Column: Brady’s finale didn’t go as planned, but not too bad

Feb 1, 2023, 12:54 AM | Updated: 2:59 pm

FILE - Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes the ball as San Francisco 49ers corne...

FILE - Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes the ball as San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward (1) applies pressure during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2022. Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl winner with New England and Tampa Bay, announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023 exactly one year after first saying his playing days were over. He leaves the NFL with more wins, yards passing and touchdowns than any other quarterback. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

In a perfect world — and so much of Tom Brady’s career was as close to perfection as a football player can get — the first retirement would’ve stuck.

He certainly did nothing to enhance his legacy by returning for another season. And, of course, we’ll never know if that regrettable decision cost him his marriage, as well.

But Brady’s farewell year — he announced his retirement again on Wednesday, and this time insisted that he means it — will quickly fade from our collective memories, overwhelmed by the enormity of his accomplishments over an unprecedented career.

The seven Super Bowl titles. The three MVP awards. The five Super Bowl MVP awards. The certain spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The unquestioned legacy as the greatest quarterback ever to toss a pigskin.

And Brady being Brady, even his final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the one he never should’ve come back for at age 45 — was hardly an embarrassment.

Yes, he presided over a team with a losing record for the first time in his 23-year career. (Let that one sink in for a moment. One losing season in more than two decades as an NFL quarterback. Simply amazing.)

Yes, he did get embarrassed in the playoffs after the Bucs snuck in only because a geographical anomaly gifted them a division title they hardly deserved.

But this wasn’t Willie Mays or Joe Namath or Muhammad Ali at the end of their careers, pitiable shells of their former greatness.

Tampa Bay was terrible on offense, but it was hardly Brady’s fault. Playing behind a line that had more leaks than a rickety old garden hose, he broke his own, year-old NFL record for most completions in a season with 490, and eclipsed another league mark with 733 passes thrown.

Only five other times in his career did Brady throw for more yards than this season’s 4,694. A 66.8% completion rate also was among the best he’s ever put up.

He wasn’t at the top of the game anymore, but he wasn’t that far off. NFL.com ranked him No. 11 among the league’s 32 primary starting QBs at the end of the regular season, which seems an appropriate spot.

Brady could’ve gone deep one time, looking to connect on a desperation pass that might’ve given him a shot at a more appropriate ending: an eighth Super Bowl ring. There were some teams that might’ve been interested, perhaps even the San Francisco 49ers.

The team that reached the NFC championship game despite losing three quarterbacks to major injuries certainly has the talent everywhere else to make another run at the Super Bowl.

A one-off with Brady might’ve slowed the development of Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, but it would’ve made the 49ers a clear Super Bowl favorite next season. For good measure, it would’ve given Brady a chance to close his career not far from where he grew up in the Bay Area.

But we’ll never know if such a scenario was ever realistic. With a 50-second video posted to social media on the one-year anniversary of his first retirement, Brady called it a career.

This time, he insisted, it’s gonna stick.

“Good morning guys. I’ll get to the point right away. I’m retiring,” he said, nodding his head slightly. “For good.”

He chided himself a bit for the hoopla that surrounded his 2022 decision, which he reversed 40 days later.

“I know the process was a pretty big deal last time,” Brady said. “So when I woke up this morning, I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first. I won’t be long-winded. You only get one super-emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year.”

The saddest part of Brady’s final season was not the results on the field, but what happened away from the gridiron.

In late October, amid tabloid talk that Gisele Bündchen was livid at her husband for going back on his decision to retire, the couple finalized a divorce to their 13-year marriage.

They seem on good terms now.

Bündchen posted a comment to her ex-husband’s video on Instagram that said, “Wishing you only wonderful things in this new chapter of your life.” She tacked on a praying hands emoji. He added pictures of Bündchen and their children to his post.

No need to fret for the G.O.A.T.

Brady has already lined up an extremely lucrative landing for his post-playing career, agreeing last year to a staggering 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as a Fox game analyst.

It will be intriguing to see if he can bring the same brilliance and insight to the broadcast booth, especially when he rarely said anything all that interesting as a player.

Not to mention, his arrival is sure to stir up a bit of drama since Fox’s current lead analyst, Greg Olsen, has quickly gone from stopgap to one of the best of the business.

But never bet against the guy who went from a sixth-round draft pick to the best there’s ever been.

“Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream,” Brady concluded in his retirement video, his voice quivering. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Not even a final season that didn’t go as planned.

As with all things Brady, it might be the best performance we’ll ever see by a past-their-prime athlete who should’ve stayed retired.


Paul Newberry is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Column: Brady’s finale didn’t go as planned, but not too bad