FOXBOROUGH, MA – Tom Brady made one thing clear on Thursday: He isn't thinking about the past or the future this week as he prepares for the 17th postseason of his 20-year NFL career.
“I'm not much for nostalgia,” Brady said. “I'm just pretty focused on what I need to do. This week has felt just like every other week for the last 20 years."
But there is a lingering possibility that when New England hosts Tennessee in Saturday's wild-card round, it could the quarterback's final home game as a Patriot.
“I haven't thought about those things. I wouldn't be thinking about those things anyway,” he said. “It's felt like a normal week for me. ... We know we’ve got a big challenge, a very tough test. Great football team coming here. It’s playoff football and everyone knows what’s at stake, so you certainly have to earn it to move on."
What's undeniable is that Brady has struggled at times in 2019, with a completion percentage (60.8%) that was at its lowest mark since 2013. His passer rating was also just 88.0 during the regular season (ranked 27th in the NFL), its lowest since he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Patriots' 2008 opener.
More importantly, Brady has a contract that is set to expire after the season, meaning that Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who also handles team personnel decisions, will have to decide whether to stick with the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer or turn the page toward a successor. It would mean Brady could face the prospect of entering free agency for the first time in his career.
Asked Thursday if he thinks this could be the end of their time together, Belichick said his focus was only on the Titans.
“That’s all I’m focused on, so we’ll do everything we can to get ready to go and play the best game we can play Saturday night,” he said.
Throughout his time in New England, Belichick has typically not shied away from cutting ties with players that he felt were past their prime or seeking contracts that exceeded value in relation to the player's age. The list has included key contributors like Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Wes Welker, and Malcolm Butler, among others.
While Brady has stated a goal to play until he was at least 45 years old, he may not get the chance in New England despite being the NFL’s postseason leader in games (40), passing attempts (1,589), completions (1,005), yards passing (11,179) and touchdown passes (73). He also has more playoff victories (30) than each of the 11 other projected starting quarterbacks in this year's playoffs combined (26).
Receiver Julian Edelman, who has been the recipient of 36 regular-season touchdowns and five postseason TDs from Brady, says his quarterback's longevity is something to marvel at.
“You gotta do consistently well to have that many games in the playoffs,” Edelman said. “That's an unbelievable stat.”
Many of his rivals around the league don't believe these are Brady's final days.
That list includes last season's league MVP, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who earned his first victory over Brady earlier this season.
“I’ve known for a while it’s not going to be the last year anytime soon, he’s still playing at a high level,” Mahomes said. “Unless he just doesn’t want to play, which I don’t see, I expect to see him for just a couple more years.”
While Brady isn't interested in addressing his future yet, he may have left a small clue on his Instagram page this week.
Posted along with a game photo of Brady standing arms raised with his back to the camera, he wrote a simple message to mark the new year.
“2020, and still here,” it said.
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