Tom Brady in Year 22 at age 44 felt like he could play till he was 50. At the end of the 2021 NFL regular season, Brady led the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and pass completions, among other things, easily outperforming quarterbacks nearly half his age.
Yet despite seemingly churning out numbers that would certainly invite suggestions of playing at least for another season, the GOAT decided to call it a career.
After more than two decades playing in the NFL, Brady holds virtually every regular season, postseason, and even Super Bowl record that a quarterback and even a 40-year old could possess.
Beyond that, he has won more Super Bowls than every other NFL franchise.
Brady’s ability to read the defense and lead game-winning drives comes not because he has seen everything over 20 years, but also because he knows how to make do with what he has. The standard of excellence Brady has set for a quarterback and to some extent, even a football player, draws parallels to the likes of Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan, all of whom come to mind when one thinks of winners.
Like Russell, he was relentless in his pursuit of championships, with both helping bring a winning tradition to the Boston and greater New England area. It got to the point that both were synonymous with what winning and sacrifice in sports meant, as Russell gave up individual accolades, while Brady took multiple pay cuts to get talent on board. The results both achieved easily speak for themselves.
Like Jordan, Brady was relentless in his craft and never forgot every slight towards him dating back to his days at the University of Michigan. His trash-talking may not be at His Airness’ level, but count on the three-time NFL MVP to use his words to fire up his teammates and motivate them in the game’s toughest and most crucial moments.
James has made significant investments in terms of his health and Brady has done the same since tearing the ACL on his left knee. His TB12 method may be at times controversial or the stuff of jokes, but it has allowed him to venture into territory no quarterback has gone before.
Among the four, however, it was perhaps Bryant that allowed Brady to put his career and life in perspective. Like Bryant, Brady spent 20 seasons with one team, the New England Patriots, and both demonstrated the same Jordan-like ferocity and the offseason effort that made their respective worth ethic the stuff of legends. The five-time Super Bowl MVP has slowly built his own business empire just like the Laker legend was doing prior to his death and the suddenness of Bryant’s passing made him take a step back.
The circumstances surrounding Bryant’s death certainly played a part in Brady’s free agency decision back in 2020, when he chose to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because they checked a lot of boxes. In fact, Brady wrote an essay after Bryant’s memorial service reflecting on how it hit close to home, especially since he was a year older than the five-time NBA champion.
Brady’s decision was validated early on as he proved all the naysayers wrong on the way to winning Super Bowl LV over the Kansas City Chiefs. He was well on his way to leading the Buccaneers to consecutive Super Bowl titles until the Los Angeles Rams ended any chances of that in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Brady was in the midst of another one of his patented comebacks in that game, as he brought Tampa Bay back from a 27-3 deficit and tied the game at 27 late in the fourth quarter.
Days after the loss, Brady became more pensive and even uttered words like “satisfied”, with the change in tone certainly bringing a finality that once again brought him back to Bryant.
Brady will remain as busy as ever as he recently released his clothing line and has made significant investments in the fields of crypto, finance, and fitness. A guy of his stature won’t be away from football as he will likely make some appearances once he is ready. It goes without saying that his next stop now will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
There’s a certain quality to quantity and no one exemplifies that more than Tom Brady. Father time may be undefeated, but Brady is walking away on his own terms and despite having an MVP-caliber season. Despite all his achievements, nothing mattered more to him than winning.
The second chapter of his life begins now and make no mistake, he will approach it with the same tenacity that made him the greatest to ever do it on the football field.