Tom Brady’s departure leaves Bill Belichick in peril

New England Patriots

Tom Brady is headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots. His former coach, Bill Belichick, is in for a rough time.

Bill Belichick is arguably the NFL’s all-time greatest coach. He’s also about to be an emperor unclothed.

With Tom Brady headed south for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Belichick is left to rebuild his sandcastles. The Patriots are the proudest of franchises, but the upcoming season will humble them in ways most college-age kids can’t fathom.

Belichick is a genius. He always has a plan. But there’s no plan for losing the greatest quarterback to ever live.

Perhaps there once was in Jimmy Garoppolo, but that’s long gone. Jarrett Stidham isn’t the answer, and neither is Jacoby Brissett, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or fill-in-the-blank. To varying degrees, some would keep the Patriots competitive in the wide-open AFC East, but this is Belichick. This is the Patriots.

It’s the equivalent to the New York Yankees winning 85 games. They might as well lose 100.

New England hasn’t only watched Brady depart this offseason. Fabled offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired, while center Ted Karras, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy left in free agency.

Even without signing any notable players, New England has $3.2 million in cap space. This doesn’t account for the $13.5 million dead cap hit for Brady, which registers at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday in accordance with the new league year.

All of this leaves Belichick in the unenviable position of starting over at age 67 (68 in April).

The NFL’s oldest active coach has Julian Edelman and little else at the skill positions. His defense is pillared by Dont’a Hightower, Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty, but concerns abound around them.

Belichick may be a genius, but even geniuses can’t build houses without tools.

In the historic context of it all, this is a seminal moment in league history. It’s Joe Montana going to the Kansas City Chiefs or Johnny Unitas trading in the horseshoe for lightning bolts with the San Diego Chargers. It’s obscene in the visual sense and jarring mentally.

Of course, the argument about whether Brady or Belichick has been more important to the six championships and nine Super Bowl appearances will now rage.

In truth, it has always been a waste of air. Without both, neither reach the heights they’ve seen.

Brady needed Belichick to believe in him, build a fantastic roster for 20 years and devise historic gameplans. Belichick needed a quarterback who loved football to same the degree as he does, a quarterback smart and talented, willing to push himself beyond the norm.

Now, Brady is headed to Tampa. Belichick is headed back in his office, looking for a way to mitigate the disaster that is losing someone the stature of Brady. Even at 42 years old, Brady was the best option by a wide margin for New England to contend in 2020.

Here, though, they part company. For Brady, a chance to reinvent himself once more in a new setting. An exciting challenge for a player with nothing left to prove.

For Belichick, a somber realization.

No matter how smart he is, there’s no magic elixir to fill the void Brady leaves behind.

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