Tom Brady’s ‘for good’ retirement comes at a perfect time

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“For good.”

Those were some of the first words out of Tom Brady’s mouth in the retirement video he posted Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former New England Patriots quarterback went through the same song-and-dance a year ago — only to end up playing another season of football anyway. But Brady spent part of the video poking fun at himself: “You only get one super emotional retirement essay,” he said, “and I used mine up last year.” 

If his first “retirement” was an emotional decision — one that Brady ultimately couldn’t stand by — this year’s choice to hang ‘em up was more about cold, hard logic. As much as Brady accomplished in his outstanding 23-year career, the seven-time Super Bowl champion is finally leaving the sport at the right time. 

Last year, there was a sense of disappointment that Brady was preparing to walk away — at least for this writer, anyway. He had talked openly about playing to 50 and still seemed so capable of playing at a level that only few could reach. This season was a harsh reminder that few athletes rarely compete at 45 as Brady did in 2022, let alone 50. 

Brady’s drop-off this past season wasn’t as significant as we’ve seen with other stars such as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Brady performed well enough that just days ago ESPN analyst Rex Ryan floated the idea that the signal-caller should sign with the Washington Commanders — and the only reason people laughed is that there was no way that Brady would consider the franchise, and not vice versa.

But more than anything, Brady’s final year with the Buccaneers appeared to be such a drag. 

The 45-year-old finished with a losing record for the first time in his career. And while Tampa Bay snuck into the postseason because it won an awful division at 8-9, the Buccaneers were promptly blown out by the Dallas Cowboys. Brady threw for a respectable 351 yards in that game, but he needed 66 passes — a career-high, playoffs or otherwise — to do it. 

There was something sad, almost, at seeing Brady chuck his tablet in disgust at various points last year. Those temper tantrums, perhaps unfairly, were cited as examples of Brady’s competitiveness. And there’s no doubt that that fire still burned in the quarterback as he tried to salvage Tampa Bay’s season. But Brady’s anger this year served as a wake-up call that the star couldn’t reach the same type of heights. And his team couldn’t prop him up, either. 

“My family, my friends, my teammates, my competitors — I could go on forever, there’s too many,” Brady said in the video he posted to social media. “Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. Love you all.”

There were challenges for Brady off the field, too. He took a mysterious leave of absence in training camp that lasted 11 days. “There’s a lot of s—- going on,” he told reporters. Then months later, he finalized a high-profile divorce with model Gisele Bundchen that ended a 13-year marriage. He looked physically different, almost drained in a sense. 

All that said, 2022 won’t be how Brady is remembered in the long run. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer who can claim the mantle of being the greatest quarterback of all time, if not the best NFL player of all time. Many observers have rightfully noted that if Brady’s accomplishments in his 20s, 30s and 40s were each the resume of three different players — all three would likely make the Hall of Fame. He won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and then one with Tampa Bay to cap the 2020 season. 

The sport of football is also in good hands. A new generation of quarterbacks in their prime is thrilling to watch — none more so than the two signal-callers who will headline this month’s Super Bowl in Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.  The latter, too, might top Brady’s resume when it’s all said and done. Mahomes, after all, is in his sixth season and has already reached his third Super Bowl. If he beats Philadelphia, Mahomes will earn his second ring. 

Then again, to top Brady, the 27-year-old might have to play another 18 years. Mahomes won’t turn 45 until 2041. 

In response to Brady’s retirement video, Mahomes had an appropriate reaction: He tweeted three goat emojis, signifying Brady’s status as the greatest of all time. 

And Brady’s not walking away a moment too late or a moment too soon. 

Matt Paras covers the NFL for The Washington Times.

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