Rumors and opinions regarding The Decision - Tom Brady Edition are nearing LeBron James territory. So far the debates have mostly focused around returning to the New England Patriots or moving out west to quarterback the Los Angeles Chargers. Neither of those, however, is the best route for Brady as he enters his 21st season. If Brady is looking for the best fit football-wise, at this stage of his career, his best bet lies with the team that just knocked him out of the playoffs: the Tennessee Titans.
Before even getting to the on-field weapons, Mike Vrabel is the ideal coach for Brady, who will be 43 when next season kicks off. Vrabel will never be Bill Belichick, we know that. But if the issues between Belichick and Brady, brought to attention in Seth Wickersham's report from 2018, were completely resolved, a potential divorce wouldn't be a discussion today. Vrabel knows Brady, knows what he needs, knows what it takes to work with him, is his friend, and even caught a touchdown pass from him in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Vrabel has begun to make his case as a quality, well-rounded football coach willing to adjust and make hard, season-changing decisions -- such as benching Marcus Mariota.
The only other appealing coaching option that exists for Brady would be following Josh McDaniels, if he actually takes a head coaching job this time. However, at this point, McDaniels' most likely offer will come from the Cleveland Browns. Stranger things have happened, but going to Browns shouldn't be expected to be contemplated by Brady. If McDaniels' time with the Patriots is over, the likelihood of Brady staying put takes a drastic hit.
The Titans would present Brady with far greater offensive options than what he currently has in New England. Brady played at as high of a level as reasonably possible two of his last three weeks with XFL 1.0 caliber weapons at his disposal. In Tennessee, Brady would inherit an emerging stud wide receiver that flashed signs of an unstoppable future in A.J. Brown. But Brown isn't the key to this offense. The play of Derrick Henry, particularly against the Patriots, makes for an ideal pairing for every NFL quarterback. No weapon in the NFL takes the pressure off a quarterback like a bulldozing running back that players are afraid to tackle late in games. As absurd as it sounds, once Henry gets going, choosing to throw the ball at all often seems baffling. Henry is the league's best running back and the play-action opportunities that come with that will be invaluable to whoever is under center come next season.
The Titans also provide Brady the familiarity of a winnable division. The AFC East may actually be more competitive next season than the AFC South. As ProFootballTalk's Michael David Smith broke down on my podcast this week, the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins should all be competitive football teams in 2020. Factoring in division roadblocks makes the Chargers and Bears -- both mentioned in the rumor mill -- less appealing. The Chargers are stuck in the AFC West with the NFL's best player in Patrick Mahomes, who is improving. Chicago has to go through a Green Bay team that has finally equipped Aaron Rodgers with help and Minnesota has an upper echelon roster that just upended the Saints at the Superdome.
ESPN's Mike Reiss provided reasons why he, too, finds it hard to imagine a better fit than Tennessee:
""The Tennessee Titans could offer something no other club can: a coach in Mike Vrabel who is one of Brady's best friends; a Derrick Henry-led power running game (assuming Henry re-signs) to help take the load off Brady in his quest to play until he is 45; and more explosive options at wide receiver and tight end than he currently has in New England. The Titans also have an abundance of cap space at their disposal.""
This Brady is no longer the 2007 Tom Brady or the iteration that can cover up glaring blemishes from September to January. He's best suited to close and make key plays in the clutch. Therefore, if he's not on a team next season that can get him there, he isn't considering retirement seriously enough.
While this is the ideal destination for Brady, how ideal his fit is for the Titans is more contentious. Perhaps some would lean on the side of moving forward with the 31-year-old Ryan Tannehill, who had a breakout regular season. However, despite the win, Tannehill was outplayed by Brady this past weekend in a game he failed to pass for even 80 yards. Tannehill is one bad game away, vs. Baltimore, from wiping away his restored reputation and regressing back to what he always has been -- an average-to-below-average quarterback. Thus if Tennessee has the option and joins the Brady sweepstakes, the six-time Super Bowl champion should make this decision as quickly as LeBron chose the Lakers on that Sunday evening in July.
The Patriots and Titans are the only two teams Tom Brady legitimately needs to look into this offseason-- and he should realize the latter would provide a far better football situation with the discussion-closing opportunity of winning without Belichick.