Where there is smoke there is fire, and there is plenty of smoke, but Team Tom Brady wants us to wait before we celebrate his Greatest Of All Time career.
The tributes came flying in from all across the NFL following reports that Brady has decided to retire, before Tom Brady Sr. said his son is not retiring, that an online publication had started circulating an unsubstantiated rumor.
Brady’s Super Bowl XXXVI offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, called me to direct me to his own tweet: “Here is what I know. It would be a cold day in hell before Tommy Brady would retire the day before the championship games. He would never want to be a distraction bringing attention to him and away from the games. It may be true, but ‘Come on Man!’ ”
It makes a lot of sense.
Perhaps Brady has yet to make up his mind.
Perhaps he has made up his mind but doesn’t want to make it public now.
He couldn’t fly like Michael Jordan.
He couldn’t move like Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson. He couldn’t improvise like Patrick Mahomes. He couldn’t scramble like Fran Tarkenton. He didn’t have Dan Marino’s release or Josh Allen’s arm. He couldn’t beat Eli Manning in the Super Bowl.
All he did was make himself from a skinny afterthought, a sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan, to The GOAT in the Arena.
And all Football America needs to say when he walks away:
Thanks for the memories.
Thanks from all geriatrics who dream about beating back Father Time.
Thanks from young skinny boys who can now dream that they too can grow up to be Tom Brady one day. Even if they can’t.
Brady doesn’t need an unprecedented eighth Super Bowl championship to cement a legacy for the ages. A legacy forever. One Roger Goodell suspension cannot, should not, will not deflate his remarkable legacy.
He has been the Michael Jordan of his sport.
He has been the George Foreman of his sport.
No one has ever played football at 44 years old the way he did. Or 34. Or 24, for that matter.
He will be leaving with one more ring than Jordan, two more rings than Derek Jeter, three more rings than both Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.
He will be leaving on top, and he will be leaving healthy, wealthy and wise.
He will be leaving a giant void in the hearts and minds of virtually everyone who loves the NFL and witnessed what greatness looks like over the course of his 22-year career.
He can be The GOAT husband for Gisele and father for his children.
His beautiful model wife has lobbied for him to walk away from the game before it could do him bodily harm, even if the rules protect quarterbacks the way they do and the zebras seemed to go out of their way to turn him into Teflon Tom.
The most heartfelt Thanks for the Memories will come from New England, where he and Bill Belichick became the greatest dynastic tandem we will ever see.
Belichick couldn’t have become a GOAT without The GOAT by his side. And vice versa, even if Brady did win a Super Bowl without Belichick.
So more heartfelt thanks will come from Tampa. Brady delivered the city’s second Super Bowl championship in his first year there in 2020.
Here was Brady, in an NFL Films interview with Steve Sabol:
“When you talk to all these people, you realize, ‘Now I know why this guy’s done what he’s done.’ You can see why. There’s a competitiveness, there’s a spirit about ’em. John Elway makes people feel like that. And he made his teammates feel like that, and his coaches. Everyone else believed in him, and everyone else was like, ‘Hey man, if I’m on your side, we’re gonna win.’ When you’re around people like that, you just kind of feel like, you know, man, I’m sitting next to the man.”
Ask yourself this question: How many quarterbacks would have overcome a 28-3 deficit in a Super Bowl the way Brady did against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI?
Ever since that last-minute drive to upset Kurt Warner and The Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady’s relentless obsession with winning and winning and winning and winning and winning and winning and winning and preparing to win single-handedly changed the culture of his franchises and infused his team with belief.
He was an extension of Belichick on the field the way every head coach wishes his quarterback can be.
Brady wore his emotions on his sleeve … hoisting that first Lombardi Trophy looking like a kid on Christmas morning … jumping for joy after Russell Wilson threw that incomprehensible interception from the 1-yard-line to Malcolm Butler at the end of Super Bowl XLIX … raging at opponents who dared to stand in his way … cursing at New Orleans defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and tossing a Microsoft Surface tablet on the sideline during a shutout loss last month to the Saints.
ESPN’s Randy Moss asked Brady in 2019 how he keeps that competitive fire.
“For me — one, it’s the love of the game,” Brady said. “I enjoy it. And football is my first love. I sit here and think, ‘Well, if I wasn’t playing football, what would I be doing?’ I can’t find an answer to that. So, it’s like why not keep doing what I love doing?”
TB 12 has found other interests now, but you had better believe that a piece of him will dies with his retirement.
He was the Pretty Boy who drove mad opposing coaches who fixed on getting him off his spot, from beginning to end. He made long-suffering Jets fans suffer longer, and took delight in it, because he told us way back when that he hated the Jets.
Not long after the Patriots made him the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, this is what Tom Brady told owner Robert Kraft: “You’ll never regret picking me.”
No one ever has.