Will Tom Brady retire a New England Patriot or finish his career wearing No. 12 in another uniform? That's the question pundits, fans and his team of two decades have been asking for years, and the quarterback has always responded by coming back. But there are real doubts about Brady’s 2020 season.
Brady, who will be 43 in August, has expressed his desire to play in the NFL. His contract expires March 17, and, while he has not ruled out a return to the Patriots, he has also said he will explore other options.
Read below for what Brady has said this season about continuing his career in 2020, some of the conspiracy theories around his future and potential landing spots for the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
WHAT TOM BRADY HAS SAID ABOUT HIS FUTURE
While the rumblings were small, Brady didn’t exactly commit to playing for the Patriots in 2020 while talking to reporters in training camp in August. He acknowledged that he had one year on his deal left but said: “we’ll see what happens.” He said that he plans to play until he was 45.
Brady started to talk about his future more in October. He said in a radio interview that there will be a time where he has had “enough,” but those decisions will be coming at the “appropriate times.”
“That is the great part for me, I don’t know,” Brady told WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show." “I think that has been a unique situation that I have been in because I think when you commit to a team for a certain amount of years you kind of feel like [there is] the responsibility to always fulfill the contract.”
He added: “For me, it’s been good because I am just taking it day-by-day and I am enjoying what I have. I don’t know what the future holds and the great part is for me, football at this point is all borrowed time.”
Days later, he told Fox News contributor Jim Gray on his Westwood One radio program that “nothing has changed” for him and that the goal was still to play until he was 45.
“I don’t know why it's being brought up," Brady said. "I had a good quote that came to mind. Somebody told me that ‘the past and the future are in the mind. I’m in the now,’ and I think that’s a great way to live life. I’m not thinking about many things beyond this week.”
He added: “It’s probably that time of year where you don’t need to focus so much on the wins and losses, you start focusing on a lot of other things and I think the media has the right to do that. I certainly don’t. I’m focused on what I need to do this year.”
Brady said he was focused on staying healthy, something he was adamant about in August.
Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, added a new wrinkle into the quarterback’s future in November. He said in a radio interview that his client planned to play until he was 46 or 47.
“No one thought you could play at the elite level in your late 30s, early 40s. That is something we always felt we could do. I have really wanted to be there to help him accomplish that goal. I certainly do believe that 45 is a very realistic goal,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero added: “We talk about it all the time. Every year he just adds another year. He goes in and he’s like, ‘Guys, I feel so good still. I think I am going to go till 45.’ I am like, ‘OK.’ Now he’s like, ‘Alex, I think I can go like 46 or 47.’”
As Brady’s performances on the field appeared to diminish, questions about Brady’s future got louder. He had 24 touchdown passes, 4,057 passing yards and eight interceptions in 2019. But over his last eight games, his completion rate was only at 57 percent and he only just 11 touchdown passes. He also took 14 sacks in that span.
Brady mentioned in a “Today” interview that even his mother or wife would prefer that he retired because they hate seeing him take hits on the field.
Brady’s adamant line about playing until he was 45 was tweaked just a bit on Dec. 23 in a separate interview with Gray.
“I think I've said for a long time, my tune hasn't changed, I hope to continue playing,” Brady said. “I've had long-term goals, I've had short-term goals, football is a contact sport, you never know when your last game is going to be and you should count your blessing every time you walk off the field healthy.”
Health became a huge factor toward the end of the year. Brady was battling tennis elbow and reportedly suffered a foot injury in December. It could have hampered him during the team’s playoff loss against the Tennessee Titans. After the game, Brady addressed once again whether he would retire.
“I would say it’s pretty unlikely,” Brady said, adding “hopefully unlikely.”
“I love the Patriots. It's the greatest organization. Playing for Mr. [Robert] Kraft all these years, and for Coach [Bill] Belichick, there's nobody who's had a better career, I would say, than me -- just being with them. So I'm very blessed,” he said.
“I don't know what the future looks like, so I'm not going to predict it.”
While the AFC wild card game may have been his last at Gillette Stadium, fans hoping he would stay greeted him with raucous chants and even signs that read, “Please Stay Tommy.”
“I personally appreciate everything they've contributed -- not just this year, but a lot of years,” he said. “Just very grateful for the experience playing this year for the team, this organization, and over the course of my career, too. I appreciate it. I hope I've always tried to do the right thing out there. Who knows what the future holds? So I'll leave it at that.”
He added: “I don't know what's going to happen. I'm not going to predict it. No one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football. I love playing for this team. I've loved playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games. I don't know what it looks like moving forward, so we'll just take it day-to-day.”
In early January, after losing to the Titans, Brady posted an Instagram picture with a caption saying he had "more to prove." He didn't mention anything about returning to the Patriots.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUT BRADY'S FUTURE
There have been some theories and suggestions about Brady’s future being spouted during the 2020 season.
One of the biggest theories came from ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Schefter in October during a Patriots game against the New York Jets earlier in the season.
“Let’s boil this down to the basic facts once again,” Schefter said. “Let’s look at some simple things: Has he put his home for sale? Yes. Has his trainer put his home for sale? Yes. Has he set up his contract to void after this season to become a free agent? Yes. So if he’s selling his home and his trainer is selling his home and he’s voiding his contract? What does that tell you? He’s setting up to move on.”
Schefter added: “There are many times people set up things in their lives to move on and they walk to the abyss, look down and say, ‘Whoa, I’m not jumping now.' So he could change his mind.”
Schefter didn’t clarify what “move on” meant. Whether it means to move on from the Patriots or move on from football altogether was unclear.
It is certain that Brady did put his Brookline, Mass., home on the market in the summer, as did his trainer Guerrero with his Norfolk home, according to Mass Live. The price tag has since come down.
According to CBS Sports, Brady might have Hollywood and Los Angeles on his mind when deciding where to play in 2020. The report cited Brady’s interest in making movies and TV shows as well as training there over the summer as key reasons why he would look to play in Los Angeles.
Coincidentally, it appears Phillip Rivers will not return to play for the Los Angeles Chargers, possibly opening up the door for Brady to join the Chargers as they begin playing at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
NFL broadcaster Cris Collinsworth also predicted he would play for the Chargers.
One commentator predicted that Brady would just retire altogether.
Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Matt Hasselbeck told the New York Post in December he doesn’t believe that Brady returns to play for the Patriots.
“I have a wild projection based on no facts. But I know this firsthand: People look at players and all they consider in the decision is Xs and Os and football. I can tell you from experience that those things are important, but they are not most important in your priorities. Your family is most important: wife, kids, health.”
POTENTIAL LANDING SPOTS
Should Brady and the Patriots part ways after 20 seasons, there may be some teams in need of a quarterback that would come calling for the champion’s services.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Out of the choices listed below, the Chargers might be the most obvious spot for Brady. He will be in Los Angeles where he reportedly desires to be. He would have solid weapons in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams around him. And he would be able to draw Chargers fans to home games, which is something the organization has struggled with since moving from San Diego to the City of Angels.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Brady going to the Colts could only be a possibility if Indianapolis decides they are good enough to move on from a young quarterback like Jacoby Brissett and go to Brady and have a chance to play in the Super Bowl. What makes Indianapolis attractive is playing indoors half the year. Brady would not have to deal with the weather and some of the weapons around him in T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack. Brady is 2-1 at Lucas Oil Field with eight touchdown passes and 944 passing yards.
CHICAGO BEARS: While Indianapolis is attractive because of the climate control inside Lucas Oil Stadium, going to Chicago would be attractive because the Bears have a defense that is Super Bowl ready. The defense is expected to be completely healthy for 2020 and couple that with David Montgomery, Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, might make things interesting. However, the division is way more competitive than the AFC East and it wouldn’t be a cakewalk for Brady to win and make the playoffs.
DALLAS COWBOYS: The Cowboys made their decision on head coach but have yet to extend Dak Prescott beyond the 2019 season. Dallas has the weapons and the offensive line to extend Brady’s career a few more seasons but parting with a young quarterback like Prescott may come back to hurt Dallas. It would be interesting to see whether a shrewd owner wanting to win another Super Bowl would jump at the chance at someone like Brady.