Tom Brady Un-Retires, Reviving 22-Year Career

By Terrance Turner

March 13, 2022 (originally drafted February 1, 2022)

Tom Brady is back.

After a retirement that lasted all of six weeks, the legendary quarterback announced today that he is returning to the game he loves. The seven-time Super Bowl champion announced his decision on Twitter and Instagram, saying he has “unfinished business.”

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”

Brady made the retirement announcement Feb. 1, after days of swirling, conflicting reports about his future. “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.”

It was an eloquent coda to a remarkable career. Brady was selected by the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL draft, after spending his college career in Michigan. It was not an auspicious beginning: he was selected No. 199 in the sixth round, with a withering combine report. “This is what they said about me then….. Poor build, Skinny, Lacks great physical stature and strength, Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush, Lacks a really strong arm, Can’t drive the ball downfield, Does not throw a really tight spiral, System-type player who can get exposed if forced to ad lib, Gets knocked down easily,” Brady recalled on Instagram.

But he proved everybody wrong. When Brady joined the Patriots, Drew Bledsoe was the starting quarterback. But on Sept. 23, 2001, Bledsoe was knocked out by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. (Bledsoe was rushed to the hospital and nearly died; he suffered both a concussion and internal bleeding, according to USA Today. He later recalled: “I was bleeding out about a liter an hour internally.”) Brady took over as the starter, and though the Patriots lost that night, they would win 11 of their next 14 games with Brady at the helm. He led them to the 2002 Super Bowl, where they scored an upset victory against the St. Louis Rams. (They won 20-17, according to the San Francisco Gate.) At 24, Brady became the youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

But that was far from the only record he’d set. Brady helped the Patriots earn back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 2004 and 2005. They beat the Panthers 32-29 in 2004, with Brady winning Super Bowl MVP. At the then-named Reliant Stadium in Houston, Brady went 32-for-48 passing, according to Sports Illustrated, and threw three touchdowns. He became the youngest quarterback ever to win two Super Bowls and was awarded his second Super Bowl MVP trophy.

Tom Brady celebrates his Super Bowl win with his Patriots teammates in 2004 in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Photo from Sports Illustrated.

Then the Patriots defeated the Eagles 24-21 the next year. That victory made history. The Patriots are the last team to win consecutive Super Bowls. But what they did next would be even more impressive.

In 2007, with Brady leading the way, the New England Patriots had a perfect season, winning every regular-season game. They became the first 16-0 team in NFL history. During the last game of the season, Brady broke the record for the most passing touchdowns in a single season (with 50), and the Patriots finished the season with a total of 589 points (also a record). Though they lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants, their quarterback was still named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Brady was also honored as the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year — the first NFL player to win that honor since Joe Montana in 1990.

But he wasn’t done yet…

Brady tore both his MCL and ACL in 2008, knocking him out of contention for the remainder of the season. The Pats missed the playoffs for the first tie since 2002. But when he returned the next year, Brady made his mark. He threw five touchdown passes in the second quarter (!!!) against the Titans in 2009, setting yet another record. Then Brady came back for the first series of the third quarter and threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Randy Moss. Then backup Brian Hoyer took over and scored on a 12-play, 61-yard drive that lasted 7:42. The Patriots blew out the Titans 59-0 — the largest margin of victory since 1976!

Brady finished the season with 28 touchdowns, despite having a broken finger and three broken ribs. But the Patriots would lose the AFC Wild Card match to the Baltimore Ravens. They rebounded in 2012, with a 13-3 record and a No. 1 seed in the AFC. Once again, the New England Patriots faced off against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. And once again, the Giants prevailed. QB Eli Manning put together a comeback drive that included a 38-yard sideline catch by Mario Manningham. Ahmad Bradshaw ran in for the score with just 57 seconds left; he tried to stop himself from scoring early, but the momentum carried him across the finish line, and he wound up sitting down in the end zone. Brady couldn’t answer in the final 57 seconds, and the Giants won, 21-17.

Brady led the Patriots to back-to-back 12-4 seasons in 2013 and 2014, then fought his back to the “big dance” — and won. In a streak as spectacular as it was improbable, Brady won Super Bowl titles in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021.

In Feb. 2015, the New England Patriots faced the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. According to ESPN , Brady threw for four touchdowns, including two in the first half to Brandon LeFall and tight end Rob Gronkowski. When Seattle jumped out to a 24-14 lead in the third quarter, the Patriots responded. Brady threw a 4-yard TD to WR Danny Amendola to bring the Patriots within three points. Then, with just 2:02 remaining, he threw yet another touchdown to wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Julian Edelman catches a touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, 2015. Photo from the Los Angeles Daily News.

The Seahawks advanced the ball to the one-yard line on an ensuing drive. But instead of handing the ball off to star running back Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll elected to run a pass play. The ball was intercepted by Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, who sealed the game for the Patriots. New England won, 28-24.

The 2016 season got off to an ugly start when Brady was implicated in the “Deflategate” scandal. Brady was accused of ordering that the footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game be under-inflated in order to gain a competitive advantage. An investigation was ordered by the NFL, and NFL reporter Ian Rapoport said that 11 out of 12 balls were found to be under the required minimum of 12.5 psi (pounds per square inch), although one ball was two pounds under.

Despite his denials of any wrongdoing, Brady was suspended four games for his alleged role in the scandal. But he roared back upon returning to the NFL, leading the Patriots to a 14-2 record (the league’s best). The Patriots set an NFL record by going 258 pass attempts to start the season without an interception. The team had just two interceptions all season. Brady set the record for most wins by a starting quarterback and led his team to Super Bowl 50. After a 28-3 deficit in the third quarter, Brady and the Patriots rallied to win 34-28 in overtime — the largest statistical comeback in Super Bowl history. Brady earned his fifth Lombardi Trophy.

In 2019, Brady and the Patriots took home the Trophy again — although this time the results would be much less dramatic. In one of the lowest-scoring games in Super Bowl history, the Patriots edged out the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 13-3. The lone touchdown in that game was scored by running back Sony Michel, after a far-reaching , crucial catch by Gronkowski (who holds the records for the most receiving yards and most reception in Super Bowl history). Brady won his sixth championship (an NFL record). It would be his last game as a member of the New England Patriots.

After nearly 20 years in New England, Brady shocked fans when he decided to leave the Patriots and go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.The move caught many fans and observers off gard, but it paid off. Once again, Brady worked his usual magic to take the Bucs to a winning record and yet another Super Bowl. In the process, he brought along one of his best friends and best targets: Rob Gronkowski.

The two combined for two touchdowns in the first half of Super Bowl 55. According to Sports Illustrated, “Brady found Rob Gronkowski for an eight-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter, giving Tampa Bay a 7–3 lead. The connection was the 13th Brady-to-Gronkowski touchdown pass of their postseason careers, the most in NFL history.”

But then Brady located Gronk again: Midway through the second quarter, the pair connected again, this time on a 17-yard strike that put the Buccaneers ahead, 14-3. The grab gives Gronkowski his second multi-touchdown game in his Super Bowl career. The only other player to do that? Legendary San Francisco receiver Jerry Rice.

Brady and Gronk’s connection combined with a stout Tampa Bay defense to steamroll the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the only team ever to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Tom Brady earned his seventh career Super Bowl, an all-time record; Gronkowski earned his fourth. The two celebrated their Super Bowl success as only they could:

 Save as PDF

Leave a Reply