The New England Patriots and their fans have entered this offseason with a question that hasn’t come up for them in nearly 20 years: Who will be the starting quarterback next season?
Tom Brady is a free agent and rumored to be invested in gauging the market, leaving Patriots fans feeling a sense of entitlement to Brady finishing his career in New England.
News flash, Patriots fans, many all-time greats go through this in their careers.
In this day and age of sports, you’ve been one of the few fan bases that have been spoiled by having a living legend under center for the better part of 19 seasons. That has more often than not been the exception to the norm.
Many greats don many different uniforms on their way to the Hall of Fame. Deion Sanders, Wayne Gretzky, and Shaquille O’Neal all wore a handful of different jerseys bearing their names on the back.
And then there are the greats who give all they have for a franchise, only for that franchise make the agonizing decision to move on and start rebuilding for the next decade or so.
Those said greats may not be ready to ride off into the sunset when the teams are finished with them. They still have something to prove, whether it be to themselves or to the critics. Regardless of the sport, there are a few that come to mind right away.
After leading the Bulls to six titles in his 13 seasons in Chicago, Jordan announced his retirement for the second time (the first time he tried his hand at baseball). After three seasons out of basketball, he returned to the NBA, as a member of the Wizards. In a pair of seasons in Washington, Jordan averaged 21 points per game.
Joe Montana & Jerry Rice – 49ers
Although the circumstances were different, San Francisco decided to move on from both future Hall of Famers.
Montana was a little easier for them because they knew they had a great quarterback playing behind him, just waiting for his opportunity, in Steve Young. Montana went to Kansas City rather than just ride off into the sunset, he did lead the Chiefs to the playoffs both seasons he was there.
Jerry Rice spent time with the Raiders and Seahawks after their 49ers parted ways with the three-time Super Bowl champion. He had two seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving while in Oakland. He was a member of the Raiders team that lost to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. He also made the playoffs his one season in Seattle.
The goaltender played 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils and won three Stanley Cups. When the Devils were finally ready to move on, Brodeur himself moved on to the St. Louis Blues. After just seven games with his new team, he announced his retirement.
Two seasons after Broadway Joe made good on his Super Bowl guarantee, the Jets were ready to move on from him and his deteriorating knees. Namath signed with the Rams, where he only started four games before calling it a career.
The Cowboys great still had the drive and desire to play after Jerry Jones and Company decided they were going forward without the future hall of fame running back. The most awkward on the list was seeing Smith in a Cardinals uniform. He spent two seasons in Arizona before hanging up his cleats.
While it’s not going to be easy Pats fans, you had to know sooner or later this day would come. Legends even after they move on will always be loved by the franchises they played for. Montana and Rice are still loved in San Francisco. Jordan, Brodeur, Namath, and Smith will always be a Bull, a Devil, a Jet, and a Cowboy.
Tom Brady, whether he comes back to New England or finds a home somewhere else, regardless of what he does or doesn’t accomplish, will always be a Patriot.