Whenever a young child’s parents get divorced, a ton of questions go through the kid’s head.
Whose fault is it? Where am I going to live? How did this happen?
After those initial debates get started, a more superficial thought generally pops into their head:
Even through such a traumatizing event in their life, that child would have a “positive” that comes around towards the end of each year and usually brings double the usual amount of presents.
It’s fitting that former New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman would bring up that internal conflict when discussing the split between current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“I feel like a child that had divorced parents,” Edelman said on ‘Inside The NFL’ before the start of the 2021 season. “I feel like the kid. I’m the kid. You don’t love one parent more.”
The same analogy came up a few weeks later, as Belichick and Brady prepared for their first head-to-head battle after Brady’s two-decade tenure with the Patriots.
“It’s like going to a family barbecue…and you’re the step kid. Or you’re like the kid who has divorced parents and your mom and dad are there,” Edelman told reporters before the game. “You don’t know how to react. Are they going to fight? Are they not going to fight?”
That emotional rollercoaster is one that fans across New England have been riding since March of 2020, when Brady officially announced that his “football journey will take place elsewhere” after his contract with the Patriots expired.
Brady instead took his talents down to Florida to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ending an era in New England that brought the Patriots a whopping six Super Bowl wins over the course of the Michigan product’s 20 seasons with the team.
TB12 thanked Belichick, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and all of the teammates, coaches, and executives he worked with along the way. Belichick and Kraft sang Brady’s praises in written statements. There didn’t seem to be any hard feelings, at least publicly, between the two sides.
But, naturally, fans in New England started to take sides.
Those who ride or die with the Patriots stood firmly in Belichick’s corner, opting for the mindset that Brady ditched the team that had loved him for two decades and helped turn him into the greatest quarterback of all time.
On the other end, Brady’s army of followers did just that. They followed. Flocks of fans chose to continue their allegiance to the six-time Super Bowl winner, opting for the thought that the Patriots didn’t properly appreciate what (or who) they had until it (or he) was gone.
In their mind, if the team truly loved him, they would’ve opened up the checkbook and committed financial resources to him and a wealth of weapons around him.
But, the argument truly isn’t that simple, and it doesn’t have to be as divisive as football fans have made it over the course of Brady’s tenure with the Buccaneers.
Plenty of Patriots fans have turned into that young child that focuses on those questions like “Whose fault is it?” and “Where am I going to live?”
It’s human nature to do just that, especially when there is this sense that betrayal is involved in the debate. For the Tom Brady-specific fanbase, it’s Belichick’s fault and they should shift their allegiance accordingly. For the Belichick supporters, Brady is the enemy and it’s time to “Do Your Job” as a Patriots fan.
Instead, football fans in New England should focus on the positive that the kid thinks about when there’s a nasty break-up or divorce: they get their two Christmases.
Sure, there may be a split custody situation where they spend some Sunday’s watching Patriots games and others watching Brady’s Buccaneers. They may even get the opportunity to watch both, if an agreed-upon schedule works out that way.
But, instead of picking a specific side and sticking to it, fans should be able to respect both ends of the argument.
No, Bill Belichick didn’t turn his back on Tom Brady.
After 20 years in the league, Brady was a 42-year-old quarterback who didn’t look particularly impressive in his final season in New England.
It’s not insane to be hesitant about dishing out a long-term contract to a quarterback who threw 24 touchdown passes in 2019, his lowest total since the 2006 season. Especially when spending that money on Brady would lessen the team’s ability to build elsewhere in the roster.
Even then, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe reported that the Patriots offered Brady a two-year, $53 million deal ahead of the 2019 season, a contract that Brady ultimately turned down.
And no, Tom Brady didn’t say “no” to Bill Belichick and the Patriots without any good reason.
He felt he was deserving of a situation where he could get his money and have a wide array of weapons around him, both of which he wouldn’t get in New England.
Rightfully so, considering the fact that he had won a Super Bowl just 12 months prior, and had led the organization to three straight Super Bowl appearances before the 2019 season.
There was clearly frustration there, coupled with the fact that Brady had reworked his contract and sacrificed money on a multitude of occasions to make things work financially.
Instead, he was left with a receiving corps consisting of Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and two rookies in N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers by the end of the 2019 season. That was a major fall from grace in comparison to a group that included Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon towards the beginning of that year.
So, he decided it was time for a change of scenery, and found a spot where he could get his money, have a litany of talented receivers to throw to, and have room to bring in friends like Brown and Rob Gronkowski.
No, it’s not a situation where everything worked out perfectly for both sides.
Brady went on to throw 40 touchdowns in 2020, the second-best season of his career behind a record-breaking 50-touchdown campaign in 2007. He led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl LV battle with the Kansas City Chiefs, and brought the franchise its first title since 2002.
Meanwhile, Belichick tried to make it work with his equivalent of a rebound, bringing in former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to reinvent the offense. After a bout with COVID-19 early in the 2020 season, however, Newton was never the same, and the Patriots finished with an underwhelming 7-9 record.
A year later, Newton was cut in favor of rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
That disparity in Brady and Belichick’s performances likely heightened the animosity from both fanbases, with a certain sense of jealously kicking in when February of 2021 rolled around.
Like watching an ex living their best life with a new significant other, it probably hurt those on Team Belichick to watch Brady hoist another Lombardi Trophy.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than opting for hatred, football fans in New England should be allowed to root for both Brady and Belichick, rather than having to choose one or the other.
Each was important to the other’s success throughout Brady’s 20 seasons with the Patriots. Belichick’s defenses picked Brady up when the offense struggled, and Brady’s abilities under center saved the day when the game plan didn’t produce the right results.
There isn’t even much of an opportunity for fans to see the two go head-to-head, since their respective teams play each other once every four years (in the usual regular-season scheduling format).
That means the only real times they could affect each other during Brady’s tenure in Florida would be in Week 4 of the 2021 season, and in an unlikely Super Bowl matchup somewhere along the way.
So, those in New England should be able to wake up on Sundays like a kid who gets to go to two different houses for one of their favorite holidays.
They get to open up two sets of gifts, and can have a present from one parent’s house make up for a lackluster game (or gift) from the other. If they get what they want from both parents, it’s even better.
It doesn’t have to be Team Brady or Team Belichick. Instead, fans should be able to look back fondly on the Patriots’ success from the duo’s all-time tenure together.
Now, football fans in New England can enjoy the positive that comes out of a nasty divorce: their two Christmases.