A lot of factors went into Tom Brady's decision to leave the New England Patriots last year and sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But some new details have emerged about what may have contributed to that departure.
Albert Breer of SI reported this week that the acquisition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints in 2017 may have been a major factor. Per the report, the Patriots acquired Cooks in an effort to build the team around then-backup Jimmy Garoppolo, not Brady.
"Speaking of the Patriots’ rebuild, I think Belichick’s actually been forthright in saying things went sideways when Brady found a way to maintain his level of play. And my smoking gun in the whole thing is Brandin Cooks," Breer wrote. "My understanding is Cooks was initially acquired, in 2017, as a piece for Jimmy Garoppolo, not Brady—with the feeling being that the Patriots would play more of a downfield game once Garoppolo became the quarterback, presumably in 2018."
The expectation at the time appeared to be that Garoppolo would take over for Brady after the 2018 season. The pieces would already be in place. But as we know now, it didn't work out like that.
Garoppolo was traded to the San Francisco 49ers midseason. Brandin Cooks was traded to the Los Angeles Rams after the season. And Brady stayed on for two more years before leaving in free agency in 2020.
Given that Garoppolo and Brady both made Super Bowls with their new teams, the Patriots dropped the ball there.
The Patriots are still looking for their new quarterback heading into the 2021 offseason. And they have no one but themselves to blame.