Initially, I was planning to write a tribute article for the GOAT (and my favorite athlete of all time), then I was planning to write an “is he coming back?!” article, but here we are with one that tries to fill in the holes of the past two months and raise some more questions.
In this article, I'm making two assumptions that I believe fit Brady's personality and may be close to the truth:
- First, I believe that if it came down to him, Brady would play football until hes has to be dragged off the field.
- Secondly, I believe Brady wanted to retire as Patriot once this possibility went out of the window all bets were off. There is no reason to wait anything out at this age and if he is going to play, he has to be on a contender.
I don't want to spend much time on the regular season but there are some events that are worth mentioning in retrospect and may have affected Brady's mindset.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs had one of the best offenses in the league in terms of production. However, at times they would hit roadblocks that were a concern all year long. In week #2's game against Atlanta, the Falcons kept closing in and it was Edwards' 2 picks that eventually put the game to rest.
On week #6 against Philly, the offense went really silent in the second half, and then on week #7 against Chicago, all 38 came from short field advantage. Despite week #8's loss against the Saints things looked positive in terms of production and the game was open until the last drive and Brady's bad pick.
A really disappointing display against Washington followed on week #10, then a bad first half against Indy on week #12, a bad second half against the Bills on week #14, followed by the shutout against the Saints on week #15, and a really close win against the Jets on week #17.
My point is that the league's best offense, featuring the MVP runner-up and some of the best receivers in the league went through concerning phases. Gronk was gone after the Rams game on week #3 (returned on week #11) and Antonio Brown was gone after the Miami game on week #5 (returned on week #16, evaporated on week #17).
Fournette went down for several weeks, returning in the postseason, and Godwin's knee was torpedoed by unholy forces on week #15's game.
All this would have been fine for the most part if the Bucs' defense was able to put a stop on occasion.
Analyzing the defense would be unfair with all the injuries it had to go throw during the regular season, but essentially the Bucs rely on pressure from the defensive front to cover for any vulnerabilities in the secondary. At the same time, generating turnovers was their way of giving a boost to the offense every time it stumbled.
An outlook on Brady
All the above shows that despite bringing back all 22 starters, the Bucs' season went through a ton of ups and downs. In my eyes, Brady looked exhausted mentally after some point in the season (assumption).
Most NFL fans expected that at some point through the postseason the Bucs would have to face the Rams. Week #3's and last year's game had already raised the alarms. There is a clear mismatch when the two teams face each other.
With Chris Godwin gone for the season. AB's quitting on the time almost killed their season. Then came the Whirfs injury against Philly and frankly, had it not been for the fumbles in the Rams game it could have been a blowout.
With Wirfs available, it would have been a different game, but the more important point is that one guy's antics significantly harmed the team's chances to reach the Super Bowl.
That must have been very disappointing for a 44-year-old quarterback that is very close to the end of their career.
Mike Evans mentioned in several interviews that there was a feeling that Brady was going to retire after some point in the season. A shift of the tides if you will.
Giselle's celebrations against the Rams also raised some eyebrows and I doubt she was celebrating because her family was about to move to San Fransisco, it probably was because she was about to stop watching her husband try to get killed on a football field.
Why the retirement would make sense
From a football standpoint, the retirement does not make sense as there was no indication that Brady cannot compete at a championship level.
In my eyes, what makes sense is something like this: “We brought everyone back and fell short. This offseason we have 26 free agents which will put us even further from the team that won Super Bowl LV. If my retirement is imminent, why delay it to play a season of football on a team that will probably be one and done in the playoffs?”
What I'm alluding to here is that towards the end of the season Brady realized that this year's battle was becoming more and more one against the odds and that next year going through the grind would not lead to a Super Bowl.
Why the retirement would not make sense
There are three answers here:
- First, the Bucs have great ownership and a great front office (including Brady)and as we already know as of the time of writing, 2022's offense is going to range from formidable to juggernaut.
- Secondly, if the Bucs cannot produce a roster that will put Brady in position to compete for the title, there was no reason for him to stay on his second team and not go to a third one. In that sense, the 49ers made a ton of sense. In most people's eyes, they would have won it all this year with Brady and they would favorites next year with Brady.
- Third, Tom Brady does not quit. It would bother me to go out like this and of course it would bother Tom Brady. That's what unfinished business is, and no, seven is not enough, why would it be?
The timeline of Brady's retirement & unretirement
- Brady and Payton to the Dolphins was on the table before Brian Flores' lawsuit. At the time, Brady had not announced his retirement. Allegedly, everything was taken off the table on February 1st. (question: How would the Dolphins want a retired Brady as a minority shareholder, at a time they didn't know he retired?)
- Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL on February 1st, 2022.
- Brady announced his “retirement” on February 1st, 2022.
- Brady said “Never say never” about a potential comeback on February 8th, 2022.
- The first rumors of Brady to 49ers came out on February 9th, 2022.
- A report came out on February 11th, 2022 that Kyle Shanahan and Brady clashed on a job interview for the 49ers in 2020 (Maybe Brady accidentally mentioned 3:28?).
- A report by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network came out on February 17th that the Bucs were not ruling out a possible Brady return for the 2022 season.
- Rumors about friction between Brady and Arians surfaced on February 18th, 2022.
- Bruce Arians stated that he would be shocked if Brady came out of retirement on February 20th, 2022.
- The Bucs's decision to not place Brady on reserve/retired list was (partially) cap-related as reported by Jeff Kerr on February 28th.
- Kyle Shanahan was reportedly one of six coaches that would not attend the NFL Combine in 2022.
- On March 1st, asked whether Let's Go! will be his only gig for 2022, Brady responded “To be determined. I got a lot going on, but today it's golf.”
- Jason Licht said “You always leave the light on for a guy like Tom Brady.”, also on March 1st.
- At some point prior to Brady's return there was a radio silence from the Bucs as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times explained after the return.
- On March 12th, 2022 Brady attended Manchester United's match against Tottenham Hotspur and when asked by Cristiano Ronaldo whether he was finished he responded with a cringy smile.
- Brady announced his return to the NFL on March 13th, 2022.
I think Giselle's role in Brady's retirement is understated by sports outlets. While it definitely makes sense as it doesn't make for great headlines, I believe Brady keeps receiving ultimatums from Giselle every single year and he has to work his way out of a rut each and every time.
This is what he seems to have done in 2022 too.
The friCtiON beTwEEn BA and Brady dROvE Tom AwAY
I find that very hard to believe as this is Brady's team, not BA's team. And if there was any doubt before this offseason I think it's quite clear that Brady and Licht run the show in Tampa.
I also don't think a team run by BA could win a Super Bowl, but maybe I'm a hater.
Did Brady try to go to the 49ers?
I believe that Brady realized pretty soon that the show is not over, but he knew he would only play for a team that gives him a chance to win it all.
We only know that Kyle Shanahan was not present at the combine while Brady was in San Mateo. The move would make perfect sense in case the Bucs weren't able to do what they are doing this offseason and Brady wanted to keep playing.
I have to admit that this offense would be quite the spectacle, but maybe Shanahan is not sold on Brady at this age and we don't know whether Brady is sold on Kyle at any age.
Back to the Bucs
I also believe that the Bucs were aware of all this and in talks with Brady and the Glazers played a key role in convincing Brady to come.
I don't think the Bucs just kept the light on for Brady, but they also tried to convince him that it would be the brightest light for him in 2022.
Brady to the Dolphins with Sean Payton
This does not seem like something Brady would initiate, but more like a possibility explored by Payton before he committed to broadcasting and under the assumption that Brady wanted to retire.
It makes sense for Payton to ask, but I find it hard to believe that Brady would be interested in burning any bridges with New England and becoming a part-owner rather than playing football.
The retirement announcement
I believe Adam Schefter forced Brady's hand by leaking the retirement (and eventually it backfired). Once Schefter put the news out there, team Brady had two options;
- Either to address the rumors
- Or to complete ignore them
Brady went with option A, stating that he is not going to make that 100% competitive commitment anymore.
I don't think this was a ploy or a con, but what do I know? But if he was trying to con anyone that would probably be Giselle as in:
“I'll announce it, enjoy 5-6 weeks with the family, and on occasion go full puppy eyes every time football is mentioned.”
I don't think the “retirement” was a necessity in a power play between Brady and the Bucs in order to move to the 49ers or anywhere else. I also don't think it affected the team's cap space somehow, so who knows what this is all about.
The unretirement announcement
All thing is for certain. The unretirement announcement on March 13th, 2022 (coincidentally my 33rd birthday), has generated 2020 vibes and hype, either accidentally or intentionally just before the legal tampering period of free agency kicked off.
One thing we know now is that the Bucs are ready to squeeze every once of their cap space to bring out one of the best teams in the league in 2022 with moves that include so far:
- Keeping Ryan Jensen, Chris Godwin, and Carlton Davis III.
- Bringing in Shaq Mason, Russell Gage, and Logan Ryan.
- Restructuring Mike Evans' and Shaq Barrett's contracts to increase the available cap space.
The NFC is wide open and there is one man in sports I do not bet against, even with one of the hardest schedules in the NFL.