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By Mike Kehoe

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Some people think that quote is from Dr. Seuss while others just remember it from high school girls’ AIM away messages in the early 2000’s. Either way, the sentiment is strong in New England as we lose Boston’s favorite son, Thomas Edward Brady.

In the age of free agency, the NFL has shown time and time again that football is a business. Players are traded and cut without mercy and the idea of someone playing their entire career with one team is almost non-existent now. Even the great Joe Montana didn’t finish his career with the 49ers. Things are no different for Brady, who is moving on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 seasons as a Patriot.

While many fans don’t quite know how to feel about this move, it should be said that nothing will tarnish the legacy Brady built here in New England. The now 42-year old quarterback is often called the GOAT (greatest of all-time) and his resume certainly backs up that claim. In 20 years as a Patriot, Brady was named a pro bowler 14 times, MVP three times, and offensive player of the year twice. He won comeback player of the year in 2009 and led the league in passing touchdowns in four different seasons. Most importantly, Brady led the Patriots to the Super Bowl an astounding nine times, winning six of them and being named the game’s MVP four times. He truly has earned his place in football history, but Brady isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet.

There are tons of conspiracy theories about why Brady decided to leave New England and most involve head coach Bill Belichick and their relationship. Money was definitely a factor as well, with the Patriots tight up against the salary cap and top quarterbacks making upwards of 25 million dollars per season. There are conflicting reports that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was willing to match the offer Brady got from Tampa Bay, but Brady decided it was time to leave anyway. Many people attribute Brady’s decision to leave to simply wanting a different boss.

Coach Belichick, much like his former quarterback, is often considered the best to ever do it at his profession. You don’t get that reputation by playing nice or coddling players. He is, by all accounts, a very tough man to work for. He demands excellence at all times and he has been known to get rid of players a year or two early, rather than a year or two late. Brady spent 20 years working for and with Belichick and the two have enjoyed massive success together, but many people believe that both men want to prove that they can win a Super Bowl without the other. Ego definitely played a part in this decision on both sides, with Brady reportedly no longer feeling appreciated by his head coach and Brady being frustrated with Belichick’s perceived lack of effort in surrounding Brady with offensive talent in the last couple of years.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter why Brady made the decision that he did. His relationship was clearly strained with Belichick, but there have been reports of them butting heads for years, ever since Belichick drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014, and the team went on to win two more Super Bowls despite the reported rift. Brady meant so much to so many for so long and many people are disappointed that the Patriots don’t get a fairy tale ending with their beloved quarterback. At the end of the day, Brady felt that Tampa Bay, with laidback head coach Bruce Arians and a plethora of offensive weapons, was a better fit for him to finish his legendary career.

So what comes next for the Patriots? Business as usual. Belichick has lost star players before and he has always preached the “next man up” mentality when it comes to replacing those star players. Brady is obviously a different situation, as the greatest player in team history and a quarterback in a pass-happy league, but that doesn’t mean that Belichick will change his approach. Last year, Belichick drafted Jarrett Stidham out of Auburn in the fourth round of the NFL draft. The rookie showed promise in last year’s preseason and he is the odds-on favorite to earn the Patriots starting quarterback job in 2020.

The NFL is a business and nobody should hold it against Brady for moving on to a different team. Brady will go down in history as the greatest football player in the history of the game, the true King in the north who will never in his life have to pay for a beer in New England again. There are no words to properly express just how important Brady has been to Patriots fans, but the fan base must move on and embrace the new era under Stidham. Nobody will ever touch the legacy that Brady has left here in New England, but that era is officially over. The King is dead, long live the king.