team, sometimes with opinions, sometimes with restrictive budgets.”

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham in his book titled, “It’s Better to be Feard”

Brady’s issues with Belichick didn’t stop there. The head coach had continued concerns over the quarterback’s relationship with fitness guru and close Brady friend, Alex Guerrero, who has been seen as a devisive figure within the organization.

Too often, Guerrero had access to the Patriots’ locker room and other players. He collaborated with Tom Brady on the “TB 12 method” and is seen as one the larger figures in the quarterback’s life. According to Wickersham, Belichick banned him from the team plane. This created a rift between the all-time great head coach and his quarterback of the past 20 years.

Tom Brady wanted a change of scenery

why did tom brady leave the patriots? he wanted a change of scenery
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a simpler explanation to answer the question “why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots?” It’s a rather easy connection. After starring under Belichick for two decades and having unprecedented success, the GOAT wanted to prove that he could do it without the head coach.

Debates had raged in New England and around the NFL world. Said debates focused on who was most responsible for the Patriots’ dynastic run. Some concluded it was Belichick’s coaching prowess. Others believed that the head coach wouldn’t have had the same success without the greatest of all-time.

Brady touched on this mere weeks after he signed with the Buccaneers back in April of 2020. He didn’t push back against that narrative. At the very least, he touched on his legacy being tied to Belichick.

“I think it’s a pretty (expletive) argument actually that people would say that. Because, again, I can’t do his job and he can’t do mine. The fact you could say, ‘Would I be as successful without him, the same level of success?’ I don’t think I would have been. But I feel the same in vice versa as well.

To have him allowed me to be the best that I could be. So I’m grateful for that, and I very much believe he feels the same way about me because we’ve expressed that to each other.”

Tom Brady to Howard Stern (April 8, 2020)

Brady didn’t get into specifics regarding his relationship with Belichick. He did not throw his former coach under the bus after their divorce. This leads some to believe that the quarterback simply wanted to prove that he can do it without his all-time great counterpart.

Boy, did he. When looking at Brady’s success between Tampa Bay vs New England over the past few seasons, it’s hard to argue that he didn’t make the right decision.

  • Tom Brady stats (final two seasons in New England): 63% completion, 8,412 yards, 53 TD, 19 INT, 92.6 rating, 23-9 record
  • Tom Brady stats (first two seasons in Tampa): 67% completion, 9,949 yards, 83 TD, 24, INT, 102.1 rating, 24-9 record

In his final two seasons with New England, Brady led the team to a Super Bowl title following the 2018 campaign before losing in the wild card round the following year.

In Tampa, he won the title his first season before a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoffs this past January.

Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots? In the end, it’s a mixed bag

why did tom brady leave the patriots?
Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • The Tom Brady contract
  • Perceived rift with Bill Belichick
  • Lack of power in player personnel matters
  • Wanting to try new things

These are the four main backdrops when looking at why Tom Brady left the Patriots.

However, it’s all a mixed bag. Egos behind the scenes likely played a role here. A Head coach doesn’t win six Super Bowls with sustained success without having an ego.

As we’ve seen with Brady since he joined the Buccaneers, ego has been the name of the game. It was just earlier this offseason that he announced his retirement from the NFL after pushing back against concrete reports that he was indeed stepping away.

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For Brady, it was all about announcing it on his own terms and growing his social media presence. He wasn’t going to have someone like ESPN’s Adam Schefter scoop him for this story. It wasn’t going to grow his brand.

A few days after Schefter and every major sports media outlet reported Brady had retired, he announced it officially via social media.

Within just the matter of a few weeks, Tom Brady then took to social media again to announce that he was coming out of retirement. That’s a big ego needing to be stroked.

Either way we spin it, Brady’s legacy has not been tarnished by his departure from the Patriots or his short-lived retirement. He’s a seven-time Super Bowl champion and an all-time great.

It’s still interesting to look at the dynamics that led to Brady leaving New England after 20 years and joining what was then a non-consequential Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization.