Reimer: End of Brady-Belichick? Not so fast. Their historic partnership looks poised to continue for 2019 and beyond

We have spent the better part of the last year eulogizing the end of the Brady-Belichick era. But it’s time to stuff those retrospectives back in the drawer. After an uncharacteristically tumultuous offseason, followed by an uneven campaign that featured losses to five non-playoff teams, the Patriots’ path to the Super Bowl once again looks open. They have a first-round bye and are one home game away from their eighth straight trip to the AFC championship. 

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick both committed well-publicized slip-ups this season –– playing Rob Gronkowski at safety in Miami, making poor decisions in the red zone during atrocious road losses –– but they’ve brought the Patriots back to familiar territory. There’s no doubt the Brady-Belichick era, to paraphrase TB12 during one of his several ominous offseason interviews, is much closer to the end than beginning. But at the start of a new year, they appear to be the Patriots’ best bet not only for 2019, but beyond.

Despite accurate reports of dissension, Belichick and Brady look poised to enter their third decade together. Brady recently told his buddy Jim Gray he wants to play past next season, which would bring him to 2020. Brady’s father may have infamously predicted it will end poorly for his son in Foxboro and Belichick’s proclivity for jettisoning aging stars is well-established. But at this moment, there’s no better coach-quarterback tandem on the horizon for the Patriots. As long as Brady and Belichick can make it work with each other, and by all accounts they’ve reached an understanding this season, they should remain together for the long haul.

Much to the chagrin of crap-stirrers such as yours truly, the palace intrigue largely stopped emanating from Patriot Place this season. Alex Guerrero was hardly mentioned and we didn’t hear about Brady’s unhappiness with the lack of appreciation for his greatness. In fact, Belichick went out of his way to praise Brady during the darkest moment of the season.

In the aftermath of the Patriots’ loss to the Steelers in Week 15, where Brady threw a terrible red zone interception and hurled sad passes to the end zone during the Patriots’ final drive, Belichick stood up for his quarterback’s questionable late-game decision-making.

“He has excellent judgment and decision-making abilities and so, again, when the play is called, the ball is not supposed to go to anybody unless it’s a screen pass or something like that,” Belichick told reporters. “In Tom’s judgment, which I would certainly not second-guess his judgment, which given the game situation and the time and all of the things that went into that play, he made the best decision that he thought he could make at that time and I’m not going to second-guess it. You can second-guess it if you want to, but nobody knows better at that time, with the ball in his hands, where he feels like he’s got the best chance.”

That full-throated defense stands in stark contrast to Belichick’s public attitude about Brady last year, where he wouldn’t even give TB12 a modicum of credit for shredding the Jaguars in the AFC championship just days after gashing his hand. 

“We’re not talking about open-heart surgery here,” Belichick grumbled when asked about his quarterback’s excellence.

For all of the commentary and cliches about Brady facing off against Father Time –– which is undefeated, in case you haven’t heard –– his production in 2018 was pretty similar to the numbers he posted during his MVP campaign last season. 

This year, Brady completed 65.8 percent of his passes and threw for 4,355 yards with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In 2017, he completed 66.3 percent of his tosses and threw for 4,577 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight picks. 

Oh, and he was throwing to Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, who were replaced by Phillip Dorsett and 11 games of Josh Gordon. 

When Josh McDaniels announced his last-second return to the Patriots last year, it was commonly believed he was the head coach in waiting. But now, he’s seemingly once again entertaining offers to leave. McDaniels is expected to receive multiple interviews for coaching vacancies in the coming weeks, beginning with the Packers Friday. 

There is no quarterback behind Brady and the Patriots may not find their next heir apparent in the NFL Draft, given their positioning at the end of the first-round and the reportedly weak incoming QB class. The quarterback free agent class is highlighted by Nick Foles, who will presumably look to start somewhere next season. After that, you've got Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater. 

In the words of cultural icon Ariana Grande, whose greatness is on-par with Brady's as far as this writer is concerned: Thank U, Next.

Logically speaking, it makes sense for the Patriots to try and sign Brady to another contract past 2019, when he is slated to be a free agent. And frankly, he is the best discernible option out there. He just completed the greatest season of any 41-year-old QB in history. 

Unlike last year at this time, it doesn't seem like Brady is equivocating about his playing future. He says he's all-in. This ride isn't over, despite us telling you it has been for the last 12 months. 

Oh, and if the Patriots suffer a gut-wrenching early postseason defeat, I have every right to change my mind.