Tom Brady

Making Sense of the Tom Brady Retirement Drama

People close to Tom Brady - from his agent Don Yee to his father, Tom Sr. - are telling everybody to hang on when it comes to Saturday's retirement reports

Curran: Tom Brady handed Father Time his first loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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Tom Brady didn’t retire on Saturday. He’s currently out of the country and will be gone into next week. But retirement does seem imminent now that two trusted and Brady-cozy ESPN reporters joint-bylined a “Brady’s retiring” report.

But it ain’t over until it’s over and people close to him -- from his agent Don Yee to his father, Tom Sr. -- are telling everybody to keep their shirts on.

One word to describe how Brady feels about the hoo-ha? Not happy. That’s two. You get the point. If and when word moves that he’s done, he wants to deliver it. Not Adam Schefter, Jeff Darlington, TB12 Sports Therapy (which deleted a tribute tweet), his dad or his mom.

Patriots Talk Podcast: EMERGENCY POD: Tom Brady retiring! Or is he??? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Brady – as Darlington and Schefter reported – didn’t want to undercut the remaining playoff games with an announcement. So much for that.

How mad can he get, though? Both men work for ESPN which is the exclusive home of his “Man In the Arena” documentary so – in essence – Brady’s in business with ESPN. And the newsbreaking hand just happened to get its fingers on information that demanded sharing: That the greatest player in NFL history (arguably) has played his last game.

There would have been some synchronicity if this had been the real thing. The last Brady announcement that rocked New England was St. Patrick’s Day 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Everyone was housebound and nervous and then Tom Brady left on a high holiday.  

If he called it a career Saturday, nearly two years later during the Blizzard of ’22 with all of Eastern Mass. locked in its homes? That’s … what is that? Kismet? Poetic justice? Irony? Coincidence? Whatever, it would have made it easier for us to recall when people asked “Where were you when …”.

Now, with all these attempts to put the toothpaste back in the tube, we’ll probably all better remember Brady’s faux retirement day more than the real one.

Think about it. If you’re one of Brady’s ex-teammates and you opened up a vein on social media lamenting the end of GOAT, do you just let that sit and do a new one in a couple weeks? Retweet it then? Delete?

Ex-Patriots weigh in on Brady fiasco with great reactions

All this premature appreciation kinda takes the excitement/intrigue/agony/ecstasy out of Brady’s actual retirement announcement which -- I’ll be honest -- I didn’t expect was coming.

I took him at his word that he’d play until he sucked. He doesn’t. He just finished the most productive statistical back-to-back seasons of his career. In 33 games with Tampa, he threw for 9,949 yards with 83 touchdowns and 24 picks. He had career highs in attempts, completions and yards while leading the league in each of those categories and in touchdown passes.

As if to punctuate what an outlier he was, Brady and his Bucs erased a 27-3 deficit to tie the Rams last week. Just when it looked like he was going out with a whimper and a sympathetic figure, he reminded everyone a lion has to show … who he is. To almost replicate the most outlandish comeback in football history, the 28-3 game, when you’re 44? Insane.

I took him at his word when he said he’d play until 45. He isn’t. Although he will be in August. So why is he retiring? Probably because the scales have finally tipped.

In 2020, he had something to prove. He more than did that. And 2021 was a season in the afterglow. The Bucs weren’t losing anyone. They had every right to think they could be the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots to repeat. The family was happy and settled in. But 2021 was sometimes a slog – the Antonio Brown-fueled drama being one example – and 2022 probably won’t be better.

Coming back to a team that might be OK but not great, investing the time, taking the punishment and feeling like you should be home? All that while knowing you could look up in November and be 4-5 with eight games left and everyone saying, “Well, he stayed too long”? I understand why he’s getting out, even though a week ago I didn’t think he would.

What’s Brady’s legacy? Nobody was better for longer in NFL history. Nobody authored more unforgettable moments. He was the best leader in American team sports history. No quarterback will ever approach his postseason records and the Super Bowls won is probably out of reach as well. He was at his best in the biggest games.

More than anything, Tom Brady beat Father Time, who was, reportedly, undefeated. Brady isn’t retiring because he can’t do it anymore. His skills never eroded. He’s retiring because, basically, the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.

There’s a difference there. People can eyeroll all they want at the TB12 Method and Brady’s monkish devotion to hydration and pliability but if devotion to those practices helped Brady become arguably the greatest performer in American team sports history, hasn’t he further made his point there as well? That you can extend your competitive longevity?

For Patriots fans, the 2020 divorce was probably the best thing that could have happened for the overall relationship. The philosophical difference between Brady and Bill Belichick that led to it is easily summed up.

Perry: Brady's retirement suggests Pats the right call in 2020

Brady believed he could still perform at a high level and wanted to be paid close to market rate for his services mainly because he felt he deserved it and the money would be representative of a commitment made to him.

Belichick didn’t want to wed himself to commit a huge chunk of cap space for multiple seasons to a player in the midst of doing something nobody had ever seen before. One year at a time. Fine. At a workable rate. Otherwise, no.

Robert Kraft played it right. If he’d forced Brady on Belichick no matter the cost, the already fractured relationship between the two men may have broken.

Instead, the fracture’s healed. Brady got the chance to compete on his terms in Tampa. Belichick got the opportunity to reboot here. Distance very much made the heart grow fonder. Both of them – especially in the past few months – have shown sincere public appreciation for each other.

If Brady stayed, the Patriots probably weren’t winning any Super Bowls, Belichick would have kept checking his watch and Brady’s final years would have been a joyless, beaten-down trudge toward retirement.

Instead, everybody wins. Except Father Time. Loser.

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