Tom Brady has announced he is officially retiring from the NFL after 22 seasons, departing as arguably the greatest player in the sport’s history.
The quarterback, who played his final two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, confirmed his decision in a statement released on social media on Tuesday.
It marks the end to an extraordinary career across which he won more Super Bowls (seven) than any one team in NFL history, as well as being a three-time NFL MVP, five-time Super Bowl MVP, a 15-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year and a member of the past two All-Decade teams and the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
“I have always believed that the sport of football is an ‘all-in’ proposition – if a 100 per cent competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game,” Brady said in a statement.
“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 per cent of me, but right now, it’s best I leave the field of play to the next generation of dedicated and committed athletes.”
Confirmation of his decision follows confusion on Saturday night when multiple reports announcing Brady’s retirement received pushback from the player’s agent and father.
Brady’s company TB12sports initially posted news of his retirement online, tweeting ‘7 Super Bowl Rings, 5 Super Bowl MVPs, 3 League MVP Awards, 22 Incredible Seasons, Thank you for it all Tom Brady’, before later deleting the tweet, while the NFL announced his retirement along with tributes for the 44-year-old.
His agent Don Yee meanwhile refused to confirm or deny Brady was retiring and said the quarterback would be making an official announcement soon.
NFL Network’s Mike Giardi also quoted Brady’s father Tom Brady Sr. as saying his son “has not made a final decision one way or the other”, while NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport noted pushback was based on timing as opposed to the decision itself.
In the end, it was Brady that deservedly reclaimed control of his own narrative, bowing out on his terms.
He added: “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 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 so many have done for me.”
Brady, selected 199th overall out of Michigan by the Patriots at the 2000 NFL Draft, had previously expressed his desire to play in the NFL at the age of 45, but cast doubt over his future after the Bucs’ Divisional Round playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Rams.
He explained that his decision would be primarily based on what was best for his family, having previously outlined his desire to spend more time with his wife and children.
“It’s not always what I want. It’s what we want as a family,” he said at the time. “And I’m going to spend a lot of time with them and figure out in the future what’s next.”
The 44-year-old claimed records for all-time completions (7,263), passing yards (84,520), passing touchdowns (624), starts (316), Pro Bowl selections and Super Bowl MVPs while never registering a losing season across his time with the Patriots and Bucs.
He is notably coming off one of the most productive seasons in his NFL career after throwing a league-high 5.316 passing yards alongside 43 touchdowns.
Such was his success in the latter stages of his career, Brady threw more touchdown passes in his 40s (168) than he did during his 20s (147). He and tight end Rob Gronkowski represent the second most prolific combination ever with 105 touchdowns, nine shy of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
Six of his seven Super Bowls came in New England alongside iconic head coach Bill Belichick as the pair inspired one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history.
Brady took over from Drew Bledsoe as starter in 2001, leading the Patriots to three Super Bowl triumphs before losing twice to the New York Giants at the end of the 2007 and 2011 campaigns.
His fourth ring came after the 2014 season when the Patriots broke Seattle Seahawks hearts after Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception at the goalline. He added another two years later as the Patriots famously overturned a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime, before reaching the big dance again the following season only to be beaten by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brady then collected his sixth ring after the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams to cap the 2018 season.
Having parted with the Patriots after 20 years in 2020, Brady joined the Buccaneers where he would go on to win the Super Bowl in his first season thanks to victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
Brady a ‘once in a lifetime’
Former New England Patriots linebacker coach, current Baltimore Ravens inside linebackers coach and Sky Sports NFL expert Rob Ryan:
“I was at his workout, the one we actually drafted Brady from with the Patriots, and I came back with the quarterback coach, I was coaching on defense and working out the other kids at Michigan on defense. We were sitting next to each other on the plane and he just kept ranting and raving about Brady, I thought the guy wasn’t real accurate at the time, and I’m like ‘man I just don’t see it’.
“Once I got to be around him you saw the competitor he was, the fierceness. Even though he was young, everybody would follow this guy. Even though he wasn’t very good in his first year, he wasn’t very strong, but people followed him and that’s a leadership he just naturally had.
“And then the next thing is his work ethic, it’s unparalleled. If he wanted to get stronger he got stronger, he was in there every day from 5am in the morning, he’d always be the last guy to leave the building and he continued to do that for all the years he played and it’s remarkable, when you see a guy like this they’re once in a lifetime.
“Michael Jordan, that’s one that resonates out here in America, he was just a fierce competitor and a different level. His fierceness and competitiveness is just unmatched in the sport of American football.
“Right now it’s a perfect time, he’s got absolutely nothing to prove, he’s won seven Super Bowls, a record that’s never going to be beaten. He’s the greatest to play the sport.”
‘I’m going to prove you made a good choice’
Sky Sports NFL expert Jeff Reinebold:
“Tom had an unquenchable desire to succeed. One of the stories from his first minicamp is he walked up to [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft and said ‘Mr Kraft, I’m Tom Brady from Michigan, you drafted me in the sixth round, I’m going to prove to you that you made a good choice’, he was that wired tight.