After making the decision to leave New England back in February 2020, Tom Brady apparently already had his mind made up about who he was going to sign with during free agency — and it definitely wasn’t the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
According to a new book by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, Brady was hoping to end his career with the San Francisco 49ers. According to the book, which is titled “It’s Better To Be Feared,” Brady actually reached out to his good friend Wes Welker, who had just finished his first season as the receivers coach for the 49ers.
During the conversation, which happened at some point after the 49ers lost to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, Brady made it clear he would immediately sign with the 49ers if they would have him.
In an excerpt from the book (via NBC Bay Area), Brady promised Welker that there would be “no free-agency tour, no bidding war, full stop; he would end his career where his love of football began, in scarlet and gold, allowing his parents to drive to (his) games for the first time since the 1990s.”
Not only did Brady grow up in the Bay Area, but he was also a huge 49ers fan as a kid. As a matter of fact, he was at Candlestick Park for one of the most iconic plays in NFL history: Dwight Clark’s catch in the 1981 NFC title game.
Brady was also at Candlestick for Joe Montana’s final game with the 49ers in December 1992.
So if Brady wanted to play for the 49ers, why didn’t he end up in San Francisco? According to the book, it’s because the coaching staff didn’t feel like he would be much of an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo. After Kyle Shanahan heard about Brady’s interest, he approached his offensive assistants. They watched every throw Brady made during his final season with the Patriots in 2019, and they just didn’t feel like it was worth it to replace Garoppolo. Remember, after the 2019 season, Garoppolo was coming off a Super Bowl appearance while Brady was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career.
Shanahan admitted in 2020 that the 49ers looked into Brady but nothing ever came of it.
“All of a sudden, you hear arguably the greatest quarterback of all time is all of a sudden available, and there is a possibility that he could want to come to your team, and things like that,” Shanahan told The Athletic in April 2020, one month after Brady signed with the Buccaneers. “And when you hear that stuff, and it actually is realistic, for you not to look into it, to me, would be completely irresponsible. Once we realized and heard this could be realistic — this isn’t just talk — we looked into it all, especially with the respect we have for Tom and everything, and how great of a player he is. We looked into it to try to see if it would be better for our team this year and in the future. When we weighed it all together, we didn’t think it would. … We felt great with where we were at, and kind of confirmed how we are with Jimmy.”
Basically, it feels like the 49ers looked at Brady’s age and felt the future was brighter with Garoppolo, which almost seems ironic now since he’s soon going to be replaced by Trey Lance.
At the time of Brady’s free agency tour, there were a few reports that said he was interested in the 49ers. One of those came from Wickersham, who wrote on March 22, 2020, that Brady “made it clear through various channels” that he wanted to go to San Francisco. Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk also had reported on March 15, 2020, that the 49ers decided they didn’t want Brady.
What was unknown to this point was how serious Brady was about playing for the 49ers. Based on the fact that he was willing to forgo a free agency tour to sign with his hometown team, it’s pretty clear he wanted to end his career in San Francisco. The 49ers just didn’t want him.
Of course, like almost every situation involving Brady, he eventually got the last laugh. He ended up winning the Super Bowl last year while the injury-ravaged 49ers ended the season in the NFC West cellar.
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