Longtime New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wasn't welcomed to the NFL by cheering masses and an on-stage hug from commissioner Paul Tagliabue -- Brady was the 199th pick in 2000 -- but he certainly deserves to eventually leave the league like a rock star.
We're talking about a G.O.A.T. (GOing Away Tour) for the G.O.A.T.
New York Yankees great Derek Jeter got one. In the NBA, Dwyane Wade did a jersey swap tour and the late, great Kobe Bryant got ovations and mementos throughout his last season. Everybody knows the NFL doesn't do the cheesy-gift, thanks-for-the-memories thing, but wouldn't it be the perfect way to say goodbye?
One year after celebrating itself with the centennial anniversary, the NFL could continue the party with a Brady bash. No one knows if 2020 will be his last season or even where he will be playing, but he will be taking snaps for some team. As he claimed in his now-famous Super Bowl LIV commercial, "I'm not going anywhere."
It's hard to find the right gifts for a guy who already has plenty of jewelry (six Super Bowl rings), a supermodel wife, a super-weird diet and a supersized bank account ($235 million in career earnings), but our NFL Nation crew did some brainstorming and formulated a farewell gift plan for the man who has everything.
Here's looking at you
Los Angeles Rams: A video camera. To this day, former Rams star Marshall Faulk believes the Patriots illegally taped a walk-through practice during the run-up to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans (the original Patriots controversy). This was 2002, five years before the Patriots were busted for Spygate. The NFL found no evidence of cheating at the Super Bowl, but Faulk continues to spew his conspiracy theory. (FYI, the Rams lost).
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Carolina Panthers: A video camera. Different Super Bowl, same suspicion. There are those in the Panthers' organization who still believe the Patriots taped their practices prior to Super Bowl XXXVIII. Said a team source a few years ago, "Our players came in after that first half and said it was like [the Patriots] were in our huddle. Do I have any tape to prove they cheated? No. But I'm convinced they did it." (FYI, the Panthers lost).
Cincinnati Bengals: A video camera and a pair of SD cards. After a 2-14 season, the Bengals are entitled to a chuckle or two after the latest videotaping flap involving the Patriots. What will Brady do with three cameras? Maybe he can use them to make his own documentary, the retirement version: "Tom versus All the Time in the World."
Fashion statements (including a certain undergarment)
San Francisco 49ers: An adult-sized 49ers uniform in Joe Montana's No. 16. We might as well start at the beginning, right? Brady grew up near San Francisco and was a huge fan of the 49ers and Montana, whose jersey he once wore for Halloween. The 49ers also can include an apology letter for passing on him nine times in the 2000 draft. Where have you gone, Gio Carmazzi?
New York Jets: A framed Mo Lewis jersey. The former Jets linebacker gets an assist for ushering in the Brady era. On Sept. 23, 2001, Lewis knocked Patriots starter Drew Bledsoe out of the game with a devastating blow that nearly killed him, as we later learned. In came the skinny, second-year quarterback from Michigan, and he never left. Don't be surprised if the jersey isn't autographed. Lewis, who had a terrific pro career, is chafed by the notion that he's remembered for only one play.
Chicago Bears: Brian Urlacher's jockstrap. Brady's most famous play against the Bears occurred in 2006, when his slow feet turned magical for a fleeting moment. Somehow, he juked Urlacher, who was the Defensive Player of the Year the season prior, in the open field to pick up a pivotal first down to seal New England's win. That play didn't make Urlacher's Hall of Fame highlight video.
Cleveland Browns: Seven pairs of Odell Beckham Jr. cleats, signifying the number of wins Brady owns over the Browns in his career. Brady can add them to the "GOAT" cleats that Beckham gifted him after their game in October, which included actual goat hair. No, it wasn't dyed blond.
Miami Dolphins: Aqua swim trunks. The heat and humidity have taken their toll on Brady, who calls Miami "a challenging place to play." He has lost more games in Miami (10) than any other road city. If Brady decides to be a cliché and retire in South Florida -- or if he just visits on occasion -- he can break out the trunks and just chill.
Houston Texans: A letterman jacket. In 2012, the Texans thought they were hot stuff. With an 11-1 record, they decided to wear matching letterman jackets to a game at Gillette Stadium. Bad idea. They got blown out by the Patriots and Brady, who threw four touchdowns. Since then, they have yet to win at Gillette (0-5).
Photographs and memories
Arizona Cardinals: A DVD of the Cardinals' 2016 opener against the Patriots. Now Brady can see everything he missed because he wasn't there; he didn't make the trip to the desert because he started serving his four-game suspension for Deflategate. If you're unfamiliar with that controversy, the Patriots were accused of using underinflated footballs in the 2014 AFC title game. In January 2015, the NFL began investigating the Patriots. Almost five months later, the investigation concluded that the Patriots did use underinflated footballs. Brady was suspended for four games. His appeal went all the way to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals before being upheld, and Brady missed the start of the 2016 season. Like many things, it didn't matter. The Patriots defeated the Falcons in Super Bowl LI that season and Brady was named MVP of the game.
For the record, Brady's understudy led the Patriots to a 23-21 victory. That understudy has done well for himself; Jimmy Garoppolo helped the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV.
New York Giants: A condolence card. Dear Tom: Sorry for your losses, Super Bowl XLII and XLVI. RIP, perfect season. No regrets, (signed) Eli.
Oakland Raiders: A laminated copy of "The Tuck Rule," signed by Charles Woodson. Brady benefited from one of the most controversial calls in sports history, the fumble that wasn't a fumble. In snowy Foxborough for the 2001 AFC divisional playoffs, Woodson jarred the ball loose from his former college teammate, but the Patriots retained possession due to a quirky rule -- one of the signature moments at the start of the New England dynasty.
Philadelphia Eagles: An autographed copy of Nick Foles' book, "Believe It." Brady still might have a hard time believing he lost to the Cinderella quarterback in Super Bowl LII, but this tome should serve as a reminder. Brady was brilliant that day, passing for a postseason-record 505 yards, but he came up short in the end.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A photo of Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack returning a fumble in the 2017 AFC Championship Game, signed by referee Clete Blakeman. An apparent premature whistle by Blakeman's crew nullified what could have been a game-clinching play for the Jaguars. Jack scooped up a loose ball and ran to the end zone, but it was blown dead because it was ruled Patriots running back Dion Lewis was down by contact. The Jaguars would have had a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, but wound up losing by four. Brady gets all the breaks, right?
Indianapolis Colts: A fully inflated football, an air pump, a PSI gauge and an autographed picture of Mona Lisa Vito (aka actress Marisa Tomei). Brady can re-gift the Mona Lisa Vito photo to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who famously referenced the "My Cousin Vinny" character in his rambling and comical defense of his team in the Deflategate scandal.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Fully functioning sideline headsets. In 2015, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin created big news by complaining his headset malfunctioned during a game at Gillette Stadium. He said there was so much interference that he actually picked up the signal from the Patriots' radio broadcast. Alleged foul play by the Patriots? In other headlines: "Fall Foliage Hits New England Region."
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees' game ball from their 2009 meeting. Brees posted the only perfect passer rating of his career against the Patriots in a 38-17 trouncing that season en route to New Orleans' Super Bowl win. Brady and Brees have taken turns exchanging bragging rights ever since Brady's Michigan Wolverines clobbered Brees' Purdue Boilermakers in their only college meeting in 1999. Brees is 3-2 in head-to-head meetings in the pros and has the NFL's career records for passing yardage and TD passes. Alas, Brady has the ultimate mic drop -- six rings to one.
Baltimore Ravens: New wristbands. Whenever Brady faced Ed Reed and the Ravens, he wrote, "Find No. 20 on every play" on his playcall wristband -- the quarterback's equivalent to a Post-It note. It worked to mixed results. He went 4-3 against the Ravens (including 1-2 in the playoffs) and was intercepted twice by the Pro Football Hall of Fame safety.
A few things to relax with
Green Bay Packers: A gift card to Kroll's West. This popular hangout, known for its local favorites, is located across Ridge Road from Lambeau Field. Since he's hanging 'em up, the health-conscious Brady won't have to worry about staying in shape. A butterburger and an order of fried cheese curds are calling his name. Man can eat kale for only so long.
Denver Broncos: A weekend getaway to a Rocky Mountain spa resort. The Broncos owe him some pampering after the beatdowns they administered over the years. Brady is 4-7 in Denver, including 0-3 in the postseason. In his most recent playoff appearance in the Mile High City -- Jan. 20, 2016 -- he took perhaps the worst beating of his career -- 20 quarterback hits. Perhaps a lavender-scented suite with a hot-stone massage will relieve some of the pressure, anxiety and bad memories of Denver.
Buffalo Bills: A two-night stay at the Curtiss Hotel in downtown Buffalo. In 2012, Brady infamously commented on the hotels in town while describing his relationship with his father, saying, "I don't know if you guys have ever been to the hotels in Buffalo -- they're not the nicest places in the world -- but he would still travel to those places." Well, the Curtiss is a five-star hotel and would welcome a very Brady weekend.
'Crazy rich' gifts
Dallas Cowboys: A vacation on Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones' $250 million yacht. Brady has been cruising against the Cowboys since he broke into the league (a 5-0 record), so why not? Gisele and the kids can kick back on the 357-foot boat, the marine version of Jerry's World.
Detroit Lions: A job. You know, if he wants one. Even though Brady hasn't played in Michigan in 20 years, he's still incredibly popular and Matt Patricia knows Brady better than almost any coach in the league. Brady also has more Super Bowl titles than the Lions as a franchise. Plus, he could attend the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry game every season. Maybe he could be a much-needed good-luck charm for coach Jim Harbaugh, too.
The grand finale
Seattle Seahawks: They already gave Brady a memorable gift in the form of a goal-line interception that allowed him to claim his fourth Super Bowl, but he gave the truck he won as the game's MVP to Malcolm Butler, the interceptor. The Seahawks will make up for that by gifting Brady the preferred vehicle of outdoorsy Pacific Northwest types -- a Subaru wagon with a hatch big enough to fit all six of his Vince Lombardi Trophies. And because the Seahawks are reluctantly opening the deepest wound in franchise history, their gift will come with a dig at Brady: Vanity plates that read "UMADBRO." (h/t Richard Sherman).