Tom Brady will leave New England after 20 seasons.
Brady announced he was leaving the Patriots in a tweet Tuesday morning. By early evening, the NFL tweeted a cartoon of Brady wearing a Tampa Bay uniform. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that multiple sources said he will sign with the Bucs, although no formal announcement was set.
Brady wrote, “Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments.”
During a 20-year run with the Patriots, Brady won six Super Bowl rings, four Super Bowl MVP awards, three NFL MVP awards and set records for most conference championships (9) and division championships (17).
This past season, Brady became the first 42-year-old quarterback to start every regular season game. Brady has said he wants to play until he is 45.
In a statement released by the Patriots, owner Robert Kraft said: "How do I possibly sum up the depth of my gratitude to Tom Brady for what he's given us these past 20 years, or the sadness I feel knowing it's ending? I love Tom like a son and I always will. He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans. I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship. Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality. While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community."
In his social media posts, Brady thanked everyone with the Patriots organization.
“You all have allowed me to maximize my potential and that is all a player can ever hope for. Everything we have accomplished brings me great joy and the lessons I have learned will carry on with me forever. I couldn’t be the man I am today without the relationships you have allowed me to build with you.”
Brady’s rise from the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft to arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time has become the stuff of legend. And the dynasty created by the quarterback-coach combination of Brady and Bill Belichick became the stuff of legend, too, even though the relationship between the two men was strained at times.
The Patriots also released a statement from Belichick. It read: "Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between. This is a credit to Tom's consistency and what separates him. He didn't just perform. He didn't just win. He won championships over and over again.
"Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation. Tom's success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional. Nothing about the end of Tom's Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone's adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years."
On social media, Brady also thanked all Patriots fans who have witnessed the team's unprecedented success over two decades. He wrote that his time in Massachusetts “has truly been the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life and I have nothing but love and gratitude for my time in New England. The support has been overwhelming. I wish every player could experience it.”
The reaction around the league and around football fandom was swift. Fans from New England paid tribute on social media, as did NFL players.
Former NFL linebacker DeMarcus Ware tweeted, “I guess all good things truly come to an end! What an era for TB12 in New England! You can only grow but so much in the same soil.”
With Brady gone, the Patriots enter unfamiliar territory. The team has not faced real uncertainty at the quarterback position since they drafted Drew Bledsoe with the first pick of the 1993 NFL draft. Now they do.
And now, for different organizations, Brady and Belichick will find out what kind of teams they can build.
This article was originally published on March 17, 2020.
This segment aired on March 17, 2020.