HOUSTON -- Earlier this week, I floated the completely made-up, unsourced, totally-not-real crackpot theory that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have a supersecret, just-between-us plan to retire together if they win Sunday night's Super Bowl LI. This was just a whim of an idea, though I think we can all admit that if there were ever two people who could keep a secret like this, it would be them.
But while that column looked at the possibility of this being the last rodeo for Belichick and Brady, I wanted, on the eve of the Super Bowl itself, to look at the wisdom of the decisions on whether to stay or to go. Let's just unpack the pros and cons.
We acknowledge before we start, obviously, that if the Falcons beat the Patriots on Sunday -- which is obviously a very real possibility! -- there's no way either one of them retires, nor should they. We're working solely off the idea that they win on Sunday night.
Reasons For Bill Belichick and Tom Brady not to retire if the Patriots win Super Bowl LI
They just won the freaking Super Bowl. So this is a reasonable one, no? When you win the Super Bowl, it means you are the best at what you do, so why would you want to suddenly stop doing that thing that you are the best at? This one is self-explanatory.
It should be all set up for them next year too. The AFC East isn't suddenly getting any tougher: You could make an argument that the Patriots could have won it with Jacoby Brissett. This isn't actually the worst potential plan as Brady goes into his 40s: Give him the first half of the season or so off to rest and heal and prepare, end up 5-3 or 4-4 or something, then have him return and work himself into playoff shape while comfortably winning the division again. It's sort of the old Roger Clemens plan.
Tom Brady can continue to win even as his body begins to break down. In my podcast with Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar this week, we discussed how the truly amazing thing about Brady as a quarterback, what makes him historically different from even the other greats like Joe Montana and Peyton Manning, is that he has always been able to adjust the way he plays to the different systems Belichick and his various offensive coordinators are always throwing at him. Montana and Manning were in the same systems, built around them, their entire careers. Brady is constantly having to absorb entirely new offensive constructs every season; it's like he has a different offensive coordinator every year, even when he doesn't. This, along with his lightning-quick ability to make reads, is what separates Brady from every other quarterback who has ever lived. And this is something that can help offset the continued affects of aging. Lose some arm strength and mobility? Brady's ability to process new information and merge it into his existing game can more than make up for that. Brady says he could play until he's 45. He's probably right.
Almost every athlete wishes they could play one more year, one more game, one more anything, when their careers are over. It's so hard to walk away even if, especially in football, it is physically difficult to walk, away or anywhere else.
Belichick and Brady are an all-time legendary combination and it would be a crime to have them not go as long as they can together. Belichick is probably the greatest NFL coach of all time and Brady is probably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, but you of course can't separate them like that. Their greatness is tied into one another. If Belichick doesn't have Brady, he doesn't have the career he's had, and vice versa. It's the sort of union that comes along once in a generation, if that often. You want them to end that?
Reasons For Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to retire if the Patriots Super Bowl LI
Isn't the goal always to retire on top? As I mentioned earlier this week, it's incredibly difficult to reach a Super Bowl, even when you're Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Even if they have another great season next year, there's no assurance they'll make it back to the Super Bowl, that year or any future year. We give our quarterbacks tons of extra credit when they walk away from the game champions; John Elway is essentially immortal now because of it. What could be better than becoming the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls and the first coach to win five Super Bowls and then just waving goodbye? That's certainly better than becoming those things and then having your last game be a frustrating playoff loss in Pittsburgh in a couple of years, isn't it?
It has been a long, trying year, and they might just not want to go through it anymore. Brady's mother has reportedly been ill, Belichick has been acting curiously different in public and, of course, this is the final year of Deflategate. Everybody hits a certain point in their career when they're just tired of the bullsh-t. These are two of the most accomplished human beings in professional sports history, and people still are on their case all the time. Enough, right?
What other mountains are there to climb? There are no more records to set after this Super Bowl: The only records you'd be breaking would be your own. A Super Bowl win here officially anoints you the best. Another one just makes you more the best. What's the fun in that?
Belichick and Brady are an all-time legendary combination and it would be a crime to have them not go out together. Everybody wants to keep the party going, but eventually, no matter how amazing you might be, things do end. So have it be on their own terms, with a title. Isn't that how they should be remembered? Isn't that how they'd want to be?
There might be jobs for them in the Trump administration. Hey, he's appointed worse people.