MIAMI — Super Bowl LIV may be between the Chiefs and the 49ers, but a quarterback not playing here is dominating the conversation.
Everyone wants to know: Where is Tom Brady going to play in 2020?
“That’s the question of the year,” former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest said.
“I think everybody’s curious,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said.
“[Rob] Gronkowski and I were talking about it last night,” Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson said. “He thinks [Brady] is going to explore his options. I personally think he’ll stay right there in New England. I don’t know, though.”
Brady will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 20-year NFL career if he and the Patriots can’t agree on a new contract before 4 p.m. on March 17. At that point, his contract will void, making him free to sign with any team that he chooses — the Patriots or otherwise.
Gronkowski said Tuesday that he believes Brady will explore his options — though that doesn’t necessarily mean Brady will make his decision after March 17. Brady could have a good idea a few days or weeks before the deadline of how serious it would be to play for the Chargers, Raiders, Titans or any number of teams who may be interested.
“I think it’s easy to say he’ll be back, but who knows? Twenty years is a long time,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said.
Kurt Warner said he has a hard time envisioning Brady in another jersey, but that it has to be considered seriously. As Robert Kraft pointed out a few weeks ago, Brady is the one who demanded he have the freedom of free agency this year.
“Most guys in that situation would say, ‘I see myself as a Patriot, I want to finish my career as a Patriot,’ and I don’t necessarily hear [Brady] saying that,” Warner said. “It at least makes me think that there could be something else. The question is, is there another team on the landscape that doesn’t have their guy that would make a good fit for Tom Brady or a better fit for New England? I don’t see it now, but I might be seeing things different as Tom Brady is.”
Everyone, it seems, has a take on Brady’s future. The majority of them are of the belief that Brady will be back with the Patriots and will finish his career with one team.
Joe Montana, who played his last two seasons with the Chiefs, told NFL Network that his advice to Brady would be, “Don’t [switch teams] if you don’t have to.”
Joe Namath, who ended his career with the Rams, told ESPN that he hopes Brady doesn’t make the same mistake he did in switching teams.
“It’s almost beyond my belief that he would go to another team under any circumstances,” Namath said.
Danny Amendola, one of Brady’s close friends, said, “It’s hard for me to see him in any other jersey than a Patriots jersey, so I’m holding on just like everybody else is.”
Terry Bradshaw, who played his entire Hall of Fame career with the Steelers, is practically begging Brady not to leave for another team.
“That would be one of the saddest moments in the NFL, to have its greatest player ever, greatest quarterback ever, to not finish it up in New England,” Bradshaw said. “I played against [Johnny] Unitas when he went to the Chargers. It was sad. It was just not a good sight for me. So I don’t think [Brady] will go anywhere. I hope not.”
Even Red Sox legend David Ortiz is hopeful that Brady doesn’t leave.
“That’s not going to happen. I can’t even picture that in my head, TB being somewhere else,” Ortiz told NBC Sports Boston on Thursday. “He’s the face of New England, he’s the face of the Patriots, he’s what we know. I think he’ll be there next year.”
Troy Aikman, who played his entire Hall of Fame career with the Cowboys, said he understands if Brady wants to undertake the challenge of trying to win with another team.
“I think there’s always the lure of wanting to prove you can do it somewhere else, and that’s only natural,” said Aikman, who will be calling Sunday’s Super Bowl for Fox. “But I would be surprised if he’s playing anywhere else other than New England. I don’t think it’s what the owner wants, deep down I don’t think it’s what Tom wants, and I don’t anticipate it happening. I hope it doesn’t happen because I’m not sure the fans want that, either.”
Michael Vick was one of the few people who wants Brady to look around and check out all of his options.
“Tom is living his best life. Let him live,” Vick said. “I just hope he comes back to play another year. People want to say Tom is washed up and his body has given up on him. No. He’s in his prime right now. I respect whatever decision he makes and I definitely support any decision he makes.”
If Brady does leave the Patriots, it almost certainly would be for a team that looks, on paper, ready to win a Super Bowl. The Titans, who just reached the AFC Championship game with a strong run game and defense, could be one option. The Chargers and Raiders also have interesting pieces.
“He’s not in rebuild mode,” McGinest said. “There’s got to be players around him on both sides of the ball.”
McGinest has his fingers crossed about Brady returning to Foxborough, but he knows it’s not a given.
“I do think just because of the relationship and the respect, that the Patriots will get first crack at whatever happens,” McGinest said. “For me, selfishly, I want to see him retire as a Patriot. I have not spoken to Tom about his future, but I do know, like everyone knows, he has options.”