NFL: AFC Wild Card-Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady talks with the media after the Pats' playoff loss to Tennessee.

OK, let’s get this out of the way:

I think Tom Brady is coming back and I think he will come back with the New England Patriots.

Now, you have to remember I also thought the Patriots would beat the Tennessee Titans and advance to this week’s Divisional Round game at Kansas City, something I think would have happened if Julian Edelman hadn’t dropped that pass late in the game.

Oh, and while we’re at it, I also think Bill Belichick will also be back and they give it at least one grand shot at No. 7.

It just makes too much sense. They’re just too much alike. It’s hard to imagine Robert Kraft allowing one or both of them to leave.

Talking to Peter King on NBC Sports, Brady said, “I think I’m just … I’ll explore those opportunities whenever they are. If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I love playing football. I still want to play football. I think I still can play at a championship level. I’ve just got to go do it. I’m motivated to get back to work and training.”

Everyone has an opinion on this. One announcer says one thing, another says something else. Truth is, no one, including Brady, really knows what’s going to happen.

If he retires now, he goes out with this final memory: Throwing interceptions for touchdowns in two straight games for the first time in his career.

Old pal Scott Pioli, on CBS, said, “I think he will (play). You know, I don’t know anything definitively, but I think he will. I can’t imagine this is going to be his last game, I can’t imagine this is going to be his last game with the Patriots … I just don’t see him ending his career on a pick-six. Ted Williams went out with a home run, Tom Brady is not going to go out with a pick-six. It’s just not going to happen that way.”

This from @bostonradio: “The fact that Krafts do not have a replacement plan in place tells you everything you need to know. Brady will get a front-loaded three-year deal and will be your Bridge Year 1 and Bridge Year 2 QB after getting full assurances from ownership of complete team reload for 2020.”

Even the Bruins’ Brad Marchand chimed in Monday, saying, “We’d love to see him back, he’s part of this city and it’d be pretty tough to see him in any other jersey. And I can pretty much guarantee he’d come back to bite everyone in their butts. So hopefully he’s back next year.”

In Vegas, Odds Shark says New England is the favorite for where Brady will play next.

Seriously, where could he really go? Cris Collinsworth thinks L.A. — for the Chargers, who would part ways with Philip Rivers and could also use Brady to sell tickets as they look to improve life in Los Angeles (they should have stayed in San Diego).

There are 10 “name” quarterbacks, counting Brady, set to enter the free agent market. The youngest and most attractive of all of them is Dak Prescott, who will likely re-sign with the Cowboys and play for new coach Mike McCarthy (the new Dallas coach, eliminating a potential Josh McDaniels landing spot). The others? Rivers, Drew Brees, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Case Keenum and Eli Manning.

“I’m not crushingly disappointed,” Brady said to King. “I think we fought hard. Our head is held high. We’re competitors. Every season doesn’t end in a Super Bowl win. It’s exciting when it does. You relish those when you have those opportunities and we’ve had them more than anyone else. I’m proud of the guys for fighting hard. But those other guys (the Titans) are competitive too, and they deserved to win tonight. We just didn’t make the plays the last half of the season that we needed to make. Didn’t make the plays tonight.”

Sounds like a guy who wants another shot, doesn’t it?

McDaniels is likely gone this time. That means the Pats need a coordinator aimed toward Brady success, but they also need something else: PLAYERS! Get this guy some ammunition and really give him another shot at the ring.

Gronk behavior

A second look at Rob Gronkowski’s spiking and smashing the Steve Harvey Lego bust on New Year’s Eve shows us why this big fella does in fact belong in the world of wrestling. Regardless of your feelings about Harvey, this was childish and buffoonish.

Old pal Phil Mushnick of the New York Post (we were teammates there a hundred years ago), went off on Gronk, saying, “He spiked it like a football, shattering it then kicking the shards. He demonstrated no sense that it was a work of art if not a lengthy labor of one.

“… Everyone loves The Gronk! At least everyone in the TV business whose goal is to attract the greatest and growing number of dimwits.”

He’s hurting

Why do I have the feeling we’re going to be hearing soon about Edelman surgery or surgeries? It was clear the last two games the little engine that could just couldn’t.

Here’s something: The Pats ended the season with two straight losses for the first time since 2009 and only the second time in the Belichick era (and the second time since 1998).

Wild Card weekend was outstanding to watch. So odd that the Saints, eliminated by a non-call on pass interference that KO’d them last year and led to PI being reviewable, were again KO’d on a non-PI call — after the play was reviewed.

The line of the weekend goes to Mike Vrabel (finally getting his revenge for getting traded to K.C.), who cited the Yankees by saying his players, “Can’t get caught looking at the pinstripes.” He amended that later, saying, “I don’t think our guys spent too much time staring up at the banners.”

After Matthew Slater said the Saturday loss didn’t define the 2019 Patriots, Belichick said Sunday, “I think Matt put it well. Matt did a great job after the game of capturing the moment of the situation and everyone’s feelings. I wouldn’t have anything to add to that. I tried to articulate it the best I could and that’s what it was, what it is.”

Slater, Devin McCourty and Kyle Van Noy are among the 19 Patriots not named Brady who could also be entering free agency.

The Patriots are now 20-4 at home in the playoffs under Belichick. They’re 4-4 on the road.

Finally, hey, you have to be a bit older to know this, but both the Houston Texans and the Houston Oilers advanced in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card games. Look it up on the Google, kids. The Titans used to be the Oilers (of Earl Campbell and Bum Phillips).


Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.