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A few thoughts on Tom Brady, the legendary – depending on how you view him – quarterback for the New England Patriots, whose team was shown an uncharacteristic early exit in this year’s AFC playoffs.

First of all, I think it was time for a new champion. I know, they only had a streak of one Super Bowl win (in a row) prior to this year’s playoffs – a 13-3 win over Los Angeles in Super Bowl LIII – and in the last three years appearances in the year’s ultimate game every year, and four of the last six.

But let’s face it: Toward the end of the season, the Patriots didn’t seem like the vintage Patriots of old. Something was off. The chemistry and killer weapon – Josh Gordon, Rob Gronkowksi, Randy Moss and others – wasn’t there to deliver in clutch time. may just not have been there.

Or other teams began catching on and got better faster than the Patriots did this year.

On Jan. 4, 2020, the Tennessee Titans were simply the better team than New England on this day.

A Facebook friend of mine weighed in on social media bashing the Patriots and how the dynasty may be over.

Perhaps it is. Remember: They went 11 years between Super Bowl playoffs, from when Chicago plowed them in the most famous of the games, Super Bowl XX, in 1986, and the loss to Green Bay in 1997’s Super Bowl XXXI. Like every team, they had their down seasons – anyone remember 1990 and the once-victorious squad? – and those of mediocre success.

Simply put: It just may be time for a new team to rise to the top.

Who will it be?

A colleague of mine suggests that the Baltimore Ravens may be near the top of the list. They have youth, a talented quarterback Lamar Jackson, who combines speed and arm strength and accuracy. And then you have a veteran coaching staff and strong defense.

The Buffalo Bills also have youth, but Josh Allen needs to work on consistency.

The Titans, with Derrick Henry at running back, was unstoppable against New England in the memorable upset.

But as much potential as those teams have – and I’m sure others – will Tom Brady return next year? And where, if anywhere?

ESPN and the Associated Press both have published stories stating that the 20-year, 42-year-old Brady will indeed be back in uniform, somewhere, for the 2020 season.

On that end, there’s been speculation on where he will go next year or if he stays in Foxborough, Mass.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week – and the News-Telegraph ran the story – on possible teams where he might suit up. Of course, it would be something if he did indeed land in Cincinnati, although many analysts see this as extremely unlikely. (The AP did suggest that he might go there simply to tutor Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, the susperstud from LSU who helped obliterated Oklahoma.)

As much as I’m not a fan of Tom Brad (for various reasons), I wouldn’t object if he decides to put on a Chicago Bears uniform. I’m sure the conversation has been had about quarterback Mitchell Trubisky: How much more patience do you have with an underachiever? Should he be throwing 40 passes a game as he has done several games this year? Brady, maybe. Trubisky and others ... probably not.

Then again, I’ll go back to something I’ve told friends over the years, and it came when Brett Farve was playing when he was 41 (last for the Minnesota Vikings in 2010), and playing at a high level.

Brady, you have to admit, still excels and would be a valuable asset for anyone.

But he’s now 42 years old. Not exactly a spring chicken.

What happens if he takes one too many hits to the head, or gets hit in the wrong spot? What happens if he gets tackled wrong and has to be carried off the field?

Granted, that can happen at any age, but when you’re in your early 40s, the body doesn’t heal as much, and injuries are far less forgiving.

The schedule for the 2020-2021 cycle for high school football was announced earlier this week by the Iowa Football Coaches Association.

Basically, the schedule itself is not very much different, if at all, for how things will come down.

Sometime in mid-January, probably next week, the state will release its annual BEDs document, which helps determine classification. Assuming that things remain strictly enrollment-based – and these are pure guesses at this point – Atlantic will probably remain Class 2A. AHSTW could jump to Class 1A, as they saw an enrollment increase during the 2018-2019 school year (used to determine this year’s classifications), the same classification as ACGC of Guthrie Center. Riverside will probably remain a Class A team.

The four remaining schools we cover – Audubon, CAM, Exira-EHK and Griswold – I’d expect to remain eight-player football schools.

In any case, depending on how things shake out, the Iowa High School Athletic Association will announce districts sometime in late January. That would leave the schools a couple of weeks to decide which schools not in their district they’d like to play in non-district action.

It would be the end of February or early March when the official schedules will be announced.

Meantime, rumors abound that the playoffs will return to a 32-team format and the regular season is just eight games. I’m neutral on this right now, but one thing is for sure: The state will never find a perfect solution to the dilemma for encouraging participation and helping middle-tier schools define success by playing a “playoff” game, a system to determine which teams will be in the playoffs or whatever the case.

It just seems that in the 2020s, if a long-running solution isn’t found soon, high school football playoffs are going to change as often as the wind changes direction.

Honestly, I had no problem with the 32-team playoff format. This changed only because some old-school grumps didn’t like “a trophy for everyone” and – more pressingly – the likelihood for injury by possibly playing a 14th game (which only 12 teams in the entire state do). But the 16-team format has worked both under the old “points” method and the Ratings Percentage Index that was in use for the 2018-2019 cycle.

Here’s my advice: Get a system in place for the 2020-2021 cycle, then decide what to do starting in 2022 and thereafter, make sure the majority of coaches will be happy with it and then keep it in place.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.