Tom Brady leaves the field after the Buccaneers lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 30-27, in the NFC divisional round on Sunday, Jan. 23. Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press
Tom Brady’s existence in the NFL has spanned five presidents.
It saw Facebook go public, the birth of Apple’s iPhone, the rise of cryptocurrency and a global pandemic.
He played against thousands of players – and many of their kids.
He won more championships than anyone in the sport. He owns so many meaningful records that will never be broken.
He’s hands-down the greatest of all time at his position, or any position.
And at age 44, according to some in the industry, he is about to leave with so many in the football community and beyond wanting more.
That’s because, remarkably, he can still play at an elite level. In a league that currently features younger guns Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, he was still able to top the lot in touchdown passes and overall yards. He was still able to be competitive against the kids.
But, according to reports, he’s decided to hang it up.
If and when Brady eventually verifies those reports himself, or even if he still hasn’t decided officially as other reports suggest, it’s the right time.
He has no more to prove. Sure, his stated goal was to play through his age-45 season.
But what’s the point?
He won a Super Bowl at age 43. He defied Father Time for years.
He still loves to play, and still has a year left on his deal with Tampa Bay, but after all he’s accomplished, there’s no compelling reason to return, especially with a team that’s undoubtedly going to lose some key players.
Brady’s career has been built on winning. His legend has grown with each and every championship.
At this stage, there’s no need to come back for one more kick at the can, especially for a team that’s going to have a tougher time getting back to the tournament.
It’s time for him to move on, enjoy his family and continue to enhance his TB12 brand.
During the past week, he’s sent out enough clues on his SiriusXM podcast to foreshadow his possible departure. Or at the very least, he left the impression he was seriously pondering the end.
“Every year I just have to make sure that I have the ability to commit to what the team really needs. And that’s really important to me,” Brady told Jim Gray. “The team doesn’t deserve anything less than my best. And if I feel like I’m not committed to that, or I can’t play at a championship level, then you gotta give someone else a chance to play.”
Three hundred and sixty-five games and seven championships later, it appears the time is now. And many of his former teammates and friends in New England couldn’t be more thrilled that Brady has reportedly decided to make his exit.
“So happy for Tom and everything he’s accomplished,” Patriots Hall of Famer Rodney Harrison said via text. “No one has worked harder, been more focused and dedicated and given more to his team.
“I’m glad people got a chance to see the real Tom Brady. Looking forward to seeing him continue to inspire and be great at whatever he decides. Love that dude!”
The Sports Hub’s Scott Zolak, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t be surprised if it comes to pass. The former Patriots quarterback, who left just prior to Brady’s arrival, agreed the timing was right for his friend to walk off into the sunset.
“The situation for him to continue to play had to be perfect,” said Zolak, who remains in touch with No. 12. “Tampa’s in trouble next year with the seven or nine guys they have as free agents next year. And these are all big-money, big-player guys.”
Among the free agents on Tampa’s in-house list are wide receiver Chris Godwin, tight end Rob Gronkowski, center Ryan Jensen, guard Alex Cappa, cornerback Carlton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
So yes, all of that has to factor in.
“He would have to be able to go somewhere where he knew the offense … but you gotta restart, and I don’t know if you want to do that at 44,” said Zolak. “But to go down there and have the type of run he did, winning a Super Bowl, then getting knocked out after you tie it up 27-27 after being down 27-3 or whatever it was, that’s pretty freaking crazy. It really was.”
Brady had said in the past in rather colorful terms he’d retire when: “I suck.” That’s not the case now after leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns in 2021.
“That’s far from sucking,” Zolak agreed.
The dynamics of his championship Tampa team have changed, however. He also left New England as a free agent after 20 seasons when the dynamics, and ability to win, changed.
While he still loves to compete – at everything – there’s no truly persuasive reason to add on one more year.
Plus, his wife Gisele and kids have waited long enough for him to stop being consumed by the sport, with all the time away both preparing and actually playing the game.
That doesn’t mean Brady won’t be missed on Sundays if he ultimately decides to exit. In New England, he made the Patriots a must-watch event for two decades.
“What will I miss most? The maniacal want to win, and that competitiveness, regardless if he was here or in Tampa for the two years he did it,” said Zolak. “To go down there and win one more (championship) was incredible. And he’d probably still be playing this weekend if they coached the damn team the right way down there.”
He’s had a great run. No one has enjoyed or produced a better one. And for those of us who had the pleasure watching for 22 seasons, we also figured the day was coming, and might be upon us.
Even if he did his best to make it last longer than anyone would have imagined.
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