Now that the Patriots' season is over — way earlier than most of us were probably prepared for — the focus can start on a Patriots offseason that will likely be like no other.
And, really, it starts and ends with one person: Tom Brady.
The offseason is barely a day old and we've already got some posturing from both Brady and the Patriots, via Peter King.
"I’ll explore those opportunities whenever they are. If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I love playing football. I still want to play football. I think I still can play at a championship level. I’ve just got to go do it. I’m motivated to get back to work and training.”
“Before the season started,” Kraft said, “it was very important to Tom that he be free to do whatever he wanted at the end of the year. You know what I said to myself? That any person who plays 20 years for this team and helps us get to six Super Bowls, and been really selfless, has earned that right. I love the young man like he’s part of my family. Blood family. Anyone who’s done that has earned the right to control his future after 20 years. And you know, my hope and prayer is number one, he plays for the Patriots. Or number two, he retires. He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest.”
“I’m thinking of all that, of all the quarterbacks who went elsewhere, and I just hope and believe that Tom . . . he is so special that he’s earned the right to do what’s best for him. . . . But I just hope and pray we fit into his plans. He is unique in the kind of leader he is, his work ethic, his selfless nature, everything. Think about it: He’s been with us 20 percent of the life of the NFL.”
I asked Kraft if this had been a melancholy week for him, knowing this could be Brady’s last game as a Patriot in Foxboro. He thought for four or five seconds. “I don’t know if I’d say melancholy,” Kraft said. “I think I just realize that I shouldn’t take for granted how lucky we have been. I saw a stat that the Buffalo Bills haven’t won a playoff game since ’95. Not one. And that brought it home. We’ve won over 30. So . . . how lucky we’ve been. But also we know you can’t rest on your laurels. Things change and you’ve got to have an edge and look to how you keep things going the best you can.”
I'm not much into parsing words — I'll leave that to certain radio hosts. I'll deal with what I know, what I think and how things could play out. But I'll start with an x-factor in all this.