More so than perhaps any previous owner and player in NFL history, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft have a father-son relationship built over 20 years of working together.
Kraft, the father, has done everything he can, both financially and personally, to put Brady in the best position possible to succeed. Brady, the son, has rewarded Kraft by winning six Super Bowls, playing in three more, and dominating the NFL for nearly two decades. But while the personal relationship will never deteriorate, the professional relationship could be headed in that direction and both sides seem resigned to that reality.
In a story written by Peter King, Brady and Kraft discussed what's next for the Patriots long-time quarterback and both signaled it'll be Brady's decision to make and it could involve him leaving New England.
""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.”"- - Tom Brady
""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.”"- - Robert Kraft
Kraft said Brady earned the right to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Patriots can't place the franchise tag on him and he can sign with whatever team for whatever price he wants. While that's true, it places both parties in an awkward position.
The simple fact is that Brady regressed this season and, at 42, is in the closing period of his career. The Patriots' dynasty, as much a product of Bill Belichick as Brady, needs a new star quarterback to develop in order for it to continue. (If you don't believe me, look at the San Antonio Spurs, who couldn't keep their young star happy (Kawhi Leonard) and now are among the worst teams in the NBA after two decades amongst the best because of aging stars who eventually retired.)
Would Brady want to help a young QB develop, knowing he was the successor to the throne Brady help build? He hasn't shown a willingness to do that so far and has actually pushed out would-be successors like Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady might also want top QB money this offseason, which at this point in his career he isn't worth and Belichick isn't one to overspend. There are also rumors of discord between Brady and Belichick and the Patriots' lack of star-power on offense, something Brady could find if he left for, say, the Bucs or Colts or Chargers.
There are a lot of moving parts to this equation and the both sides will likely try and make it work. It's Brady and the Patriots, after all. They always seem to find a way.
But Brady and Kraft are at least bracing for the inevitable, something we haven't seen before. That alone is an interesting admission for a pseudo father-son duo who have dominated the NFL since 2001.