Father Time finally beat Tom Brady. He won fair and square, without a hint of shame for TB12. Besides, in playing past his 45th birthday, Brady got the best of Father Time long enough.
But now it’s flipped. Game over. The credits are rolling.
Here’s to hoping that Brady can get more than a few nights of good sleep.
Knowing the passion that the former New England Patriots/Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback brought to his profession, this decision to retire (again) had to be so agonizing – even though signs have existed for months that Brady would not ride off into the sunset as a Super Bowl winner, a la John Elway.
He tried to walk away last year but just couldn’t bring himself to stay retired past 40 days. So, he came back, seeking to add to his collection of seven Super Bowl rings.
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The past few weeks, since his 23rd season ended with an ugly loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the NFC playoffs, Brady, a person close to the icon told USA TODAY Sports, contemplated retirement as you’d expect he would – going back and forth, weighing pros and cons, tapping his inner feelings to find the final answer. The person requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Deep down, I’m guessing that Brady knows that he can still play the game, even if not at the consistent level he has demonstrated for so many years.
After his last game, Brady said that he would employ a “one day at a time” process while weighing his future but calmly stated that at that point he was most eager to get a good night’s sleep.
More recently, Brady was anything but calm as he snapped at co-host Jim Gray during his “Let’s Go!” podcast on Sirius, twice dropping an expletive in maintaining that he was still processing.
The snarky response was an indication that Brady was annoyed by the question and perhaps that even with his records, hardware and a lucrative contract from Fox Sports in hand, he’s still human.
No, as his career wound down, Brady was nobody’s cyborg quarterback.
In his last season, he was a man still chasing a football dream while dealing with the immense personal drama that comes with a divorce. Since he blew up as a celebrity after winning a Super Bowl in his second NFL season, Brady never seemed to be as human as he was in his final season.
He looked the part of a torn man, too, losing enough weight to make you wonder if the change in his appearance had nothing to do with his TB12 training regimen and much to do with his split from his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen. When Brady, a father of three, left training camp for 11 days in August to handle “personal business” rather than grinding through the detailed work of preparing for the season, the speculation about his personal life intensified.
Brady taking a personal leave? Yes, he is a human being, too.
Despite whatever taxed him personally from the divorce that was announced in late October after a 13-year marriage, Brady, as you’d expect, desperately tried to will himself – and his team – to another legitimate Super Bowl run.
That idea turned out to be a slow burn to the finish line. It wasn’t all on Brady. Like every football team, the Bucs had their share of injuries that impacted his supporting cast. There was no running game. The offensive line lacked cohesion. The defense wasn’t as stout. The offense lacked rhythm and consistency, pretty much all season. And Brady wasn’t the consistent Brady.
Sure, he led the Bucs to a division title in his final campaign, but it was half-empty. For the first time, Brady entered the playoffs on a team with a sub-.500 record.
Then, that last game, a 31-14 drubbing from Dallas, was a microcosm of his season. Several passes were way off the mark. He threw an interception in the red zone for the first time during his three seasons with the Bucs. He lost to the Cowboys, for crying out loud, a team that had never beaten him.
“Not the way we wanted to end it,” Brady said after the game, the words now carrying an even broader significance.
No, Brady, the legend who entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick drafted 199th overall in 2000, didn’t want to go out like that. The playoff ouster last season, against the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, provided hope after Brady led a big, patented comeback … only for the defense to allow a big play in the final minute that sealed the defeat.
This time, the elimination game was complete and indisputable – and another piece of the reality check that it was time for Brady to get on with the rest of his life.
Even if it didn’t end in a shower of confetti, at least Brady isn’t staggering away punch-drunk from too many concussions – which was the biggest fear that Bündchen expressed publicly about her then-husband playing well into his 40s. Brady started all 18 games in his final season, including the playoff exit, and maintained that his health is intact.
There’s no reason to feel sorry for Brady. Just recognize that he, too, is all too human.
Story Credit: usatoday.com