INDIANAPOLIS – As Tom Brady’s future (or lack thereof) with the New England Patriots continues to fuel rampant speculation throughout NFL circles, one fellow former league MVP offered some advice Thursday: Don’t jump to the AFC West.
That was NFL Network analyst and Hall of Famer Kurt Warner’s take when asked about Brady’s next move … if it does indeed involve a departure from Foxborough.
“I still don’t look to go to the Raiders or the Chargers and have to compete against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs twice every year just to win my division,” Warner told USA TODAY Sports and a select roundtable of reporters at the scouting combine when asked what counsel he’d offer TB12, who’s grown accustomed to winning his division on a yearly basis.
“I don’t want to have to go through the other great quarterback in the AFC right now twice a year and then possibly have to be the wild card.
“Just from that standpoint alone, I probably look at a team like the Titans, and I say to myself, ‘Well, they were right there last year, and they’ve got some pieces we can build off of.’ That’s probably, in my mind, the best situation of those three that I’m hearing about.”
It’s almost hard to fathom that Brady’s situation has reached this point after 20 years and six Super Bowl titles in New England. But his contract will void next month and contains a clause preventing the Patriots from tagging him.
ESPN reported Thursday that stalled collective bargaining negotiations have delayed New England from trying to re-sign the three-time league MVP.
“I think part of this has been Tom’s doing to get to this point, and I don’t know why,” speculated Warner. “I don’t know if it’s because, ‘I just want to explore – I want to see what life may be like outside of this. I want to see how committed the Patriots are.’ I don’t know what the reasoning behind it is, but I think part of it – the reason it’s got to this point – is because Tom’s wanted it to get to this point.
“I think it all comes back to, why is Tom here? There’s no question he could have easily just said, ‘I’m gonna play two more years, let’s get this done, let’s move forward.’ In my mind, it never had to get to this point, but it did. And why did it get to this point? And I think that’s the million dollar question and what’s going to determine whether he ends up back in New England or somewhere else.”
If it’s somewhere else, Warner points to the Titans, who lost the AFC championship game last month and may need a quarterback if Ryan Tannehill becomes a free agent – which certainly seems likely for a team also trying to re-sign 2019 rushing champion Derrick Henry. Tennessee’s front office has New England ties, and head coach Mike Vrabel was a teammate of Brady’s when the Patriots won their first three Super Bowls between 2001 and 2004.
“Tom’s gonna possibly have some decent situations to go into. He’s not gonna go to the Arizona Cardinals when I went to the Arizona Cardinals,” said Warner, who played for the Rams, Giants and Cards during his career.
However, he also offered a warning about the difficulty of switching teams so late in one’s career. Brady will turn 43 in August.
“It’s hard to do that,” he said, “to think you’re just gonna pick up where you left off in a system you’ve been in for 18 years. … It’s a process everywhere you go. It might look really good on the outside (other teams) … but you know what you know in New England.”
Which in Warner’s mind includes excellent coaching, a familiar system and a top 10 defense year in and year out.
“I know he wants to win championships – it’s the only reason he’s playing at this point. What else are you gonna try do? How many years do you have left? So if there’s a part of you that just says, ‘I want to show people I can be successful somewhere else,’ how many years is that that you legitimately think you have?” wondered Warner, who admitted taking both the Rams and Cardinals to Super Bowls was one of the “jewels in my crown as a player.”
But such opportunities are inherently risky.
“It’s not always easy to change that culture and think it can be done overnight,” he added. “I just think there’s a lot to lose here if you’re Tom Brady going somewhere else.”
And though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who may let Jameis Winston walk next month, also intrigue Warner, he doesn’t believe jumping to the NFC would be wise for Brady.
“You go to the NFC, there’s a lot of guys that you have to go through to win a championship,” said Warner. “If you go to the AFC side – Patrick Mahomes is special, but nobody else has shown a championship pedigree on that side of the table.”
And all of that aside, Kurt?
Warner concluded: “I still believe New England’s the best place for him to compete for a championship in the next couple years.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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