Tom Brady is sitting out the Super Bowl for the first time since the Denver Broncos walloped him 23 times in the AFC championship four years ago, sending a hobbled Peyton Manning to the big game for his final hurrah.

“I am open-minded about the process and you know at the same time I love playing football and I want to continue to play and do a great job.” — Tom Brady 

Still, Brady’s all the buzz even as the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers prepare for their Super Bowl 54 showdown in Miami on Feb. 2.

After teaming with Bill Belichick for a half dozen rings over their 18 years together in New England, Brady is on the cusp of becoming the biggest free agent to hit the open market since Manning in 2013, a foray that featured news media helicopters following the quarterback’s every visit.

“I am open-minded about the process and you know at the same time I love playing football and I want to continue to play and do a great job,” Brady told Jim Gray on his Westwood One radio show on conference championship Sunday.

Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Mahomes (15) hold up the Lamar Hunt Trophy after the NFL AFC Championship football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City, MO. The Chiefs won 35-24 to advance to Super Bowl 54. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“So, I’m looking forward to what’s ahead, whatever the future may bring, I will embrace it with open arms.”

Brady, whose contract voids in March, has said he wants to play to age 45. He’ll turn 43 in August.

If he leaves New England, it’s clear Brady would want to go to a team ready to compete right away so he can get his shot at a record seventh Super Bowl title.

The Chargers, Titans and Colts all could prove enticing landing spots for Brady, whose Patriots (12-5) suffered their earliest exit from the playoffs in Brady’s career when they lost to Tennessee 20-13 in the wild-card round on Jan. 4.

Brady had reached the AFC championship 13 times in his first 17 seasons, going 9-4 on his way to winning six Super Bowl rings. Three of his title game losses came against Manning and the other one was against Joe Flacco.

Even as Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo, the vanguard of a new generation of mobile, mercurcial quarterbacks who have vanquished the old guard, get ready for Super Bowl 54, Brady’s status remains the biggest story line as the NFL wraps up the yearlong celebration of its centennial season.

Photo of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates after converting a first down against the Green Bay Packers during the first half of the NFL NFC Championship football game Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Safe Bet

Another quarterback icon has found himself back in the news this week. Joe Montana issued a Super Bowl guarantee that’s certainly a better bet than even Joe Namath’s famous assurance that the New York Jets would upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3.

“You heard from me first. I GUARANTEE my team will win the SUPER BOWL!!” tweeted Montana, who played 14 seasons in San Francisco and two in Kansas City.

OBJ’s Offseason

Odell Beckham Jr. has made more noise in the offseason than he did in his first season in Cleveland.

The former LSU star made quite the spectacle at the college national championship game between his alma mater and Clemson last week.

First, he was captured on video interrupting the LSU band as he snared a megaphone and basically got in the way. Then, he came under scrutiny for apparently handing out cold, hard cash on the field after the game and finally, a video posted on social media appeared to show Beckham swatting a security officer’s buttocks during LSU’s locker room victory celebration at the Superdome.

Beckham, 27, starred for LSU from 2011 to 2013 and was a first-round draft pick by the New York Giants. He was traded to Cleveland before last season. The three-time Pro Bowler played most of the season with a sports hernia injury that may require surgery. Despite not being completely healthy, he still played in all 16 games and finished with 74 catches for 1,035 yards. However, he had just four touchdowns, his fewest in a full season.

The flashy wide receiver was fined by the NFL for wearing a luxury watch during a game and was asked by officials to change his helmet visor as well as cleats that did not conform to league rules.

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