Spoiler alert: Tom Brady probably isn’t going to play for the Raiders this season. Despite a few opportunistic betting websites hoping to capitalize on your wildest imaginations, Brady plans to purchase a very small percentage of the club, Jimmy Garoppolo remains a bit of an enigma when it comes to his ability to stay on the field and the rest of us will continue fiending for our next hit of ridiculous NFL news.
In September we’ll all look back on this and laugh. Maybe about who is actually playing quarterback for the Raiders. Maybe about how worked up we all got over nothing.
But I do wonder how funny Brady thinks it is, how funny Garoppolo thinks it is and how funny owner Mark Davis thinks it is. For different reasons, the Brady ownership situation paves a complicated path moving forward for everyone. This week showed us why.
For Brady, does this most recent news cycle (which he easily could have already shot down, by the way), in any small way, complicate the process of leaving the game behind? How could it not? He has already unretired once and already made headlines for being noncommittal early in his second attempt at staying off the field. Brady played NFL football into his mid-40s and had to be dragged off the field. We recently heard from another long-time NFL stalwart, Ben Roethlisberger, who said on his own podcast that he didn’t want his replacement, Kenny Pickett, to be successful. While he was clubbed in the court of public opinion for it, I respected his honesty. It drives at a kind of hole in the heart that athletes must patch once they leave the game behind for good. They are asked to be ruthless in their competitiveness for decades and push everything else out of their lives. Then they are supposed to wholly embrace the person taking over for them?
That empty space, which for star NFL players used to be filled with immediate purpose, intense adulation and incredible financial reward, gets harder to close if it keeps getting picked at like a scab. Even if Brady is resolute in his decision, do we not think he is aware of what’s happening with Garoppolo? Do we not think there’s a part of him that wants to sling on a pair of shoulder pads and fire a ball to Davante Adams, one of the best receivers in the NFL?
For Garoppolo and Davis, is this not a window into their next calendar year? The Raiders may not be very good this year. Garoppolo may or may not actually play for the Raiders. For all we know, Carson Wentz and Jameis Winston are on a batphone somewhere being FedExed a copy of the silver-and-black playbook.
Having Brady as a part owner is a little bit worse than having a qualified backup quarterback in the building when a younger player is struggling. While it’s hard to imagine Brady swiping his key card and arriving at the facility every day and diving into the machinations of the offense, he is now involved. He has shown a superhuman ability to sustain greatness for almost half a century. He is best friends with the coach, for whom he spent the majority of his career playing. One text message—I’m back—could instantly change Josh McDaniels’s thoughts on his current set of players, which, if you remove Garoppolo, includes only Brian Hoyer, Aidan O’Connell and Chase Garbers at quarterback.
What happens if Garoppolo reinjures his foot and the entire crowd at Allegiant Stadium peers into Brady’s ownership box and collectively bows like a sitting puppy dog? My guess: Everyone will end up feeling not so great for a minute.
There is, of course, a world beyond our NFL-wired imagination where Brady truly is at peace, where Garoppolo is going to be fine and where McDaniels loves and respects the player who brought him immense fame and fortune (as well as two head coaching opportunities) and would never try to disturb his career transition. In this world, perhaps the real world, Brady’s ownership stake is just a delightful little footnote and coincidence paired with an unfortunate injury situation. As we said before, bet at your own risk.
However, it was the job of both Davis and Brady to deeply consider all the potential risks before bringing Brady on as a partner. Perhaps they have and they are all laughing, just like we will come Week 1. Perhaps it’s not quite as funny as they thought it would be.