Across 20 seasons that saw more glory than any NFL career in 100 autumns, Tom Brady played for just one coach and just one owner.
Now, upon Brady's new-era-signaling announcement Tuesday morning, the six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback is set to play for a coach who isn't Bill Belichick and an owner other than Robert Kraft for the first time.
In Kraft's eyes, it was just time, as he told the NFL Network's Mike Giardi, "if Tom wanted to remain a Patriot, we would have had a deal."
Brady and Kraft's relationship over the years was known to be a great one over myriad great seasons, while many colored Brady and Belichick's union in far less rosy of a hue. Nonetheless, in the aftermath of Brady's announcement of his departure, Belichick and Kraft issued statements of unsurprisingly fond sentiment.
Belichick issued credit to Brady for being one of the creators of how the Patriots went about their winning ways during their dynastic run and concluded with the highest of praise.
"Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. ... He didn't just win. He won championships over and over again," Belichick's statement began. "Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time."
As for the personal side of the marriage of the most successful head coach-quarterback duo in the league's history, Belichick touched upon that, as well, offering his gratitude for all that Brady did for the franchise and him. In doing so, he made it clear that how things ended changes nothing about all the success that preceded the conclusion.
"Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation," Belichick said. "Tom's success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional. Nothing about the end of Tom's Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone's adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.
"I am extremely grateful for what he did for our team and for me personally."
The 78-year-old Kraft's Patriots spent the 199th overall pick of the 2000 NFL Draft on Brady, beginning this century with perhaps the finest selection in the history of the draft. Since then, Kraft's relationship with Brady has grown into one that he sees as a father-and-son pairing, which he made clear.
"I love Tom like a son and I always will," Kraft said in the statement. "He has brought so much happiness to me personally and to all of our fans. I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship. Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality. While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community."
Brady eventually took over the Patriots' QB reins for Drew Bledsoe and captained New England to unparalleled success.
"When Tom arrived in New England as an unheralded, sixth-round pick, no one could have imagined the fairytale story that would be written, the records that would be broken or the joy he would bring to an entire region," Kraft said. "He leaves 20 years later as the winningest quarterback in NFL history with six Super Bowl victories, nine AFC titles and 17 division championships. He has been an exemplary teammate and leader. There simply will never be another Tom Brady."
However, while it's clear Brady will always have a place in Kraft's heart, the owner made it known that he will be welcomed back in New England.
"I now look forward to the day we can bring him back home to New England to celebrate his Patriots career, his endless achievements and his legacy as the greatest of all time," Kraft said. "I love him very much."