Brian Flores, Manchester United and Dolphins

Instead, Brady’s change of heart was the result of a stunning fall of dominos that included the Miami Dolphins, Sean Payton, the suit of Brian Flores, former Patriots attacking lineman Rich Orenburger, and the Manchester United football match.

If Brady had been on his way, he would have managed – and possibly the quarterback – one of the Patriots’ squad rivals. Instead, a series of unexpected events led him back to Tampa.

Nobody from the Brady camp acknowledged this timeline of events. But it is fairly easy to connect the dots. A league source close to one of the parties provided knowledge of the internal dynamics of the situation. Press coverage from Ohrnberger, now a radio broadcaster in San Diego, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk filled in some of the gaps.

Here’s how it all unfolded:

▪ Brady decided to stay away from the pirates for two reasons. One, in Ohrnberger, was his relationship with Arians. Ohrnberger is a former teammate and close friend with a member of Tampa Bay’s coaching staff, AQ Shipley.

“The retirement announcement was not due to a problem seeing the offensive game planning head on, but the relationship was strained,” he said. Ohrnberger wrote on Twitter. “Attack coordinator Byron Liftwich and Brady would work on the plan for the week. The Arians came in later and took the red pen for the work they did. The QB and OC felt undermined, and there was tension.”

The other, and more important, reason is that Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, offered Brady a golden opportunity to get into the NFL business. According to a league source, Brady would have been given a senior position in the Miami front office, similar to Derek Jeter’s previous position with the Miami Marlins. Florio reported Thursday that the Dolphins will introduce Brady as minority owner in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

Stephen Ross, owner of Dolphins (left) and former coach Brian Flores, after the 2021 game. John McCall/The Associated Press

Brady has two great affinities with dolphins. One of them is the University of Michigan. Brady is her star graduate, and Ross is named to the business school. The other is Bruce Bell, a Dolphins minority owner who is a friend of Brady and has joined Brady on at least one trip to the Kentucky Derby.

Ross desperately wanted Brady – partly to bring the sizzle to the dolphins, partly to affix them to the Patriots. For Brady, this was an opportunity to get into the business side of the NFL, with the goal of taking on his own property group one day.

▪ This does not mean that Brady has finished playing football. After all, he finished second in the MVP vote and led the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes.

Dolphin show was just Brady’s way out of Tampa. He was under contract with the Buccaneers as a player, but they couldn’t stop him from becoming CEO. Once Brady was in Miami, and once the Buccaneers found a replacement at the quarterback, the Dolphins could approach the Bucs about making up trade to allow Brady to come out of retirement and play quarterback.

“I thought he’d probably take a year off, or something, and maybe come back after that,” Rob Gronkowski said Wednesday night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

▪ Payton, the former Saints coach who resigned on January 25, was also to participate, as first reported by Florio on February 28. Brady and Peyton have had a relationship of over 20 years in the NFL, and they share an agent in Don Yee. Brady was about to join the Saints in 2020 before Drew Brees decided to return for another year.

According to a league source, if Brady were to run the Dolphins, he would only do so with a veteran coach he trusted, like Payton. Payton admitted when he resigned from the Saints that he intended to train again soon.

Former Saints coach Sean Payton.Adam Hunger/The Associated Press

▪ On the morning of February 1, Brady announced his retirement – except that he never used that word. He said he would “no longer make that competitive commitment.” His choice of words was deliberate.

Just hours later, on February 1, Flores filed his lawsuit against Dolphins and the NFL for racial discrimination, as well as making explosive allegations against Ross of intentionally trying to lose matches and manipulating a certain star.

The lawsuit spoiled everything, according to the source. The plan to appoint a white coach and a white team captain likely won’t fly without going through the Rooney Act once dolphins are sued for racial discrimination.

Flores’ accusations of lockers and tampering put the issue of cell phones and discovery in the game for Ross and Brady. The suit simply brought too much tension into the situation, and Ross and Brady had to cancel the arrangement.

▪ With his plans with the dolphins blown up, Brady is left with two options: stay retired without knowing what he’s going to do with his life or go back to football.

The decision was clear. But Brady had to clear up some issues in Tampa first.

On March 12, he traveled to the United Kingdom to participate in the Manchester United football match. Man U is owned by the Glazer family, which also owns the Buccaneers. On March 13, Brady announced that he would be returning to the Buccaneers. His announcement came three days before the free agency began, allowing Bucs to use Brady as a recruiting tool.

The final chapter was written on March 30, when the Buccaneers announced that Arians was stepping down as head coach and making way for the Bulls, who was the team’s defensive coordinator. Every other coach for the Bucs stayed in place, including Leftwich, who would essentially be the head coach on the offensive side of the ball.

It’s not certain exactly what Brady and Glazer were talking about at the football match. But it doesn’t take a genius to put 2 + 2 together.

▪ In fact, there is still one last unresolved act: the Brady contract. It’s on the books for $10.4 million, plus $4.5 million in incentives. The pirates will definitely give him a raise. But if there are no extra years, rumors of Brady to Miami (or San Francisco) will flare up again in 2023. If Brady gets extra years, we can safely assume that the Glazers don’t want him to play in any other costume.

Either way, Brady will return with the Bucks in 2022, claiming a Super Bowl VIII win and becoming the first player in NFL history to start a game at age 45.

It wasn’t his original plan, but it’s a good alternative. Pirate fans can thank Flores’ suit and a soccer match across the pond for making it all happen.

Ben Volin can be reached at