Pondering how Patriots might handle PR of Tom Brady departure

Andy Hart
March 09, 2020 - 6:16 am

“Nobody knows anything” about Tom Brady’s football free agency future, at least that’s what we’re to believe from the horse’s hooves thanks to a text relayed from TB12 by former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Sirius XM NFL Radio host Charlie Weis.

Listen to your team news NOW.

Absent a Drew Brees-like, last-minute proclamation of loyalty to his current team, that means there is at least a chance that Brady has indeed played his last game in a New England uniform.

In a little more than a week, Brady will have the opportunity March 18 to sign with a new NFL team for the first time in his 20-year career.

In the days, weeks and months leading up to this point since the Patriots uncharacteristic early exit from the playoffs on Wild Card Weekend, Brady Watch has been analyzed in endless ways.

Will he stay or will he go?

“Nobody knows,” apparently.

If he goes, where might he end up?

Tennessee, Las Vegas, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Indy, Los Angeles, San Francisco and, most recently, a “mystery team” have been offered as logical landing spots.

Were Brady to leave New England who might Bill Belichick tab for the impossible task of replacing the GOAT?

Jarrett Stidham, Marcus Mariota, Andy Dalton, a rookie-to-be-named-later and endless others have been posed as options. (I’ve thrown out Blake Bortles or Blaine Gabbert as a cheap veterans to compete with Stidham!)

That’s all fine and dandy.

But if Brady were to sign a deal to take his talents elsewhere – No Jim Gray-led, Macy’s-sponsored special, Tom, I beg you! – how exactly would the Patriots handle the immediacy of a shocking loss that might be the biggest non-game, non-tragedy sports story in New England history, at least since the Red Sox trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees?

It’s a question that has to at least be considered at this point in some office of Gillette Stadium? No?

After all, some football coaches are fond of promoting the 6 Ps: Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

Let’s call the first option Belichick Departing Player 101.

A year ago, Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement in March. New England issued a press release that included pretty glowing, flowery statements from both Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.

And that was it. No press conference. No teary embraces. No pomp or circumstance.

Nope. By the time Belichick answered questions at the NFL Owner’s Meetings mere hours after Gronk’s retirement became public he was a forgotten man in Belichick’s mind.

Page turned. Moving on.

“I already made my comments on Rob,” Belichick said. “I don’t have anything to add.”

Belichick couldn’t possibly do the same thing this time around with another GOAT, could he? Not with an “icon” of whom he so often said, “there’s no other quarterback I’d rather have.” Not after he so curiously proclaimed the day after the season ended that he was “not prepared” at that time to talk about Brady’s future.

Not even stone-faced Belichick could be so turn-the-page calculated and cold with Brady, arguably the greatest player in NFL history, could he?

If that would be the minimalist approach – one that would certainly ruffle some feathers and bring media- and fan-driven brouhahas of disrespect even in the land of In Bill We Trust – then the other end of the spectrum would be an immediate press conference, maybe one with both Belichick and Kraft not only acknowledging Brady’s departure but answering questions about it. This could be a one-day free-for-all on Brady. Empty the notebook of questions at this one, because even if this unlikely scenario unfolds, it will be the followed by the turning of the page stonewalling of Brady references after that.

Can we really envision, though, Belichick taking to the lectern at Gillette Stadium sometime in the next couple weeks and analyzing the departure of the man he’s paired up with to win six Super Bowls in nine trips? Talking about the irreplaceable guy he has to replace while in the midst of actually trying to replace him and build a team around a new starter for the first time in two decades?

Hard to fathom.

Maybe there is some middle ground.

Of late a number of NFL teams have taken to in-house video productions that include sit-down interviews with team reporters as a way to address key decisions. The Panthers did just that when Carolina moved on from head coach Ron Rivera, owner David Tepper sitting down to explain the move and what he would be looking for in the hiring process.

Might a well-edited package of Brady highlights, Kraft comments and a short softball B.B. Q&A on Patriots.com do the trick?

It’s better than a press release, but won’t appease the masses. Of course, given the topic, nothing really will.

There is also probably some question as to who will decide the Patriots’ approach to a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency, clean-up plan for Brady’s departure.

If we’re to believe, as has been reported, that Kraft is allowing Belichick to make the call on Brady’s future with the team, might the owner use his veto power to at least send TB12 on his way in the most appreciative, appropriate, over-the-top way possible?

Certainly we’ve witnessed over the years that Kraft cares a heck of a lot more about public sentiment and PR than Belichick.

In the end, it probably doesn’t matter.

However the Patriots handle the more-real-by-the-day possibility of Brady moving on in free agency, it will be a classic case of lipstick on a pig.

In the eyes of so many in Patriot Nation, nothing would be good enough.

Moving past Brady won’t happen this March.

Or even next September.

It will take years to get over the idea of TB12 playing in another uniform, regardless of how the team handles the departure in the here-and-now.

Of course most Patriots fans – including Kraft -- hope the question of how the team will handle the PR of a Brady departure is one that no one will ever have to actually answer.

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