One of the most successful partnerships in the history of US sports has come to an end with the news that Tom Brady is leaving the New England Patriots.

In a series of statements on social media on Tuesday, Brady confirmed he is leaving the team after 20 seasons and a record six Super Bowl titles. “Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments,” he wrote.

FOREVER A PATRIOT pic.twitter.com/QSBOJBs4uy

He also paid tribute to “all of the incredible fans and Patriots supporters.” He added that it has “truly been the happiest two decades I could have envisioned in my life, and I have nothing but love and gratitude for my time in New England.”

Brady will turn 43 this summer but has said in the past he intends to continue playing into his mid-40s and possibly beyond. He officially becomes a free agent on Wednesday but can reach an agreement with a team on Tuesday. There will be no shortage of teams willing to recruit him, even if he is no longer at the peak of his considerable powers. Brady did not reveal his next destination but possibilities include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Las Vegas Raiders or a return to his native California with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Brady was barely on teams’ radars when he came out of college in 2000. Every team in the league passed on him several times in that year’s draft before the Patriots selected him with the 199th pick. He began his career in New England as their fourth-choice quarterback – and may have stayed as a back-up for some time – if not for an injury to the team’s starter, Drew Bledsoe, in 2001. He subsequently led them to the Super Bowl that season and never looked back. His poise, accuracy and infamous worth ethic, along with his partnership with head coach Bill Belichick, would lead to another five titles, a record the Patriots share with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

His last title came in February 2019 when he was 41, an age when most players are long retired. However, his final season with the Patriots was disappointing by Brady’s high standards. New England were shocked in the playoffs by the unfancied Tennessee Titans, and Brady threw 24 touchdowns, his lowest total in a full season since 2006. While some wondered if he was starting to decline, others pointed out that he was not helped by a weakened supporting cast.

The Patriots did not record a losing season while Brady was their starting quarterback. He was named the league’s most valuable player three times, to the Pro Bowl 14 times and is a certainty for the hall of fame when he retires. His 74,571 passing yards are second all-time among NFL quarterbacks and his 541 passing touchdowns are also second on the all-time list.

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