After 16 years with the Patriots, Tom Brady seems like a Boston man to the core. He’s one of the greatest athletes in the city’s history, and he’s never played for any other city in the NFL. But Brady is actually from San Mateo, a suburb just south of San Francisco.
And despite 16 years in the league, today marked the first time that Tom Brady played in front of his hometown against his hometown team, the 49ers. While it seems crazy to think that he wouldn’t have played a game there in 16 years, given that NFL scheduling ensures that every team plays every other team at least once every four years.
The reason it hasn’t happened yet has to do with expansion. In 1995, the league added the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers. In doing so, they switched to three division system. Under that system, divisions would be pitted against each other, with a each team in the division playing 4 out of the 5 teams in the other division. In 2001, Tom Brady’s first year starting for the Patriots, the AFC East was matched with the NFC West, and the one team the Patriots didn’t play was the 49ers.
In 2002, the league added the Houston Texans and switched to the current system, with 4 divisions per conference. Teams would play each other every 4 years. The Patriots played the 49ers in 2005, but the game was in New England. Then, in 2008, Tom Brady went down with an ACL injury in week one, keeping him from playing against the 49ers in San Francisco.
Now, 8 years later, Brady finally gets a chance to go back home and play in front of his hometown. After 16 years, numerous records and 4 Superbowl rings, it’s crazy that Brady even had any milestones left to break.