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FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2018, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, hugs coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in Foxborough, Mass. Brady is an NFL free agent for the first time in his career. The 42-year-old quarterback with six Super Bowl rings said Tuesday morning, March 17, 2020, that he is leaving the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Emperor's new jersey

Tom Brady is gone. I didn't think it would happen, to be honest.

But it makes sense.

And before we move on, why do we expect our legends to finish their careers in one spot? Look at the all-time greats of this generation. Brady, Manning, Rice, Montana in football all finished their careers elsewhere. LeBron, Jordan, Shaq in hoops. (Sure, the 1980s were different, but that was before the league offered true free agency.) There are many baseball players to count. Gretzky, Orr and a slew of hockey dudes.

The 1980s were a little different with Walter Payton, Magic and Bird and some others like Elway and Marino. But if we offered a Rushmore of the best modern athletes (say, last 30 years) to play their entire career with one franchise, do you have one to crack Kobe, Chipper, Jeter and Timmy Duncan?

As for Brady, again, it makes sense, all things considered.

There's the ego — Brady believing he's the cog to the two-decade dominance that will never be matched in a salary-capped NFL; Bill Belichick believing his system is the reason for so many postseasons — of the two main players.

There's the system, and Belichick forever hammered home the thought that the Patriots will jettison everyone a year too quickly rather than a year too late.

There's the periphery — the weather, the newness, the weapons, et al. — that seem quite enticing.

So Brady is out, heading to Tampa Bay by all reports, including those from ESPN NFL news breaker Adam Schefter and ESPN's Jeff Darlington, who has maintained for a long while that Brady was going to be on the move.

So the move is to Tampa, which has a better collection of skill players than Brady has ever had.

It also puts Brady into the toughest division race since very early in his career. In fact, if Brady joins the Bucs today before the Panthers deal or cut Cam Newton after reportedly agreeing to add Teddy Bridgewater, how about this stat: With Brady in Tampa Bay, the only NFC South team without an MVP quarterback on its roster is New Orleans.  

The odds quickly rolled on the Bucs, as VegasInsider.com moved Tampa a 14-to-1 pick to win the Super Bowl. (Before those reports, the Bucs were closer to 40-to-1. (Side note: New England is well behind Tampa in the eyes of the experts at VegasInsider at 30-to-1.)

And the optimism is easy to understand just from this single stat: In 2019, Tampa Bay went 7-9, with seven of those losses coming by a single score. Jameis Winston turned the ball over 18 times in the seven one-score defeats.

 

QB carousel

The Brady shoe has dropped. Now the rest of the bunch will start falling into place. (Does that make this the Brady Bunch? Discuss.)

Heck, let's go team-by-team, across the AFC, shall we? I think we shall. (We'll do the NFC tomorrow. Deal? Deal.)

AFC East

Buffalo: Current starter: Josh Allen. Best guess: Allen, but the Bills have arguably the best roster in this division and if Allen does not take the next step, wasting that window with a dynamic — and young, which means team-friendly contracts — roster could be tragic.

Miami. Current starter: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Best guess: Miami would love to take Tua, but the question remains, "Will the former Alabama star QB still be on the board at 5?"

New England. Current starter: Jarrett Stidham. Best guess: Stidham, because I believe Belichick is looking forward to the challenge of building a winner with a young dude and on a dynamite defense. Still, I think the Pats could go after former Colts starter Jacoby Brissett, who was drafted by the Pats, and let those dudes compete. (Side note: I love the theory floated on the interweb about the Pats tanking and getting the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 and taking Trevor Lawrence from Clemson. That said, that would mean Belichick would have to go 3-13 without Brady, and that would kill Coach Hoodie.)

New York Jets: Current starter: Sam Darnold. Best guess: Darnold.

AFC North

Baltimore. Current starter: Lamar Jackson. Best guess: Lamar Jackson. And the MVP has made his bones, but man, I'd bet some sizable coin that the Ravens will spend some draft capital to make sure they add Jalen Hurts, who would be the perfect backup. Side question: Baltimore is going to be really good for the next few years, friends.

Cincinnati. Current starter: None. Best guess: Joe Burrow.

Cleveland. Current starter: Baker Mayfield. Best guess: Mayfield.

Pittsburgh. Current starter: Ben Roethlisberger. Best guess: Roethlisberger, but the Steelers are on the short list of teams that need to be planning for the future at the most important position in sports.

AFC South:

Houston. Current starter: DeShaun Watson. Best guess: Watson, who may very well be No. 1 on the overall redraft QB board if the league put every QB in the pot and drafted with production, age and future projections.

Indy. Current starter: Jacoby Brissett. Best guess: Philip Rivers. While Brady news dominated the Tuesday cycle, Rivers going from the Chargers to the Colts was somewhat overshadowed. That said, I believe Rivers is washed. He was second in turnovers in 2019 behind only Winston, and, while the line is better in Indy, the weapons do not compare to the skill guys Rivers had in Los Angeles.

Jacksonville. Current starter: Not so sure. Best guess: Even less sure. Here's your front-runner for embracing the "Lose for Lawrence" mindset. Gardner Minshew on a rookie deal seems better than Nick Foles at $22 million per, but the Jags have been dealing off valuable pieces and have the look of a tanker. And not in a good, "Man, trying to stop Jerome Bettis is like trying to stop a tank" way.

Tennessee. Current starter: Ryan Tannehill. Best guess: Tannehill. Was seven good games worth $29.5 million per? The Titans seemed to think so. They have added a collection of overachieving pieces to an offense that was hard to handle once Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota and got comfortable. Derrick Henry may be the most valuable non-QB in the league, and AJ Brown was a dude from Thanksgiving on last season.

AFC West

Denver. Current starter: Drew Lock. Best guess: Lock. That guy was a dude at Missouri, and I believe he is going to be a good NFL player for a decade.

Kansas City. Current starter: Patrick Mahomes. Best guess: Mahomes. Only QB question for the Chiefs for the next decade is how big will that contract get when Mahomes comes up for an extension?

Las Vegas. Current starter: Derek Carr. Best guess: Carr, but I believe it was super smart of Mariota to sign a short-term deal with the Raiders, because Carr's hold on the QB1 job is tenuous at best. And if you had to pick a place where an incoming backup could pull a 2019 Tannehill role reversal in 2020, it's Mariota in Sin City.

Los Angeles Chargers. Current starter: Process of elimination leaves you with Tyrod Taylor. Best guess: Taylor. The Chargers were in on the Brady bidding because they need the star power. But would you rather have a 30-year-old Taylor or a 43-year-old Brady at this point in their careers? Exactly. The Chargers will be very interesting to watch in the days before the draft, because I could see that group — again, they have to have someone to generate some enthusiasm as they move into a new stadium — being a player in the race for Tua.

Thoughts?

 

Strange days

We can't have a 5-at-10 these days without something corona-related, can we?

Most likely not.

First, the reason a lot of folks are so angry at Washington is on prime display right now. The questionable decisions from the top down, the clear lack of preparations. Heck, even the financial ramifications that could be met much more easily by the federal government if we had not been so wasteful over the last two decades and crafted a debt in the trillions.

Now there's the news of Rand Paul being an absolute jackwagon.

Forget the aisle viewpoints for a second. Heck, we won't even use the name, and you can plug any member of Congress with either letter after their name and what would you think about this recap?

A U.S. senator tied on a very controversial and all-but-doomed amendment to a coronavirus rescue bill that zoomed through the House. This bill is aimed at funding and speeding up our nation's response to the corona, specifically, the bill would offer free coronavirus testing as well as chances for unemployment insurance and paid sick leave.

Much-needed, no? And much-needed as soon as possible, no?

But said senator added that the bill would "require a Social Security number for purposes of the child tax credit, and to provide the President the authority to transfer funds as necessary, and to terminate United States military operations and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan."

Say what? Gang, this is a national and global health issue. Not a political bargaining chip.

Shame on you, Rand Paul, because this amendment will be jettisoned, but how much time will be wasted and how much of this move is some political grandstanding so Paul can tell his conservative Kentucky constituents that he tried to be tough on immigration, support the president and get the troops out of Afghanistan?

Shame indeed.

 

This and that

— Man, 2020 simply is not playing. Sports are on an undetermined hiatus. Economy in the outhouse. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Oprah was trending on Twitter for being involved in sex trafficking. She denied it, but buckets, there's no headline out there that should surprise us anymore, is there?

— Speaking of trending, we are now in a place that just about any famous name you see trending, you expect them to have the corona, right? That happened with Jason Terry this morning during my research. Turned out that it was seven years ago that LeBron did this to him. Ouch.

— Speaking of the corona, Kevin Durant is one of the four Brooklyn Nets who have been diagnosed with it. Man, Durant has had a cruddy 11 months, no? Torn Achilles' and now this.

— Speaking of the corona, part II (or 2 million), the PGA Championship has now been postponed, too. In fact, the PGA has canceled four more events into the middle of May. Sigh.

— Speaking of the corona, part III, here's TFP college sports ace David Paschall detailing how the SEC just wiped the entire spring sports calendar because of the corona.

— One free agent move in the NFL that shocked me was Jason Witten to the Raiders.  

 

Today's question

Which way Wednesday will start this way:

Which B legend gets to a Super Bowl first, Brady or Belichick?

Which NFL free agent move will prove to be the best? Which will be the worst?

Which current spring sport do you miss the most?

As for today, March 18, let's review.

Happy 50th birthday to Queen Latifah.

On this day in George Plimpton was born. Plimpton wrote "Paper Lion" as he went through the Lions preseason practice trying to play quarterback.
Rushmore of best sports books. Go, and remember the mailbag.

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