The greatest playing career in NFL history is officially complete.
On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady informed the team that he is retiring after 22 unparalleled seasons in the NFL, the last two in Tampa. Brady walks away after winning a league-record seven Super Bowls plus five Super Bowl MVP trophies and three regular-season NFL MVP titles. He is the NFL's all-time leader in a variety of categories, including passing yards (84,520), touchdown passes (624) and quarterback wins (243). At the end of his final season he was named to his 15th Pro Bowl, the most by any player in league annals.
Brady played 20 seasons for the New England Patriots before joining the Buccaneers in perhaps the most significant free agency addition of all time. His first six Super Bowl rings were earned during his two decades in New England but his move to Tampa instantly transformed that franchise, which immediately won its first Super Bowl in 18 years. After defeating Kansas City in Super Bowl LV – a game that won Brady his last Super Bowl MVP award – the Buccaneers won the NFC South and tied for the league's best record in 2021 before finally losing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Overall, the Buccaneers went 29-10 in Brady's two seasons with the team, the most successful stretch in franchise history.
"Tom arrived in Tampa Bay with an unprecedented level of expectations and delivered some of the most memorable moments in our franchise history," wrote the Glazer family in a statement on Tuesday morning. "His impact on our team and community was immediate and profound. Tom's remarkable NFL journey has come to an end, but we will continue to celebrate his legendary career as the greatest quarterback of all time and are appreciative and grateful for the time he spent as a Buccaneer. Saying goodbye to a legend is never easy, but we wish him continued success in retirement."
In addition to his many NFL records, Brady rewrote much of the Buccaneers' record book as well. His 40 touchdown passes in 2020 were a team record until he threw 43 in 2021, and his 5,316 passing yards this past season also set a new team standard. Brady's passer ratings of 102.2 in 2020 and 102.1 this season are the two highest in Buccaneers history. His yardage and touchdown totals led all NFL players in 2021, a remarkable achievement for anyone, let alone a quarterback playing in his 22nd season at the age of 44.
There are an endless number of statistical markers to describe the greatness of Brady's NFL career, but he was also considered one of the best leaders and teammates in league history. The Buccaneers' pursuit of Brady in 2020 was based as much on how he would affect those around him as much as his still outstanding level of play.
"Tom joined us as the greatest football player of all time, and he quickly showed everyone in our organization what that meant," said Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians. "He set a standard and helped create a culture that took our team to the mountaintop. It has been an honor to be his head coach for the past two seasons. I wish it didn't have to end, but few players have the opportunity to leave the game on their own terms. Even fewer can do it while playing at an elite level. Tom is the exception. I have a deep appreciation and respect for what he has done for our franchise, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best in this next chapter of life after football."
Brady's presence was enough to give the Buccaneers confidence they could win going into any contest, and that they could overcome virtually any adversity on game day. After all, he engineered 53 game-winning drives and 43 fourth-quarter comeback victories in his career, both one behind Peyton Manning's all-time records. His Super Bowl victory as a Buccaneer came in the first of his two seasons with the team and, obviously, his final start was a loss, but it was still a fitting end. Brady rallied the Buccaneers from a 27-3 deficit late in the third quarter of the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams to a stunning 27-27 tie with less than a minute left in regulation. Brady's final NFL pass was a nine-yard completion to Cameron Brate that set up the game-tying touchdown run by Leonard Fournette on the next play. He never took the field again as the Rams used the game's final seconds to drive for a game-winning field goal.
Brady famously entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2020. He took over as New England's starter three games into his second season and ushered in the longest and greatest dynasty by any team in league history. The Patriots won the Super Bowl in his first season as a starter and three of his first four years at the helm. The 2003-04 Patriots remain the last team to win back-to-back championships. He missed all but one game in 2008 due to a knee injury but his teams in New England and Tampa made it to the playoffs in all but one of his other 20 seasons as a starter. His 35 postseason victories as a starter are the most in league history, obviously, and his seven Super Bowl championships are more than any single NFL franchise can claim.
View the top pictures of Tom Brady from his time with the Buccaneers.
Though he played more than 90% of his career for New England, Brady's brief but brilliant tenure with the Buccaneers was a fitting final coda for the G.O.A.T.'s career. By taking on a new challenge and meeting it in the most successful manner possible, Brady set himself apart in the entire landscape of American professional sports. He is, for instance, the first player in the four major North American sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB) to win at least 6 titles for one team, then another title with a different franchise He is also the first player in those four sports to win a championship MVP at the age of 40 or older. No other NFL player has ever spent 20 seasons with one franchise and then won a championship with another one.
"It is hard to put into words what Tom has meant to me and the entire Buccaneers organization," said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. "I have had the distinct pleasure of being with Tom at both the beginning and end of his incredible NFL career. These past two seasons, I had the privilege to see up close the way he operates and the impact he has on a franchise – from coaches to players to staff. He set a standard for accountability, work ethic and performance that resonated through our building and in our locker room. His list of career accomplishments speaks for itself, but to finish a 22-year career while still performing at his peak, was nothing short of extraordinary. I wish we had more time with Tom, but I understand and respect his decision to leave the game in order to spend more time with his family. I am grateful for the moments we shared."
Brady's retirement will obviously have as much of an impact on the Buccaneers' franchise as his arrival. While the winning culture he helped establish will remain and the influence he had on dozens of younger teammates will still have a lasting impact, the Buccaneers must now find a new answer at the game's most important position. At his season-ending press conference, Head Coach Bruce Arians said he was comfortable with the existing options on the roster – Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask – but that the Buccaneers would still explore all options if needed.
"Quarterback, obviously, you start there," said Arians. "Again, [we'll] see where we're heading and wait and see what Tom does. But we'll be doing our homework, that's for sure.
"I'd be comfortable if it is [an internal solution]. I like what we have, but again, you never know what's behind Door No. 2. We kind of went down that road two years ago and there was Tom Brady. We'll have to wait and see."
Indeed, Door No. 2 opened into an incredible future for the Buccaneers, as Brady's arrival helped the team capture its second league championship and enjoy two of the most successful campaigns in nearly 50 years of franchise history. The Buccaneers, of course, would have happily stayed on that path with Brady had he chosen to extend his career into his age-45 season and beyond, but ultimately the most accomplished player in NFL history decided that he had played enough. It has been obvious for some time that Brady is the greatest player of all time; the only question that remained about his career was when it would be complete. Now that question, too, has been answered.