FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady can be silly to depart the New England Patriots as a free agent, and Robert Kraft and Invoice Belichick can be much more silly to let him depart. Brady as a Los Angeles Charger? Brady as an Indianapolis Colt?

Yeah, I do know. It is no extra absurd than Michael Jordan as a Washington Wizard.

However as a lot as Brady would like to do one thing Jordan didn’t — win a seventh championship ring — the modern-day athlete who would possibly function a greater comparability is one other former Michigan man, Derek Jeter, who understood the ability of being a one-uniform icon and who would possibly enter the Baseball Corridor of Fame later this month as its second unanimous inductee.

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Jeter was massive in New York. Brady is greater in New England. If the 42-year-old quarterback had an ideal end-of-career state of affairs ready for him, comparable to an opportunity to play for the hometown crew of his childhood goals, then perhaps this could be a fairly robust name. The issue is that the would-be successor Brady conquered, Jimmy Garoppolo, has that job nailed down in San Francisco. It is humorous how life works out typically.

If nothing else, you must perceive this after Tennessee made everybody bear in mind the Titans on Saturday at a Gillette Stadium wrapped in a London fog: You haven’t seen the final of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. in shotgun formation. After he initially deflected a information convention query about his future following the Titans’ 20-13 AFC wild-card victory (“I simply got here off the sector,” he mentioned), Brady referred to as the opportunity of retirement “fairly unlikely.”

Given his restraint on the subject of saying something of substance for public consumption, this was Brady clearly Gronk-spiking any likelihood that the pick-six he threw to former teammate Logan Ryan will go down as his 11,614th and closing NFL move.

Brady has mentioned greater than as soon as that he would possibly play past age 45. In September, his father mentioned Brady was in the perfect form of his life and able to going one other 5 or 6 seasons. Tom Sr. additionally talked to on the time about his son’s resolution to place his Brookline, Massachusetts, property up on the market (the value has reportedly been slashed to a bargain-basement steal, at $33.9 million).

Tom Brady cannot depart the Patriots after this loss: Why he ought to keepTom Brady accomplished 20 of 37 passes for 209 yards with no touchdowns and one interception on Saturday. Matt Campbell/EPA

“You don’t need the home sitting available on the market two, three, 4 years in the event you get reduce,” Tom Sr. mentioned. “It is a two-way avenue. The Patriots could really feel they’ve the arsenal to proceed on for a few years after Tommy’s gone, and that makes Tommy disposable. You recognize in addition to I do this Invoice isn’t in the least sentimental along with his ballplayers. If Tommy regresses in Invoice’s eyes, then he turns into expendable, and Tommy would don’t have any selection however to go elsewhere.”

Though Brady performed this season at across the identical declining stage at which he performed in 2013, proper earlier than Belichick drafted Garoppolo to exchange him, he simply received his sixth Tremendous Bowl title 15 minutes in the past. He is nonetheless ok to win No. 7 with some improved playmakers on the surface and with the return of his left deal with, Isaiah Wynn, and his heart, David Andrews. Brady performed all the season with out his beginning heart — and with out Rob Gronkowski as a bailout possibility — and managed to go 12-Four, an enchancment on final season’s 11-5.

Brady was nonetheless ok to win the AFC East for the 17th time. Then he was requested after this gutting defeat if his 11th consecutive division title can be an element to contemplate as he enters free company for the primary time. Brady was basically requested why he would stroll away from the AFC East when no one has succeeded in taking it from him.

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“I simply do not know what is going on to occur,” he mentioned, “and I am not going to foretell it. And nobody must make selections at this level. I really like taking part in soccer. I really like taking part in soccer for this crew. I’ve liked taking part in for this crew for 20 years and successful a whole lot of video games. And once more, I do not know what it appears like shifting ahead, so we’ll simply take it daily.”

Proper from the beginning Saturday, the followers tried to make Brady’s resolution for him. “PLEASE STAY TOMMY” pleaded one massive signal within the stands. When Brady took the sector for New England’s first possession, the group welcomed him with a profound roar. Followers chanted all through the sport: “Bray-dee … Bray-dee.”

However it wasn’t meant to be for the person who had received 20 of his earlier 23 playoff video games at dwelling and whose 30 postseason victories have been 4 higher than the mixed complete of the opposite 11 beginning QBs within the match. Brady delivered a couple of classic passes, together with a third-down dart to Julian Edelman late within the third quarter that reduce by 4 Tennessee defenders, however his offense could not rating a single level within the second half, marking solely the third time that Brady’s Patriots went scoreless in a half in his 41 postseason begins. What’s extra, New England’s league-leading protection could not cease Derrick Henry, who was good for 182 yards and a landing on 34 carries.

Tom Brady cannot depart the Patriots after this loss: Why he ought to keepBrady is 30-11 as a starter within the playoffs, with 73 landing passes and 35 interceptions. AP Photograph/Elise Amendola

Down 14-13 with Four minutes, 44 seconds left and the ball at his personal 11, Brady heard the followers chant for him yet another time. He answered by going three-and-out, however solely after his cherished goal for eternity, Edelman, dropped a straightforward ball that may have earned a primary down and may need rewritten the story of all the night time.

In the long run, pinned on his 1-yard line within the closing seconds, Brady watched Ryan make good on the just about sure pick-six he dropped close to the shut of the primary half, leaving the Patriots to star in a tragicomedy that was the kickoff return that completed their season.

“Thanks for being the perfect followers within the NFL,” the public-address announcer instructed the group as followers headed into the moist and depressing night time. “Please arrive dwelling safely.”

Wanting surprised, Brady engaged in a sequence of handshakes and hugs with a Titans crew that contains a extensive circle of gamers, coaches and executives who realized their commerce below Belichick’s watch in Foxborough. In the meantime, after he was completed along with his midfield handshakes, Titans coach Mike Vrabel ran off the sector like a child operating to see his new pet.

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A 3-time champion linebacker with the Patriots, Vrabel was the proper man to place his previous crew to mattress. Requested about “the Patriot Method” in the course of the week, he joked that Patriot Method is the identify of the road the native movie show is on. But Vrabel embodied Belichick’s system as a lot as any participant who handed by it. He had 56 sacks, 11 interceptions and 10 receptions — all for touchdowns, together with two in Tremendous Bowls — throughout his New England profession. He clubbed St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner within the head (no flag thrown) on the pick-six he threw to Ty Regulation in Belichick’s first Tremendous Bowl victory, and he recovered the onside kick in opposition to the Giants to protect the Pats’ 16-Zero common season in 2007.

A jokester who wasn’t afraid to talk his thoughts, Vrabel typically gave Belichick solutions for what he ought to run on protection. “Once you’re a coach and also you’re calling the defenses,” Belichick instructed him then, “you must go forward and do this.”

Vrabel did that Saturday night time, and he despatched his former teammate, Brady, reeling into an important offseason of the remainder of his life. Would Brady actually comply with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels out the door? Would he actually depart New England behind if Kraft and Belichick do not lastly pay him market worth — or near it?

“I really like the Patriots,” Brady mentioned. “I imply, that is the best group, and taking part in for Mr. Kraft all these years and for Coach Belichick, there’s no one that is had a greater profession, I might say, than me, simply being with them. So I am very blessed, and I do not know what the long run appears like, and I am not going to foretell it.”

Tom Brady cannot depart the Patriots after this loss: Why he ought to keepBrady accomplished 59.three% of his passes to extensive receivers within the common season, his lowest success fee since 2004. He went 7-of-20 (35%) when concentrating on extensive receivers on Saturday, his worst mark in a playoff sport. AP Photograph/Charles Krupa

This must be a straightforward name for the quarterback and the individuals who make use of him. The 1997-98 Chicago Bulls broke up after successful title No. 6, and their lead actors — Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson — all performed and coached after their untimely finish in Chicago.

Even when he is intrigued by the concept of successful with out Belichick, Brady shouldn’t depart for the unworthy franchises that seem like matches for him. He was born in California to be a one-uniform lifer in New England. It is time for Mr. Brady to signal again up.

It is time for No. 12 to get to work on ring No. 7.