Eli Aronson, Staff Writer
As Tom Brady ran out onto the field on Wild Card Weekend for the first time in a decade, the cold winter fog lowered onto Gillette Stadium, foreshadowing the gloomy days ahead for the most successful NFL franchise of the decade.
It didn’t seem right from the get-go: dropped passes, settling for field goals and being unable to slow down the Tennessee Titans’ most dominant player, Derrick Henry. While Winter Storm Henry was rolling through the Northeast, it was Derrick Henry who stole the show, rushing for 182 yards and a touchdown on his 26th birthday.
However, the narrative was not the success of the Titans or how their head coach, Mike Vrabel, was able to outmanage his former mentor Bill Belichick, but rather the seeming end of the Patriots remarkable run as the top dogs of the NFL. Since 2001, the Patriots have won their division every year except once. They have nine AFC Championships, Tom Brady won three MVP awards, and they climbed to the mountain top six times in winning the Super Bowl.
Yet the outlook for the future looks as bleak as ever. After twenty seasons with the Patriots, Tom Brady is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. While Patriots owner Robert Kraft would like to bring Brady back, and it seems like Brady would like to be a Patriot for life, the soon to be 43-year-old may be wearing a different jersey next fall.
Head Coach Bill Belichick could go with a younger quarterback as the team attempts a rebuild. Belichick is known for moving on from players past their prime. However, Patriots fan Mr. Kendrick remains optimistic for the near future. “I do believe we’ll have Brady one more year, as his Insta post suggests he’s coming back, and I firmly believe it’ll be with the Pats,” said Mr. Kendrick.
Similarly, junior Eliza Bufferd feels like although her Patriots struggled all year, the dynasty isn’t over quite yet. “I don’t think we should count them out because they had a bad year,” Eliza said, “they had one of the top defenses, and they also still have Belichick.”
While both Mr. Kendrick and Eliza may have fan biases, many fans around the NFL could also envision Brady staying with the Patriots. Junior Luca Craigie, a Detroit Lions fan, isn’t writing off the Patriots just yet. “I think Brady stays and I think they should pay him what he deserves after he has taken several pay cuts over the years” Luca argued. “Also, we have seen Belichick countless times rebuild this team and put in championship pieces.”
Regardless, Brady will headline the NFL offseason. Should the Patriots choose to part ways with the future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Brady could seek a massive contract. Brady has never been the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, which seems preposterous given the career he has had. Though he hasn’t lacked his fair share of fame, part of him may want to seek what it’s like to be paid the way he should be. Some potential suitors could be the Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, or even the Chicago Bears. All four of these teams have solid pieces and could be in the market for a quarterback. Brady’s first choice seems to be returning to New England, but for now, the football world will have to await his decision.