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‘How do you sum up 20 years of greatness?’: Tom Brady leaves Patriots with two decades worth of memories

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Related: Celebrate Tom Brady’s legendary time in New England in style!

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Tom Brady era is over. The greatest quarterback of all time announced his departure from the New England Patriots on Tuesday and will continue his career elsewhere, trying to add to a résumé that already is more impressive than that of any other NFL player. What he leaves behind in New England is not just a gigantic void to fill, meanwhile, but also two decades worth of memories that shaped an entire region’s feelings about the game.

Between becoming the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2001 and his departure almost 19 years later, Brady helped turn a franchise that was once an afterthought on the NFL map into the greatest dynasty the league has ever seen. He helped cultivate the so-called Patriot Way and led the organization to six Super Bowl titles and an unheard-of 30 playoff victories. And he left a lasting impression on people not just in New England but all over the globe.

What the memories of Brady’s Patriots tenure look like differ from person to person, and whether or not someone rooted for the team or the player in particular. But one thing cannot be denied, his time in New England created dozens of great ones — and the Pats Pulpit staff is here to share its favorite memories and musings on the future Hall of Famer and the region’s favorite adopted son.

Bernd Buchmasser: Tom Brady has been a part of my football life from the very beginning, and to pick one favorite memory is nearly impossible. In hindsight, however, one does stand out: I was in Atlanta to cover last year’s Super Bowl for Pats Pulpit, and — unbeknownst to me, of course — to watch Brady’s ninth and final appearance on the game’s biggest stage in (at least in a Patriots uniform). He turned the football over on his first pass and the entire game was a defensive affair, but in the end he made the plays when it mattered most to pull out the victory. That, to me, is his greatness in a nutshell: he did his job and the team could rely on him to deliver. It doesn’t get more Tom Brady than that. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Rich Hill: There are so many great memories of Tom Brady. From the early Super Bowls, to the explosive offenses with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, to the more recent Super Bowls. My favorite memory has to be Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, with the greatest comeback in NFL history. I was covering the game in Houston and was in the media tent after halftime, with the game looking like the Falcons were going to win in a rout. And then Tom Brady and New England mounted their improbable comeback, with Brady dissecting the Falcons defense at every turn. There aren’t many moments in NFL history where a player was in more control of an offense than Brady was in the late stages of that game. That was the game where he silenced any conversation about whether he was the greatest quarterback of all time. He answered it loudly and secured his fifth Super Bowl title.

Brian Phillips: Favorite Tom Brady moment: SB51.

Marima: My favorite Tom Brady memory is too difficult to pinpoint. Too many of them with a terrific story behind each one. All of them though were encapsulated in the last two drives in Super Bowl LI. The ultimate all-in, team-first, do-or-die, history-on-his back moment of moments. Everything he is about, summed up in those cool, calm drives, the ridiculously accurate passes, that rallied the team, and gave them the confidence to complete their ultimate come-from-behind story to win it all. Tom Brady at his fourth-quarter finest is what I will remember most.

Mark Schofield: There are few constants in life. For me, Tom Brady was one. I tracked so many changes in my life over the past twenty years, and Brady seemed to be that one constant. Picking just one memory is impossible. I mean, he marked the transition in my son from little boy who wanted to be like his dad (thereby rooting for the Patriots with me in Super Bowl LI) to boy who wants to be different and contrarian (thereby rooting for the Eagles a year later). Brady spanned half of my life, he brought me joy and countless memories, and he made football fun for me right after my own playing days drew to a close.

Pat Lane: How do you sum up 20 years of greatness in a few sentences? Simply put, you don’t. The thing I’ll remember the most about Tom Brady is how good of a person he was when he was here. I’ve always been proud to have him be the face of my favorite team, and I’ll miss him more than I can express.

Ryan Keiran: I know we don’t acknowledge the undefeated season, but I don’t think anything tops Brady-to-Moss to simultaneously break their respective single season touchdown records in terms of an individual moment. For Brady specifically, that season was his time to really announce that he’s not just a game manager with a defense and run game, he can do what Peyton does and find more success along the way as well. That final touchdown was the cherry on top.

Matthew Rewinski: Favorite TB12 memory: the kid standing in the red white and blue confetti after Super Bowl 36 with his hands on top of his head, a probably-double-XL Super Bowl Champions t-shirt (as one did back then), and that look on his face like “....that actually just happened”. The kid who almost didn’t get drafted at all and had his resume ready to sell insurance or something, looking up at the sheer improbability of it all and realizing “we are the best football team in the world, world champions, and I was part of it”. Looking up at his family in the stands like “you guys saw that, right?” And even though we didn’t know it at the time, he’d take a team that, historically, was never really in it to a team that was truly never out of it until the clock hit triple zeroes. You always remember your first.

Slot Machine Player: In a 20-year career, there are way too many moments to pick a single memory. One thing Brady has always done from year one to year twenty is stand in the pocket in the face of a pass rush and deliver a critical strike down the field. He then gets back up off of the ground and does it again and again. It now feels like Pats Nation is taking that hit, but hopefully like Number 12 we can get back up and keep moving forward.

Ryan Spagnoli: The way Tom carried himself the last twenty years despite all the hate and negative energy surrounding him from the national media is something that goes beyond his playing career. The perfect role model for anybody. A great person who always put his team and family first. There will never be another athlete reach the pinnacle the way Tom Brady did during his time here in New England. No matter what was going on in your world, Sunday’s were always something to look forward to. When this settles in and we move on with a new quarterback and era in Patriots football, I hope we can all remember what a blessing it was to have No. 12 play here in this city. He brought so much joy and passion to a region. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

What is your favorite Tom Brady memory? Share it in the comments so all of us can take a trip down memory lane together, because as Ryan put it: Don’t cry because his time in New England is over, smile because it happened.