NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

The Patriots will for the first time in 20 years try to win without Tom Brady at the helm.

OK, he’s gone.

Now what?

When (if?) the NFL is allowed to return from this pandemic that has us all locked in our homes, the post-Tom Brady era will officially begin in Foxborough, and in the hearts of Patriots lovers and haters all around the world.

Brady is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. The team he leaves behind is a work in progress — very slow progress. It’s a team without an experienced quarterback plus so many of the other things that made last season end on a sour note.

Rebuilding? Bridge year? Bridge to what exactly?

I don’t buy any of it, nor would I buy spoiled fans being at all patient with it. This is head coach Bill Belichick‘s chance to show he can win without his star quarterback, just as the star quarterback wants to prove he can win without the coach.

The Patriots will get a quarterback, or they’ll go with Jarrett Stidham or a drafted rookie and show the system is enough to get it done. Brady didn’t have a great year in 2019 and the Pats still made it to the playoffs amid a spate of injuries. And the AFC Least, despite some improvements, is the AFC Least until proven otherwise.

Let’s see how creative Belichick gets in his quest to show the world something good can happen with Brady gone.

Cashing in

His name is Ed Teach. He’s a professional gambler (sidebar to the passing of the great Kenny Rogers) who specializes in what they call “futures” betting. He collected $285,000 on Lamar Jackson‘s MVP and has turned a pair of $500 bets into $45,000 on Brady winding up in Tampa.

Teach tweeted on March 15: “TB stands for ‘Tom Brady Buccaneers’ on these tickets. IMO odds better than 50/50 he ends up in TB. Major rift in NE. Better weapons, more money, easier path to SB, being “wanted.” I also think Brady would retire if he knew he was washed up, so Tampa is “live” if he signs.”

More Brady: ESPN runs a seven-hour Tom Brady marathon Sunday with emphasis on the Super Bowls.

Will you watch? Are you angry he left? At him? At the team? I’m seeing mixed reviews on social media, and you will get the chance to show Brady how you feel in the 2021 season, when the Bucs are scheduled to visit Gillette.

Now THAT will be strange.

Surprisingly, Gary Myers, who wrote “Brady vs. Manning,” said Tampa Bay made the most sense for TB12. Before it became official where Brady was going, Myers said, “I really think he’s got a better chance to win in Tampa.”

Brady’s effect in Tampa has been immediate. From thescore.com: “Brady was the top-selling player across all sports on Fanatics on Friday while the Buccaneers were the top-selling NFL team, a spokesperson for the online retailer said, according to Tom Barrabi of Fox Business.”

Says Brady: “I’m starting a new football journey.”

No Sale

Some saw it as inevitable, and this week the announcement came that Chris Sale needs Tommy John surgery.

Tommy John himself sent a Facebook message, “Better than Covid-19,” which is true – but this is a devastating turn of events for the Red Sox, who are starting a five-year/$145 million contract with the skinny left-hander.

Because of the delay in making this decision, and because this surgery might not be easy to schedule because it does not have to be done right now, it seems likely Sale will miss two seasons, and then return as a 32-year-old pitcher who has never been a rock in terms of durability.

His loss leaves Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez and … ??? as the Boston rotation, now missing Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. Collin McHugh isn’t exactly healthy, either.

Ryan Weber? Brian Johnson? Someone not even there yet?

On McHugh, GM Chaim Bloom said Friday, “He was still working out and progressing towards throwing obviously when all this happened. He is still in the Fort Myers area right now because we expect he will return at some point and continue to progress. Hopefully, obviously it’s a little tougher for everybody right now, but hopefully he’ll be able to (work) as much as he can, and we’ll be able to have him progress to throwing and move him forward as much as we can.”

Meanwhile, the Red Sox await word on the MLB decision on their alleged sign stealing, and there are rumbles this is going to be no big deal. Heck, the report might even be enough to get the interim tag from manager Ron Roenicke‘s job title.

From MassLive: “According to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, a team lawyer suggested Friday in court that the club is already aware of the conclusions made by MLB in its investigation.”

In court, team counsel Lauren Moskowitz, representing the team in a class-action lawsuit brought by a bettor, said, “Your Honor, I think that there are distinctions between what the Red Sox believe occurred and what the commissioner found. And I think that certainly they’re entitled to disagree that that activity happened at the club level. Certainly, we did find on certain occasions in 2017, that this electronic device was used to communicate sign information.”

In other words, no 2018.

Book it

Some book ideas while you’re stuck inside:

“Fenway 1946; Red Sox, Peace and a Year of Hope,” by Michael Connolly. A big year in Boston.

“Eating My Way Through Baseball,” former trainer Barry Weinberg and his travels through MLB. Great anecdotes from our game.

“Ballpark; Baseball in the American City,” Paul Goldberger‘s look at our stadiums through the years. From Jerry Seinfeld: “I read this entire book! Baseball inspires a religious devotion for me and its many followers. This book by Paul Goldberger gives incredible new insights into the cathedrals at which we love to worship it. I am grateful for it. Thank you, Paul.” …

And Yaron Weitzman‘s “Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports.”

Looking around

Opening Day is Thursday. Oh, wait … sorry about that. …

No truth to the rumor that Giancarlo Stanton pulled a muscle while texting Sale after the pitcher’s bad news. …

But that Aaron Judge injury, originally suffered back in September, now includes a partially collapsed lung, according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone. …

Better late than never? The Bruins announced their plan to pay their hourly employees. They were the last of the NHL teams to do it and the news came after heat from Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey. ..

If you’re REALLY bored during this – and even if you’re not – both the NHL and MLB Networks are showing some good stuff in terms of historical games. And Scott Van Pelt‘s midnight ESPN SportsCenter is quality material night after night. …

Rick Pitino is back and Iona’s got him. Coaching college basketball is something Pitino does better than anyone, but let’s be honest: there’s baggage. As far as his ability to do well in New Rochelle, N.Y., and then moving on (or up?), Pitino told WFAN radio, “I can tell you right now, the only school that could afford me, with my buyout, is Fort Knox University. I don’t think with the type of buyout I have, and I’m too embarrassed to even tell you the number it’s so scary, Iona definitely is my last stop.” He also said, “Looking back now, I deserved to be fired by Louisville. I’ve got to take ownership and responsibility for the people I was leading.” …

Ben Watson has retired – again. Saying he’s “happy” for Brady, he said, “It is 2020 and as we’ve seen in 2020 some strange things are happening – and it’s only March.” …

Watching a film on the great New York Islanders teams that won four straight Stanley Cups, I was reminded that 16 players won all four Cups from 1980-83. Amazing. …

A stat: over the last 20 years Brady won 249 games. The Bucs won 210 games over that span. Brady threw 614 touchdown passes, the Bucs 585. Brady threw 214 interceptions, the Bucs 585. …

A QB in the draft? Sports Illustrated ranked the top 100 prospects. Joe Burrow, who will go No. 1 to the Bengals, trailed Chase Young at the top of the list. Tua Tagovailoa was No. 5, followed by Oregon’s Justin Herbert at 17, Utah State’s Jordan Love at 25, Washington’s Jacob Eason (64), Georgia’s Jake Fromm (78) and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (79). Pats? How about Hurts as a later-round pick? …

The NCAA made the right call not announcing the brackets for the men’s and women’s basketball March Madness. Said VP Dan Gavitt: “There is not an authentic way to produce tournament fields and brackets at this point without speculating and that isn’t fair to the teams that would be positively or negatively impacted by manufacturing March Madness.”

Angels manager Joe Maddon says this is a great time for baseball to get innovative, luring fans with things liking mic’ing players during games. He also wants to see this postseason played at neutral sites, in warmer weather and with retractable roofs. “Under those circumstances, I would be all for players being mic’d-up, like that game where (Cubs players Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant) did during our spring training game,” Maddon said. “I think that would be entertaining and interesting. I think the 20-second clock (between pitches), it would be a perfect time to have that implemented. Things of that nature, like adding the runner on second base (to start) the 12th inning.”…

Marcus Smart testing positive for Covid-19 among the Celtics makes sense: No one gets down and dirty against the opposition like the defensive genius. …

Former Pats offensive coordinator Charlie Weis didn’t think Brady would leave the Patriots, telling XM Radio, “… The finality of listening to you read that tweet — I’ve got it sitting here on my computer in front of me — as I’m reading it, I have to tell you I’m a little stunned. I really am a little stunned.” …

Joe Thornton has no plans to retire, saying, “I have years to go.”…

From Hall of Famer Bob Ryan on Brady: “The greatest winner-take-all American athlete was Bill Russell. 21-0 in such games, starting at USF. This is documented and therefore unarguable. End of story.” Excellent point. …

Former Sox Victor Martinez owns a horse scheduled to run in the Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled to Sept. 5. Writes Mike Kane of The Thoroughbred News Service: “King Guillermo’s stunning victory at odds of 49-1 in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 7 yielded 50 qualifying points, more than enough to assure at spot in the Kentucky Derby field. In the 1:42.63 it took for King Guillermo to cover the 1 1/16 miles, Martinez, 41, quickly moved from enthusiastic neophyte owner to an overjoyed neophyte owner in position to win one of the most important races in the world.” …

Finally, we have to hope there’s a baseball season. Remember, this is the final year of the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, R.I. And Aug. 11 is scheduled as Bronson Arroyo Night at McCoy Stadium. Some of the other special events: May 29: David Ortiz Replica Jersey Night; June 12: Manny Ramirez bobblehead; July 17: All-time PawSox baseball cards; July 31: Xander Bogaerts replica jersey; Aug. 14: stadium replica giveaway; Aug. 20: team baseball cards. Kids also can run the bases after and play catch before Sunday games.

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