Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback in NFL history, has brought his brilliant career to an end after 22 seasons and seven Super Bowl victories.
News of the 44-year-old's apparent retirement had emerged over the weekend before he said he was still deciding his future. However, on Tuesday he confirmed his final game came when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs last month.
“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 maximize 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’s ruthless commitment to winning was legendary and there were few, if any signs, his skills had dimmed at an age when most NFL players have long since retired. In his final season he was as consistent and as dominant as ever, leading the league in passing yards (5,316), touchdowns (43), completions (485) and attempts (719).
His list of achievements is almost as long as his career. His seven Super Bowl wins - six with the New England Patriots and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season - are the most by any player in NFL history. He also holds the NFL record for career passing touchdowns (624) and passing yards (84,250).
“My playing career has been such a thrilling ride, and far beyond my imagination, and full of ups and downs,” Brady said in Tuesday’s statement. “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.”
Brady clashed with the NFL in 2015 after allegedly ordering the deflation of footballs during a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. The case went to court and Brady served a four-game suspension. However, Brady was a huge draw for the league and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell paid tribute to the quarterback on Tuesday.
“Tom Brady will be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL,” Goodell said. “An incredible competitor and leader, his stellar career is remarkable for its longevity but also for the sustained excellence he displayed year after year.
“Tom made everyone around him better and always seemed to rise to the occasion in the biggest moments . . . He inspired fans in New England, Tampa and around the world with one of the greatest careers in NFL history. It has been a privilege to watch him compete and have him in the NFL. We thank him for his many contributions to our game and wish Tom and his family all the best in the future.”
Both of Brady’s teams paid tribute to the quarterback on Tuesday.
“Words cannot describe the feelings I have for Tom Brady, nor adequately express the gratitude my family, the New England Patriots and our fans have for Tom for all he did during his career,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “A generation of football fans have grown up knowing only an NFL in which Tom Brady dominated.”
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said Brady had helped transform the Buccaneers.
“Tom joined us as the greatest football player of all time, and he quickly showed everyone in our organization what that meant,” Arians said. “He set a standard and helped create a culture that took our team to the mountaintop.
“It has been an honour to be his head coach for the past two seasons. I wish it didn’t have to end, but few players have the opportunity to leave the game on their own terms. Even fewer can do it while playing at an elite level. Tom is the exception. I have a deep appreciation and respect for what he has done for our franchise, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best in this next chapter of life after football.”
Brady was famously undervalued coming out of college. 198 players - six of them quarterbacks - were selected in front of Brady in the 2000 NFL draft before the New England Patriots picked him. He started as New England’s fourth-string quarterback and slowly worked his way up to become Drew Bledsoe’s back-up. When Bledsoe was injured early in the 2001 season, Brady took over and never looked back: seven Super Bowl victories, three NFL MVPs, 15 Pro Bowls and a claim as one of American’s finest-ever athletes were to follow. - Guardian