It was always believed Tom Brady wanted to become a Raider in 2020. Or at least had some level of serious interest.
I mean, Dana White even told us so.
But no matter how true the UFC president’s contention that he helped broker a deal for Brady to make Las Vegas his home and that then-coach Jon Gruden nixed things at the last minute, know the window for such a move was open then.
It’s closed now.
And that’s good for the Raiders.
It was one of the biggest stories of the offseason, whether Brady would continue to play or retire for a second time before his 46th birthday in August. The answer came Wednesday via a social media post. He’s done for good.
Truly grateful on this day. Thank you 🙏🏻❤️ pic.twitter.com/j2s2sezvSS
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) February 1, 2023
Regression set in
It wasn’t enough of a reason to come to the Raiders, or shouldn’t have been, that Brady has such a close relationship with coach Josh McDaniels and teamed with him to win all those rings in New England. Familiarity isn’t a bad thing in the right circumstance. But this was not that.
“Regressing would be a very difficult thing for me to see,” Brady told Sports Illustrated in 2021. “As soon as I see myself regress, I’ll be like, ‘I’m out.’ I don’t really want to see myself get bad. So it’s just a constant pursuit of trying not to be bad.”
He needed only look at the film from this season’s playoff game against Dallas to know the time to retire was now.
Guys get old overnight in this league. It’s not a gradual process. And even though Brady competed at the highest of levels longer than anyone — the man won a Super Bowl for Tampa Bay at age 43— his play this season more than suggested such regression had taken place.
He threw for 25 touchdowns, second fewest in a decade. His quarterback rating (90.7) was his lowest since 2019 and second lowest since 2014. He failed to average at least 7 yards per attempt.
There were other factors in Tampa Bay, which threw as much as any team in the league. Issues along the offensive line. An anemic running game,which helped inflate Brady’s yards passing numbers (4,694). Injuries.
But it was more than all that. The Raiders finished 6-11 and suddenly the win-now narrative insinuated by management’s preseason moves changed. Now, the company line is about needing more time to build the sort of roster capable of making a legitimate run to the Super Bowl.
This team has serious needs, particularly on a defense that desires help at most all spots. It needs to finally discover a more-than-competent offensive line. All of this takes time, more than what Brady could have delivered.
Dollars and cents spent elsewhere make a lot more, well, sense, than would have signing Brady.
Hey — where have we heard this? — it’s a process.
Younger, more mobile
Think of Brady as the back-to-the-basket center in the pace and space world of basketball. It was, then, actually more of a philosophical question than a Tom Brady one for the Raiders.
Who do you want to be at the position now dominated across the league by much younger, more mobile players? How best to counter the Patrick Mahomes’ and Justin Herberts’ of your own division?
You can find younger and likely cheaper veteran bridge options than Brady if the plan is to draft a quarterback and have him learn as an understudy. You can find others to fill the temporary role.
It was February of 2017 — the night Brady orchestrated the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to overcome a 25-point second-half deficit and shock Atlanta 34-28 in overtime at NRG Stadium in Houston — when I wrote this:
The subjective part is dead for anyone with even an infinitesimal amount of unbiased vision, the rationalization that any quarterback in NFL history should be placed ahead of Brady on the register of the greatest to play the position now reduced to rubbish.
It’s all still very much the case. Nobody ranked ahead of Brady.
But that doesn’t mean he was the best choice for the Raiders in 2023.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter