Tom Brady announced his retirement on Tuesday morning after various reports circulated over the weekend of his decision.
This wraps up one of the greatest careers in the history of North American sports, and easily the greatest career on the gridiron.
Two decades, seven Super Bowls between two teams, multiple MVPs, multiple Super Bowl MVPs, Pro Bowls, All-Pros, more broken records than can be counted. He is simply the greatest to ever do it.
A lifelong sports nut, I have seen enough retirements and big news stories to rarely feel emotionally impacted. When I was a kid, sports was such an emotional thing for me which is why to this day I love them so much. It has been quite some time that I have felt that emotion, good or bad, and with this news, it truly is the end of an era.
It’s one of the oldest clichés in the book – “The end of an era.” With Brady though, that is exactly what it was for the NFL … an era.
No quarterback was as dominant over the course of a two-decade period, no player captivated the league the way he did, and no one can say that they even touched the success that he did now that it is all said and done.
Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali … Brady is in that same breath, perhaps even above it. His legacy of success is remarkable, something we may never see again.
The winning was just ridiculous. Three titles in his first four years. Sure, the Patriots were a defensive-minded team during that run, but he played his role perfectly and came up with plenty of big moments. By the end of that initial dynasty, he was not just a role player.
Then in the middle years, he took off to become one of the most prolific passers in the game and made the postseason on an annual basis, anything short of a Super Bowl was a let down.
Then in his final years in New England, winning three more titles in a five-year span. He was no longer just an outstanding quarterback, he was immortal, the perfect player that had skill, experience, and an undeniable will to win. Calling him the most clutch player in history would be an understatement.
I had the honor of watching Brady live a handful of times, but two of which were incredible performances that I will never forget.
The first was in 2012 against San Francisco. The 49’ers had the league’s best defense and eventually went on to reach the Super Bowl. It was cold, freezing rain, and the Pats were down 21 points heading into the fourth quarter.
It just wasn’t their night. They were getting shellacked by what appeared to be the newest power in the league.
Then, I blinked.
Somehow, some way, Brady and the Pats stormed back with 24 points in the final quarter to take the lead. Unfortunately, the 49’ers scored the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
As gut-wrenching it was, I was in awe of what transpired. It was a whirlwind, but walking back to the car, it hit me that I just had the chance to watch one of the greatest athletes ever do their thing. It was almost like an out-of-body experience that night.
The next was in 2015, when the Pats hosted the Ravens for the AFC Divisional round.
It was 5 degrees at halftime, freezing to the bone. The Pats trailed by 14 points twice and just seemed to be a step behind all night.
I knew better at that point, I knew that the game was never truly over.
Sure enough, Brady did not disappoint as he helped climb the team out of those two deficits and go on to take the lead and win in the fourth quarter. The team went on to win the Super Bowl that season, and that performance was one of the most memorable parts of that campaign.
Of course, we saw plenty of performances like that from the couch. Between being down 28-3 in the Atlanta Super Bowl, falling behind by multiple scores to Seattle in that one. So many others, it was a privilege to have someone like Brady under center, someone that you knew would give you a chance to win no matter what the score was … literally.
He also proved every doubter wrong that he encountered.
For those who said he could only win with a great defense behind him or that the video taping scandal led to his success … he went on to win four more titles as the best player on the field.
For those who said that he only won because of the deflated footballs. He went on to win four more titles without that being an issue.
For those who said he only won because of Bill Belichick and being part of the Patriots’ system, he went on to win in Tampa Bay his first year there. He shut down any argument that could be made against him.
As a 29-year-old Patriots fan, Brady was pretty much all I ever knew. Sure, I remember Drew Bledsoe, vaguely remember Pete Carroll coaching. But Brady was it, winning football was all I ever really experienced as a Patriots fan.
I know that Brady and the team didn’t see eye to eye in the end which led to him moving south to Tampa. You would have never known that, though. He was always professional, always stuck to football. Those reports came out after the fact for the most part.
All in all, in my opinion, he is the greatest athlete ever. I am admittedly biased as a native New Englander, but there is plenty of evidence to back my case.
Now, he hands the reins to the next generation. Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, these guys will have the next crack at recreating the magic.
The talent in the league is as good as it has ever been, and all of those quarterbacks are special and will leave behind extraordinary legacies.
However, they will likely pale in comparison to Brady’s, as every other player’s has.
Congratulations on your retirement, on the greatest career the sport has ever seen, and being one of the most influential athletes ever.
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