Helping Patriots fans deal with Tom Brady's departure, in seven steps

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Tom Brady announced on Tuesday he's leaving the New England Patriots after a 20-season run that included six Super Bowl championships.

The other 31 teams might be singing a different tune, but New England fans will be experiencing the emotions that only come along when a Hall of Fame quarterback puts on a different jersey.

I'm here to help — I've been there with Brett Favre. I detailed all the abnormal things I did because of Favre during his playing career, and I have experience in dealing with the seven stages of grief that come when your hero leaves for another team.

MORE: Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots?

Let's walk through these together.


Patriots fans will experience that today. You will try to figure out if it's a burner account. Maybe Gisele tweeted It? Maybe it's all part of Bill Belichick's master plan. There's no way Tom Terrific would want to play for Tampa Bay or Los Angeles.

Hey, at least you didn't have to go through Favre waffling about retirement every year. When the retirement rumors sparked after the Packers went 4-12 in 2005, I remember yelling at a news editor that, “Brett wouldn't do that to me.”

Of course, Favre played for the Packers for two more seasons before bolting for New York, and then Minnesota (we'll get to that in a bit).

My advice? Start picturing Brady in another jersey now. It will lessen the pain, which is the second stage.


Oh, that news conference — whether it's in Tampa or Los Angeles or Las Vegas — is going to hurt. You'll feel pain when he holds up another jersey. You're going to blame yourself for that 20-13 loss to Tennessee in the AFC Wild card game. Be prepared for all of that once he leaves.

You'll be trolled, and it will be worse now because of social media. When Favre left for the Jets, most of my coworkers left me alone out of respect. Let's call it fear. My best friends? Not so much. I chose not to watch Jets games and was lucky that Green Bay didn't play them that season.


For Brady fans, it's going to depend on which team he plays for. Look at next year's schedule. The Buccaneers aren't on the schedule. The Chargers and Raiders are. Maybe Brady goes to Vegas, and gets the return to Foxborough over with. If he goes to the Chargers, then that becomes a serious contender.

My advice? Be prepared to get angry. You're going to lash out at Bob Kraft. Maybe even Bill Belichick, too.

At least it's not the freaking Vikings. At least you won't have to watch him light your ass up in the Metrodome on Monday Night Football then come into Lambeau Field and do it again. Favre passed for 515 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions in those two 2009 games against the Packers. Nobody remembers Aaron Rodgers getting even the next season.

Favre fractured the fan base for those two seasons, and that took a long time to get over. Brady won't do that to the Pats. Will he?

Sorry, had to.

MORE: The hit that started Tom Brady era


Listen, there are far more important things to worry about in our country with the spread of coronavirus, and that can have devastating effects on those who deal with depression. That is where our focus is right now. 

It's OK to take your mind off that with sports whenever you can. For Patriots fans, it's better to simply reflect on what Brady did for your franchise. The records. The AFC dominance. The Super Bowl wins. It will never be the same. It hasn't been the same for 49ers fans since Joe Montana left.

Favre fans got lucky. Aaron Rodgers picked up where he left off, and it's my rooted-in-faith personal belief that Trevor Lawrence will pick up where Rodgers leaves off. That's the easiest coping mechanism of all.

Upward turn

For Patriots fans, it's putting your trust in Belichick. Hey, Matt Cassel went 10-5 in 2008 when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury. Former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo just played in a Super Bowl. Belichick has a plan. He always has a plan. Those are the thoughts that should get Patriots fans through.

Rodgers was that for the Packers. I remember people doubting him that first season when Rodgers went 6-10 as a starter. I kept a spreadsheet with names of people who said the Packers made the wrong move. I knew Rodgers would be fine when Green Bay beat Chicago in his first start.

Make no mistake: That first start for whoever is next is a huge tone-setter.


It starts with Brady playing a game in a different uniform. OK, that happened. What do we do now? Keep in mind Brady turns 43 in August. T

his is only going to last for one or two more years. The bigger question now is how much longer Belichick will coach and whether the Pats have what it takes to compete long term with Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes II in the AFC.

That is where your focus needs to be. Rodgers made it easy for Favre fans — at least for the first three years. He led a Super Bowl run in 2010 and has matched Favre with four NFC championship appearances. Favre played in two Super Bowls. Trying to get back to the Super Bowl has been the painful part for Rodgers.

New England fans might feel some of that, depending on how long it takes to get back.

MORE: Remembering Brady's last play for the Patriots


In the end, Patriots fans can only control so much. Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, is gone. He's moving on.

Sporting News ranked the 26 modern-era Hall of Fame quarterbacks when Kurt Warner was inducted. Of the top five, Montana, Favre and Johnny Unitas finished their career in different places. John Elway and Dan Marino did not. That's OK. Brady has more Super Bowl championships than Elway and Marino combined. It was a great run, and it had to come to an end.

There's no way Brady's exit produces as much animosity and friction within the fan base as Favre leaving did with former general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy. It took me a long time to get over the Vikings thing with Favre. It wasn't until Favre was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016 that I got completely over it, mainly because I was there. I shook Favre's hand after his news conference, then immediately called my wife Kimberly to tell her that happened. I could barely talk.

All of the good memories flooded back, and it was overwhelming. Hey, reporters are human, too.

Yeah, there were Falcons, Jets and Vikings jerseys. The Packers jersey, however, dominated Canton that day. Brady fans will get that moment, too. When he's inducted in Canton, there are sure to be more Patriots jerseys than whatever one he puts on next.

Trust me, I've been there. And don't worry — I'll be back again whenever Rodgers leaves Green Bay.