Tampa Bay Quarterback Tom Brady has put an end to all the speculation about whether or not he will play a twenty third season in the NFL: he will not. The seven-time Super Bowl champion and former league MVP made it official Tuesday saying it was a difficult decision but he was no longer willing to make that “competitive commitment.”
“I have always believed that the sport of football is an all-in proposition – if a 100 percent competitive commitment isn’t there you won’t succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game…There are no shortcuts to success on the field or in life.” And no one has enjoyed more success in the NFL. Brady released a lengthy statement on social media in which he talked about his decision-making process and how his career has been a “thrilling ride.” He also thanked his legion of fans, his Tampa Bay teammates and coaching staff, and especially head coach Bruce Arians, for “putting up with me.”
There has been endless discussion on who is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all Time). I’ll leave that to the so-called experts to hash out. If Super Bowl victories is your metric, then Brady is tops. By any measure, Brady is clearly one of the greatest QBs to ever put on pads; his stats are impressive to say the least: 7,263 completions for 84,520 yards and 624 touchdowns, a 64.2 percent completion percentage. In his final campaign in 2021, he completed a record 485 passes. Just his longevity alone has put him in a league by himself.
His career has not been without controversy. There was the deflate-gate fiasco in 2014, in which Brady was accused of having the air pressure in the footballs lowered before the start of AFC Title game against the Colts, a game in which his former team, the New England Patriots won 45-7. The deflated balls, so the thinking went, were going to give an edge to Brady and his receivers, as if they needed any competitive advantage.
Brady earned a four-game suspension for his alleged role in the controversy, while the team was fined $1 million and forfeited two draft selections in 2016. Brady's suspension was originally to be implemented during the 2015 regular season, but he successfully appealed the suspension in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, allowing him to resume his playing duties for the entirety of 2015. However, following the conclusion of the season, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension, which became effective for the 2016 regular season.
Say or think what you will about Brady, but the 44-year-old has excelled at a level not seen in the NFL in a long time. Brady was the Patriots’ 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. The young Brady didn’t get a lot of playing time in his first two years at Michigan and was even thinking of transferring to Cal Berkley to play for the Golden Bears. But, as he has for his entire pro career, he persevered, and eventually earned a starting spot with the Wolverines.
Brady came to the Patriots at a time when their starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, led the team to the Super Bowl. But Bledsoe was injured during 2001 season; Brady stepped in and led the team to a Super Bowl victory that year. Five more Super Bowl rings with the Pats, and one more last year with Tampa Bay has solidified Brady as one of the League’s all-time greats.
It’s astonishing that so many football fans despise Brady. Some of it may be due to the fallout from deflate-gate, or maybe they’re tired of seeing Brady-led teams in the Big Game. It goes against Americans’ sense of fair play and rooting for the underdog. Or it could be that some people are just plain jealous of Brady’s success. Most people will support you if you’re struggling, but once you’ve reached a certain level of success those same people suddenly fall away. Bette Midler said it best:
“The worst part of success is trying to find someone who is happy for you.” As a life-long Green Bay Packers fan, I’ve found myself both rooting for Brady and against him. But in an age in which mediocrity is celebrated and the likes of Colin Kapernick dominate headlines, it is refreshing that Brady has soared above all the distractions to achieve a level of greatness that we will not see perhaps ever again.