When the New England Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs back in January, nobody could say for certain that that would be Tom Brady's last game as a Patriot.

But you could have guessed. At 42 years old, Brady still played well, but you could tell that time was starting its own fourth quarter drive and Brady was on the wrong side of the football.

Now, after his posts on social media this morning, it's official: Brady is leaving the Patriots after 20 years with the team.

This is like if Joe DiMaggio decided to leave the New York Yankees. Or if Larry Bird decided to play in anything other than Boston Celtic green. Brady, the Patriots, and even more broadly, New England sports go hand-in-hand.

Before Brady came to Foxborough and started his partnership with head coach Bill Belichick and Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft to help create "The Patriot Way," the Patriots were far from the envy of the NFL. Sure, they had made it to the Super Bowl before, but their years of suffering far outweighed their years of superiority.

Now, there's an entire generation that knows nothing but the Patriots as the most dominant force in professional football — and Brady as the face of the team.

The numbers don't speak for themselves as much as they sing tales of the dominance of Brady: six Super Bowl trophies. Fourteen Pro Bowl Selections. Three NFL MVP trophies. Three First-Team All-Pro nods.

But the impact of his success wasn't just limited to pro football. At the same time Brady and the Patriots began their ascent, capturing their first Super Bowl title in 2002, the other Boston pro teams seemed to take note. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, exorcising some of their demons in the process. Then the Celtics won the NBA Finals in 2008. And the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011.

All of the teams were successful on their own, but the Patriots — and Brady — started off a decade-plus of Boston teams that have seemingly always been within striking distance of a championship.

In a statement, Kraft wrote he loves Brady like a son and always will.

"I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship," Kraft wrote. "Unfortunately, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow that dream to become a reality. While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community."

Although rumors swirled that the relationship between Brady and Belichick had gone sour, Belichick wrote in a statement that "Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was."

“Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom," Belichick wrote. "He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”

There's plenty of reasons people don't like Tom Brady. There's simply the dislike people build for teams that turn into dynasties that turn into damn-near certainties the way the Brady-era Patriots have. Or there's how he never seemed to be out of a game, even when he was down 28-3 in a dadgum Super Bowl.

And in a time when politics and professional sports have gotten more mixed together than maybe ever before, Brady's dance between saying nothing about his own views while also showing off a hat that's become a red flag for many can't be dismissed.

But whether Brady was your Luke Skywalker or your Darth Vader, his presence on the Patriots was a constant for millions of football fans. Now, like so many other things these days, that's just another pillar we took for granted that's changing right before our eyes.