Tampa Bay – Tom Brady retired last week after playing throughout this new Millennium as the consensus pick as the greatest pro football player ever.
Brady said he will forever “cherish those memories,” in confirming his retirement on Feb. 1. “I have loved going to battle with you,” he told Tampa teammates. “The sport of football is an ‘all-in’ proposition. If a 100 percent competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed. And success is what I love so much about our game. There is a physical, mental and emotional challenge every single day that has allowed me to maximize my highest potential.” He added, “I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore…It is time to focus my time and energy on other (family) things that require my attention.”
“This is what I was born to do…I love this game,” he once told ESPN’s Chris Berman. But he recently indicated family now comes first, that his wife Gisele Bündchen would largely decide if he retired. Tom’s children are Jack, 14; Benny and Vivi.
Tom Brady’s achievements are magnificent. He reached the Super Bowl ten times — in half of his 20 full-time seasons in the NFL. He was game MVP in five of his seven SB victories. Both marks are records. Those seven SB titles are more than by any entire franchise! He won all six of New England’s world titles, and his seventh a year ago in his first season with Tampa (“TOM-pa”) Bay. He was league MVP three times and all-pro in six seasons.
“Tom Terrific” threw three touchdown passes — two early on to longtime teammate Rob “Gronk’ Gronkowski to thrash Kansas City 31-9 in SB 55. Brady proved he could win it all without longtime New England head coach Bill Belichick.
Brady said “the team had a lot of confidence” still, after a rough stretch in the season. “We came together at the right time” to win nine in a row. “We knew this (winning the SB) would happen.”
Brady thereby dethroned KC, led by young Patrick Mahomes.
Brady is the ultimate winner. His career marks include winning 243 games in regular seasons and 35 more in playoffs. He led 53 game-winning drives and 42 comebacks in the games’ fourth quarter. He roared from 25 points down (at 28-3) mid-way in the third quarter of SB 51, to stun Atlanta 34-28.
He was named to a record 15 Pro Bowls — in three-fourths of his 20 full seasons. He outdid his childhood QB heroes of Joe Montana and Steve Young of the 49ers — home team for northern California native Brady.
Brady set the standard even in his final season of 2021, at age 44. He led the NFL in both passing yards 5,316 (his most ever) and with 43 TDs. His passer rating was 102 in both seasons in Tampa Bay — his final two years.
Brady shows how one can maximize potential through disciplined training, studying foes, refining skills, and competitive drive.
He bucked odds as an underdog. He shined for Michigan in college. But he was drafted merely 199th — in round six in 2000. He ran a slow 40-yard dash time. Many scouts concluded he was too immobile to avoid sacks. He is 6-foot-5 but quite thin. His arm strength was questioned. He had fewer star receivers to throw to than did rival QBs.
But Brady delivered long passes in crucial times. His accuracy and poise were tremendous. He is clever. He “looked off” foes — glancing one way to draw defenders there, but throwing to another direction.
He trained hard to keep refining his skills. “I want to go out and prove it — every day, Brady told Berman.
Much anti-Brady sentiment seems about his seemingly living a charmed life. He looks eternally young with baby-faced good looks. He is married to supermodel Gisele Bunchken. Several quarterbacks who spoke to me when in local high schools said the knock-on Brady was he seems soft. He speaks gently.
Yet Tom Brady shattered the soft myth. He played through several nagging injuries. He withstood hard hits, and he returned “trash talking” of foes. He was a fiery leader. “Tom was in the middle” of “butting heads with offensive linemen” and other emotional moments between teammates said Hall of Famer Ty Law who played with him at New England as a defensive back.
I enjoyed seeing him play up close in his greatest season — 2007 — in a game at the Carolina Panthers when covering the Panthers for the Tribune. New England set a record by winning all 16 of its regular-season games in ‘07 but lost the Super Bowl.
His proficiency was at its best then. His passer rating was 117.2, and among six seasons over 100. He threw for a career-most 50 TD passes, against merely eight interceptions in ‘07. His 4,806 aerial yards were the first of four seasons of surpassing 4,750 yards.
The two times he burst past 5,000 yards was with 5,235 in 2011 and 5,316 in 2021.
Brady’s NFL career passing records are his 84,520 yards, 624 touchdowns and 7,263 completions. He threw for 84,438 yards (13,049 in playoffs) in 20 full seasons, to average 4,222 yards. He averaged 267.5 passing yards per game in his 316 starts. Two of his 22 overall seasons were very brief. He threw for six yards late in one game as a rookie in 2000, and 76 yards in one start in 2008 before missing the rest of that season with an injury
Brady in his second season, in 2001, filled in for injured Drew Bledsoe and led the Pats to an upset of the pass-crazed Rams in SB 36. Brady won the starting job.
He won Super Bowls in two of his first three seasons, and in four of the past seven seasons. He beat the Panthers in SB 38, then won it all again in the 2004 season. That was the last time an NFL team repeated as champion. Brady won titles for the seasons of 2001, ‘03, ‘04, 2014, ‘16, ‘18 and 2020. Brady won 35 playoff games for yet another record.
This GOAT is not put out to pasture. Rather, Tom Brady remains a role model for success.