Feb 2, 2022 - Sports

Tom Brady never got old

Photo illustration of Tom Brady with a blurred stadium crowd behind him

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Tom Brady, the best QB in NFL history and one of the greatest athletes to ever live, officially retired on Tuesday after 22 seasons.

Why it matters: Brady, the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, is 21st century sports. If there was a Mount Rushmore of North American athletes, his face would almost certainly on it.

  • "[F]ootball is an 'all-in' proposition — if a 100% competitive commitment isn't there, you won't succeed," Brady wrote in a statement that notably didn't mention the Patriots.
  • "This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore. ... Now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention."

By the numbers: Brady retires as a seven-time Super Bowl champion, five-time Super Bowl MVP, three-time NFL MVP and 15-time Pro Bowler. No player has more pass yards (85,520), pass TD (624) or wins (243).

  • He won more Super Bowls (7) than any team has won in its existence (6) and appeared in twice as many Super Bowls (10) as any other QB.
  • Brady's 35 playoff wins are more than second-place Joe Montana (16) and third-place Peyton Manning (14), combined, and only two teams have more: the Patriots (37) and Steelers (36).
  • In Brady's 20 seasons as a full-time starter, he had more Super Bowl-winning seasons (7) than seasons that ended before the conference championship round (6).
  • Since turning 40, he won more games (70) and threw for more yards (26,893) than any QB taken in the 2000 draft did in their careers.
  • The obligatory Jets stat: Brady lost 73 regular-season games in his entire career. In the last seven years alone, the Jets have lost 76.
Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick embrace after winning their first Super Bowl together in 2002.
Brady and Belichick after winning their first Super Bowl together in 2002. Photo: Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images

The big picture: Brady was so consistently good for so long that one could argue he had three Hall of Fame careers in one.

  • The underdog (2000–06): Three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl MVPs, three Pro Bowls. ... His regular-season numbers were pedestrian, but he went 12-2 in the playoffs and the Patriots dynasty was born.
  • The GOAT (2007–13): Two NFL MVPs, six Pro Bowls, two First-Team All-Pros ... This is when Brady began to creep into the GOAT debate. Insane numbers, mixed with crushing playoff losses.
  • The Immortal (2014–20): Four Super Bowls, three Super Bowl MVPs, one NFL MVP, five Pro Bowls, one First-Team All-Pro ... His best seven-year stretch — further evidence that he is aging backwards.

What they're saying: Brady has been part of America's fabric since the turn of the century, gracing 25 Sports Illustrated covers, starring in countless commercials and becoming an icon for every generation. Naturally, sportswriters had some words about the man...

  • Sally Jenkins, WashPost: "Brady proved that any kid with perfectly ordinary athletic prospects, the middle-of-the-packer who doesn't come with some preloaded or far-fetched anatomical gift, can construct greatness. What made him great was an inner curiosity, an urge to fill in his blanks and see what might happen with enough study and sweat."
  • Will Leitch, GQ: "Someday, your grandchildren ... will ask you what it was like to watch Tom Brady play. That you lived in the time of Brady ... will seem remarkable to them, in the same way it seemed remarkable to me that my grandfather was old enough to grow up watching Babe Ruth. Brady did things in the NFL, like Ruth, that will not seem possible to future generations. The kids will want to know."
  • Scott Stossel, The Atlantic: "Brady's ability to somehow defy, if not reverse, the normal processes of aging ... provides the illusion that decay and death can maybe be deferred a little longer. Of course, his agelessness also makes me hate him a little, too, for the same reasons the rest of his seemingly perfect life does; I can only imagine the hatred that, say, Jets fans must feel for him."

The final act: The last thing Brady did was erase a 27-3 deficit in the final 20 minutes of a playoff game ... after leading the NFL in passing yards (5,316), completions (NFL-record 485) and TD (43) ... at age 44.

"Tom Brady really said 'I'll retire when I suck' and then was like 'f--k this it's taking too long.'"
Pete Blackburn, Bally Sports
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