NFL icon Tom Brady confirmed his retirement from the sport on Wednesday morning, officially bringing the curtain down on a glittering 22-season career.
The 44-year-old superstar, widely regarded as the greatest quarterback in history, made the announcement in a post on Instagram.
Brady, winner of a record seven Super Bowls, said he was quitting the sport after deciding he could no longer make the “competitive commitment” to continue.
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“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 in his statement on Instagram.
“There is a physical, mental and emotional challenge EVERY single day that has allowed me to maximise 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.”
Brady did not mention the New England Patriots or Bill Belichick in the 960-word statement — despite seemingly thanking everyone along the journey — although he did pay tribute to both after leaving the team for the Buccaneers.
After the Patriots released a statement, Brady did finally chime in on social media, saying: “Thank you @patriots and Patriot Nation. Beyond grateful and love you all.”
Brady forged a reputation as the greatest quarterback in NFL history in a two-decade career studded with a slew of records that may never be beaten.
The 44-year-old NFL icon leaves the sport after 22 seasons that yielded seven Super Bowl victories, five Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards and three NFL MVP awards.
And while Brady was unable to crown his final season with an eighth Super Bowl, he went out on a high after amassing a career-high 5,316 passing yards.
He also heads the all-time passing rankings, with 84,520 yards, more than 4,000 yards clear of his nearest rival, the now retired Drew Brees.
Brady’s longevity is all the more remarkable given the relatively short average career length of an NFL quarterback — around 4.4 years according to a 2019 study.
By the time Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an improbable victory in last year’s Super Bowl, he had long since earned the right to be regarded as the greatest quarterback the NFL has seen.
‘A BIG TELL’: Why Brady’s retirement isn’t all about family
Last year’s seventh Super Bowl win catapulted him firmly into the pantheon of North American sporting greats, alongside the likes of Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and Wayne Gretzky.
The plot points of Brady’s career have become the stuff of NFL folklore. He entered the NFL to little fanfare, chosen by the New England Patriots with the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.
Upon arrival in New England, he was ranked way down the Patriots’ quarterback pecking order, a gangly freshman with everything to prove.
Yet Brady slowly but surely began thrusting himself into the reckoning, driven by a relentless work ethic and competitive spirit that would become the hallmarks of his career.
COOLNESS UNDER PRESSURE: WHAT MADE BRADY SO GREAT?
Patriots officials would get calls from puzzled security staff in the dead of night to inform them that Brady had arrived at the team’s training facility, to practice by himself.
When an injury to Drew Bledsoe in September 2001 saw Brady elevated into the starter’s jersey, he seized his chance.
He kept his place for the remainder of the season and led the Patriots to a first ever Super Bowl in February 2002.
That win marked the start of a two-decade reign that would see Brady and coach Belichick’s Patriots emerge as the dominant force in the NFL, encompassing eight more trips to the Super Bowl, five of them victorious.
While the personnel on those championship-winning teams evolved over time, the one ever-present remained Brady, who year after year, season after season would confound predictions that his career was in decline.
“Guys come, guys go. Everything changes. Except one thing – Tom,” is how former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann puts it.
There were disappointments and controversies along the way. In 2007, Brady and the Patriots just missed out on becoming only the second team to complete a perfect championship season when they lost the Super Bowl to the Giants.
In 2015, Brady was given a four-game suspension by the NFL over allegedly tampering with the pressure of balls used in a 45-7 AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Typically, Brady responded with another Super Bowl win. In the 2016-2017 season, he orchestrated the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, leading the Patriots back from a 28-3 deficit for a 34-28 overtime win.
That coolness under pressure was another Brady calling card. “When the game’s on the line, he plays his best football,” was how former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner put it.
“For me, we’re living in the era of the greatest quarterback in the game.”
THE ‘WINNING MENTALITY’ BEHIND BRADY’S SUCCESS
Another Super Bowl appearance followed in 2018, when he finished with 505 passing yards in a losing effort to the Philadelphia Eagles.
His final Super Bowl win with the Patriots came in 2018, a dour 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta.
It made him the oldest Super Bowl winner, at 43 years and 188 days. That for many seemed like a perfect opportunity for Brady to ride off into the sunset. Instead, he remained in New England for the 2019 season and struggled.
Then in 2020, he shocked the NFL by announcing his decision to leave the Patriots and join the Buccaneers.
It seemed like a move loaded with potential pitfalls — the Bucs had not made the playoffs for over a decade and the coronavirus pandemic limited Brady’s ability to integrate with his new team-mates. But he turned them into Super Bowl champions.
“He brought a winning mentality to a really talented team that didn’t know how to win,” was how Bucs coach Bruce Arians described it.
While last year’s win brought a fresh avalanche of accolades, Brady himself has always resisted being drawn into discussions over “personal legacy.”
“Sporting success for me has never been about passing yards or touchdowns or Super Bowls,” he said.
“It was always about trying to maximize my potential. Being the best I could be.” There was almost time for one last miracle. In this season’s playoffs, Brady led the Bucs back from 27-3 down to tie the Los Angeles Rams, only to lose 30-27 on a last-gasp field goal.
Rumours Brady may retire had emerged just before that game. On Monday, Brady, who is married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, said family considerations would weigh heavily on his future.
“They’ve been my biggest supporters,” he said. “My wife is my biggest supporter. It pains her to see me get hit out there. And she deserves what she needs from me as a husband, and my kids deserve what they need from me as a dad.”
BRADY’S FULL STATEMENT:
I have always believed the sport of football in 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. And I have tried to 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 this 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.
To my Bucs teammates the past two years, I love you guys, and I have loved going to battle with you. You have dug so deep to challenge yourself, and it inspired me to wake up every day and give you my best. I am always here for you guys and want to see you continue to push yourselves to be your best. I couldn’t be happier with what we accomplished together.
To all the Bucs fans, thank you. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived here, but your support and embrace have enriched my life and that of my family. I have been honored to play for such a passionate and fun fan base. What a Krewe!!!
To the city of Tampa and the entire Tampa-St. Petersburg region, thank you. It has been wonderful to be a resident of such a fun place to live. I want to be invited to our next boat parade!
To the Glazer family, thank you for taking a chance on me and supporting me. I know I was demanding at times, but you provided everything we needed to win and your ownership was everything a player could ask for.
To Jason Licht, thank you for your daily support and friendship – I will never forget it. I had never been through free agency, and I had some trepidation about how we could achieve success. Your leadership gave me confidence, and I will always be grateful.
To Bruce Arians, thanks for putting up with me! Your firm leadership and guidance were ideal. There is no way we could have had success without your experience, intuition and wisdom. I am very grateful.
To all the Bucs coaches, my sincere thanks for all the hard work, dedication, and discipline that goes into creating a winning team. I have learned so much from all of you and will value the relationships we have.
To every single Bucs staffer and employee, thank you. Each of you is critically important, and I was greeted with a smile every day. That means so much to me. Your work is made up of long hours and hard tasks, but please know I see each and every one of you. Thank you so much.
To Alex Guerrero, thank you. I could never have made every Sunday without you; it’s that simple. Your dedication to your craft and our friendship and brotherhood are immeasurable. We have an unbreakable bond, and I love you.
To Don Yee and Steve Dubin, thank you. You’ve been with me every step of the way since I left the University of Michigan and before I entered the league. What a journey it’s been, and I couldn’t do it without you.
To my parents and entire family (and extended family of countless friends), I love you and thank you for your never-ending support and love. I could never have imagined the time and energy you have given me for the past 30 years in football. I can never repay you. And I know I love you so much.
And lastly, to my wife, Gisele, and my children, Jack, Benny and Vivi. You are my inspiration. Our family is my greatest achievement. I always came off the field and home to the most loving and supportive wife who has done EVERYTHING for our family to allow me to focus on my career. Her selflessness allowed me to reach new heights professionally, and I am beyond words what you mean to me and our family. Te amo amor da minha vida.
My playing career has been such a thrilling ride, and far beyond my imagination, and full of ups and downs. When you’re in it every day, you really don’t think about any kind of ending. As I sit here now, however, I think of all the great players and coaches I was privileged to play with and against – the competition was fierce and deep, JUST HOW WE LIKE IT. But the friendships and relationships are just as fierce and deep. I will remember and cherish these memories and re-visit them often. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
The future is exciting. I am fortunate to have cofounded incredible companies like @autograph.io @bradybrand @tb12sports that I am excited to continue to help build and grow, but exactly what y days will look like will be a work-in-progress. As I said earlier, I am going to take it day by day. I know for sure I want to spend a lot of time giving to others and trying to enrich other people’s lives, just as so many have done for me.
With much love, appreciation, and gratitude,