On Jan. 24, in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell 30-27 in an incredible game to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams.
In an era where younger, more-athletic quarterbacks have become all the craze, Tom Brady, 44, is the oldest active player by over four years in 2022. And yet in his 22nd season in the NFL, Brady was as elite as ever, finishing second in MVP voting and leading the NFL with 5,316 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes over seventeen games.
However, reporters and fans of the football world alike wondered if Brady’s early exit from the playoffs would lead to something more: the end of Tom Brady’s storied career. Brady himself did nothing to quell the speculation. Despite previously noting his desire to play into his mid-forties, Brady was noncommittal about his future following the Bucs’ exit from the playoffs.
But at 2:29 p.m. EST on Jan. 29, 2022, just five days after the divisional round, ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter and ESPN Sports Reporter Jeff Darlington announced on Twitter that Tom Brady had retired. Was that it — the end to the greatest career in NFL history?
Just 21 minutes after Schefter and Darlington’s announcement, reporters from the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic reported that Brady had yet to tell the Bucs or Coach Bruce Arians of his plans to retire. Arians himself had reaffirmed that Brady’s Agent, Donald Yee, had told him that Brady hadn’t made up his mind. Later that afternoon, reports confirmed that Brady himself had contacted Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht to say that a decision had not yet been made about retiring or playing in 2022.
As bedlam ensued on social media, Brady took a few days before officially announcing his decision to retire in an Instagram post on Feb. 1:
“I have always believed the sport of football is an ‘all-in’ proposition — if a 100% competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game,” Brady said a since-edited statement on Instagram. “There is a physical, mental and emotional challenge EVERY single day that has allowed me to maximize my highest potential. And I have tried my very best these past 22 years. There are no shortcuts to success on the field or in life. This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore. I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention. I’ve done a lot of reflecting the past week and have asked myself difficult questions. And I am so proud of what we have achieved. My teammates, coaches, fellow competitors, and fans deserve 100% of me, but right now, it’s best I leave the field of play to the next generation of dedicated and committed athletes.”
In the remainder of his statement, Tom Brady thanked his teammates, fans, and family as he closed the door on his illustrious 22-year career. And now it was finally official: the end to the greatest career in NFL history. Or was it?
In a stunning turn of events, on March 13, 2022, just 40 days after his initial decision, Tom Brady took to Twitter to officially announce his desire to return and continue playing: “These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business LFG.”
Tom Brady has nothing left to prove to the football world. In his spectacular career, Brady ranks first in nearly every major statistical category, including but not limited to wins (243), passing yards (84,520), passing touchdowns (624), and most importantly, Super Bowl Wins (7) and Super Bowl MVPs (5). Brady’s seven Super Bowl wins are not only the most championships won by a single player in NFL history but also more than any of the 32 franchises in the NFL. Even more incredibly, only six NFL franchises (including the New England Patriots, a franchise that Brady captured six Super Bowl Championships under) have even half as many Super Bowl wins as Brady.
While Brady has never been known as the fastest, strongest, or most athletic football player, he is the sport’s greatest winner and the ultimate champion. Since Tom Brady, football’s most accomplished player and arguably the greatest of all time, wants to continue to play, we should embrace that as fans of the sport. As of now, Brady will play in his 23rd year in the NFL, adding another season and chapter to an already legendary career. Regardless of how much longer Tom Brady decides to play, or how well he does, one thing is for certain: there will never be another Tom Brady.