Tom Brady nearly missed out on playing in a warmer climate in Tampa Bay when the Indianapolis Colts came calling during his free agency in 2020.
Interviewing on the May 28th the Eye Test for Two podcast, Colts owner Jim Irsay told host Ira Kaufman that they tried to bring the quarterback great to Indianapolis. The Colts signed Phillip Rivers instead before acquiring Carson Wentz this year. Brady and the Buccaneers will face the Colts this fall in Week 12 due to the NFL adding a 17th game for teams.
“It was serious,” Irsay told Kaufman. “We had so much respect and interest for Tom, and I just think the world of him as a competitor and a person. And it would have been a real privilege to have his greatness walk through, but with great familiarity with Phillip and that sort of thing, we thought that maybe that mix might be the way to go.”
Irsay also related Brady’s upcoming return to New England to when Peyton Manning returned to Indianapolis in 2013 with the Denver Broncos. The Colts released Manning due to a neck injury in 2012, and Manning went on to lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl, winning one.
“It’s a strange environment,” Irsay explained to Kaufman.
Irsay noted that there’s the competitive side and the human side at play. He reiterated the difficulty of letting Manning go in 2012.
“When Peyton and I took that two-and-half-hour flight from Miami to Indy and we worked things through just him and I alone, that’s the hardest thing I have ever had to go through. I know the same with him,” Irsay told Kaufman. “It wasn’t what I wanted.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft faces a similar situation with his former longtime quarterback returning in Week 4. Kraft expressed his initial excitement on TMZ Sports earlier this month.
“Excited to have him,” Kraft told TMZ Sports on May 15. “He’s a great guy and he did so much for us. I love him.”
Irsay shared advice for Kraft on Kaufman’s podcast as the Bucs-Patriots game approaches.
“Before and after the game, it’s tormenting, and you can expect a wave of emotions to come across because when all of a sudden you see that tribute and you see that jersey and you see that guy, it’s very unusual,” Irsay told Kaufman. “Most people don’t see that guy come back — that guy who meant so much to your franchise (and) that guy who you loved so much. And I know that they loved Tom in New England as they should.”
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Irsay went with the younger quarterback in Rivers, 38, in 2020 but didn’t get close to what the Bucs received from a 43-year-old Brady. Indianapolis went 11-5 in 2020 and fell to AFC runner-up Buffalo with Rivers under center before retiring to coach high school football. Brady bounced back from a relatively down season in 2019 and led the Bucs to an 11-5 mark and a Super Bowl LV victory.
“I give Bruce Arians so much credit, and [offensive consultant] Tom Moore down there, and [quarterbacks coach] Clyde Christensen, and of course, Tom and the whole group,” Irsay told Kaufman. “I didn’t think that they could push that group for the whole season through Super Bowl, stay healthy, and have enough steam with a roster with that kind of age, but boy, they did.”
“It’s one of the most impressive things that I’ve seen because they came out in the NFC, which was easier than coming out of the AFC, but it wasn’t easy, and of course, playing the great Chiefs team that they did and winning, it was special,” Irsay added. “With Tom, you don’t really know what to say except that nothing surprises you because Tom playing until 60, I would say, ‘well, I believe it.’ We just have to make sure he’s from this planet someday.”