Tom Brady mystery unraveled: Breaking down which NFL team chose ‘that (expletive)’ over the GOAT

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Thanks to Tom Brady, the NFL industrial complex has a mystery to try to solve in the dead of the offseason. We have a case to crack, a riddle to unravel, in the dead of summer.

Just who are those “mother******s” that Tom Terrific was excoriating on “The Shop” on HBO? It’s given many a media schlub like me something to write and talk about for a solid week now, and it doesn’t look like it’s fading anytime soon. When a GOAT, still doing his thing coming off yet another Lombardi (and arguably the most improbable of his ridiculous career), gets as candid as that, there’s going to be some staying power, my friends.

It’s going to withstand several media cycles and is not going away anytime soon. That clip will live forever, and Brady is the type of dude to let it linger during a dead period right into training camp. He’s going to enjoy the theatre of it all, and having many a rival quarterback — and front office and coaching staff, for that matter — sweat it out.

Just what kind of backwards operation was Brady talking about, anyway? Who could that mystery team/GM/suspect QB be?

I’m not going to steer you wrong and tell you that I know for sure. I most definitely do not. And the larger reality is that the statement could be applied to any number of teams. A lot of teams. Including, first and foremost, the club Brady departed to eventually make his way down to Tampa. It cuts a wide swath. It’s a pox on many a front office. Frankly, a lot of guys could wear this L (or, well, MF, in this case).

It got me to think back to last offseason, when Brady was on the free agent market, shopping his wares, choosing from among his suitors. How many front offices, in hindsight, look pretty foolish for not doing whatever was in their capacity to get Tom Bleeping Brady the one and only time he was ever going to be on the free agent market? How many owners and decision makers should have been far more proactive? How many misread Brady’s abilities and their team’s quarterback room and conspired to botch this?

Of course, Brady wasn’t going to end up in any situation he didn’t want to be in. No one was going to talk him into going someplace he didn’t want to be. It’s not all about money in this rare case — which helped foster the Patriots dynasty — and Brady was going to be very particular about who he chose to relaunch his career with. Weather and geography and lifestyle would all matter. But I can’t help thinking back to March 2020 and recalling who chose to largely sit this out, or lacked the resolve to make it happen, and it’s kind of crazy to think how many missed the mark.

Who could the mystery team be that chose to stick with “that” guy rather than go the distance to try to lure the GOAT? Alas, there are far too many contenders. Let’s go division by division, shall we:

AFC East

Well, we know the Patriots’ story, and the Bills were wedded to Josh Allen’s development and Brady wasn’t going to end up in Buffalo anyway. The Jets were a total train wreck with a coach everyone knew wasn’t long for the role. Then there are the Dolphins. I will say I heard more chatter and scuttlebutt and theories about Brady and Giselle Bündchen coveting a spot on South Beach more than perhaps any other team. There were countless theories (some including an eventual ownership stake that many a well connected fellow would pass along). For me, any potential marriage ended when Miami chose Chan Gailey to run the offense (not a fit with Brady, and, well, he was gone in a year anyway). The Dolphins had not drafted Tua yet. You could connect a lot of dots and talk yourself into it making sense. Two games a year against Belichick would have been wild.

NFC East

Not really any fits here. Dallas was well down a road of trying to sign Dak Prescott to a long-term deal and he was already on the franchise tag. WFT? Nah. That wasn’t on Brady’s radar. The Eagles were wedded to a Carson Wentz offense after paying him huge bucks (not that it worked out), and the Giants were deep in a rebuild even if they can’t admit it to themselves or others. But Brady knew. No one here fits.

AFC West

Given his West Coast ties and Hollywood production aspirations, many close to Brady believed the Chargers would always be in this thing. And they clearly did kick the tires. Everyone knew Philip Rivers wasn’t going to be back. L.A. had some very talented pieces, but is this the kind of major move the Spanos family pulls off? Is this their lane? This is pre-Justin Herbert. You have to wonder if Brady had them in mind when he went off. And the Raiders obviously are being looked at with much scrutiny here, too. Is Derek Carr that guy? Iconic franchise in an international destination opening an amazing new stadium? Hmm. The Broncos could very well fit as well, with Drew Lock fitting the description, but I don’t think that would have been a match, anyway. Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes, ’nuff said.

NFC West

The Rams, for all that went into them finally disengaging from Jared Goff one year later, should have been in this thing. Goff’s extension was always bizarre. They could have kept all their picks and added TB12 in L.A. Alas, Goff’s dead cap would have made that impossible a year ago. You can’t help but wonder about the 49ers — with Brady’s former understudy at the helm in Jimmy G, the team trying to trade for Tom before and it being Brady’s hometown team — so they will get some scrutiny in this case. The Cardinals were all-in on Kyler Murray. Seattle has Russ.

AFC North

The Steelers should have been all about something like this, but it was all about Big Ben and their cap is always right. The Bengals were taking Joe Burrow. The Browns, with Brady, may have really been a thing, but do we see Tom in Cleveland? Can’t be them. The Ravens have Lamar. This isn’t Brady’s division.

NFC North

Remember back before the Packers were in a full-fledged feud with Aaron Rodgers? Yeah, me too. Detroit is a non-starter. No way Tom plays in Minnesota, although them doubling-down on Kirk Cousins a year ago did surprise some people. And the Bears should have been recruiting Brady like crazy, though in the end I don’t think he goes there or that they are the team he would be referencing here.

AFC South

Let’s be real, Brady wasn’t going to any of these places or thinking about going to any of these places. Nashville, maybe, kinda, I guess, though they had hitched their wagon to Ryan Tannehill for good reason.

NFC South

I wouldn’t downplay the Saints’ odds here at all. Drew Brees was done and Brady and Sean Payton would have been an amazing combination and they were loaded and in win-now mode. Cutting the cord with Brees would be tricky, but Brady just went through a messy divorce himself so I don’t think that would have held him back here. No way he was even thinking about the Falcons or the Panthers and he picked the Bucs.

So, yeah, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vegas. Hard not to keep coming back to them. The precise culprit probably is somewhere at the top of this paragraph. Brady will likely never tell … or at least not for a long time. And the bigger truth is that at least eight to 10 more teams should have been all over this, and they missed out, too.