End of the G.O.A.T. Era

After 22 years, Tom Brady finally hangs up the cleats, putting an end to arguably the greatest career in the history of sports.

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Twenty-two seasons. Ten Super Bowls. Seven Championship Rings. Three League MVP Awards.

NFL fans all across the country were shocked when Tom Brady announced he would hang up his cleats. Earlier this month, Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. Brady’s 2021-2022 season with the Buccaneers was truly one to admire. The 44-year-old quarterback led the league in passing yards (5,316) and passing touchdowns (43), and shattered the all-time completion league record with 485 completions.

Brady’s career began in 2000, when he was selected by the New England Patriots in the sixth round as the 199th overall pick of the NFL draft. Initially an overlooked backup behind Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Brady got his chance to appear for the team when Bledsoe went down from a hit in week two of the 2001 NFL season. The rest is history, as Brady took his place in the starting lineup, pushing Bledsoe out of New England. In his second year as a starter, Brady led the Patriots to an 11-5 record and a 20-17 Super Bowl victory over the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams.

In his 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, Brady reached nine Super Bowls, winning six, and was awarded four Super Bowl MVPs. The Patriots successfully dominated the AFC East throughout the decade, thanks to the help of Brady and the brilliant head coach Bill Belicheck. However, with Brady’s contract nearing expiration in 2020, the question of what was next for the NFL superstar arose.

The relationship between Brady and Belicheck deteriorated, with the latter unwilling to cooperate with Brady during the resignation process. As a result, Brady took his talents into the free agent market, eventually signing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and the skilled receiver core of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brady led his new team to their first Super Bowl title in 18 years, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs.

During the NFL playoffs of the 2021-2022 season, Brady and the second seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers marched into the Wild Card against the seventh seeded Philadelphia Eagles. Though they were missing their superstar wideout Godwin, Brady and the Bucs blew out the Philadelphia Eagles 31-15. As the Bucs entered the Divisional Round against the talented, healthy, and hopeful Los Angeles Rams, they knew they would have to give it their all to come out on top. However, shortly after halftime, the Bucs were down 27-3. Despite trailing by 24, Brady led the Bucs back into the game, and a late touchdown by Leonard Fournette tied the game at 27-27. With less than a minute left, Rams breakout receiver Cooper Kupp made two big receptions, setting the opposition up for a walk-off field goal and shattering the hearts of Bucs fans everywhere.

The public, stumped by the excellence of Kupp, acknowledged Brady’s comeback. Considering his career season, his performance in the playoffs, the 600 yards he threw, and the three touchdowns to one interception, many fans expected one more Super Bowl run by Brady. Upon the declaration of his retirement, Brady discussed how the young Buccaneer team deserves someone with the energy and will to make a commitment to winning: “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.”

In 22 seasons and 318 regular season games, Brady holds virtually every important record in the quarterback position: 84,520 regular season yards, 581 regular season passing touchdowns, and 485 regular season completions. Brady holds a career record of 243-73-0, making him the most successful quarterback of all time. Brady’s legacy carries on past the regular season, as he has played in 47 playoff games (more than 22 NFL franchises) and has won 35.

Brady plans to focus his attention on his family and his multi-million TB12 brand, leaving his status as the Greatest Of All Time on the field. However, a return to football has not been ruled out for Brady yet. On the Let’s Go podcast, Brady spoke about his decision: “I’m just gonna take things as they come. I think that’s the best way to put it, and I don’t think anything, you know, you never say never.” Many other athletes have come out of retirement, such as Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and Brady’s former teammate Rob Gronkowski. Regardless of Brady’s status on returning to football, we as NFL fans must take some time to cherish the 22 years of greatness that Brady demonstrated in the sport of football.