Tom Brady has retired.
This time, for sure.
I know we went through this last year. And then Tom un-retired 40 days after he retired. He came back and played another season, and we know there are still plenty of owners and coaches who would hire Brady to come back from this retirement.
But this time I believe him. That short, stunning Twitter video that interrupted our breakfast Wednesday looked genuine. Sincere. Heartfelt. Tom presented as a gaunt superstar in distress, resolving a midlife crisis that’s been eating at him while he has stopped eating. Tom looked very much like a man who needs to shut it down.
It troubles me that Brady chose to retire on the same date, in the same manner, two years in a row. Last year it was Tuesday morning, Feb. 1. This year it was Wednesday morning, Feb. 1. Could this be some weird, day-before-Groundhog Day punking?
I believe him this time. There is not going to be another Sinatra-esque, Brett Favre-like “one more time!” coming from the Brady camp between now and the start of the 2023 NFL season. In the spirit of Tom and “Tommy,” we won’t get fooled again.
Brady is really done. And it won’t surprise me if he winds up being part of Fox’s Super Bowl coverage for the Chiefs-Eagles game a week from Sunday. Tom has a billion-dollar contract with Fox, so why not step into that new role when he has so much to say?
He knows what it’s like to beat Patrick Mahomes in an AFC Championship game. He knows what it’s like to face Andy Reid in a Super Bowl, and he knows what it’s like to lose a Super Bowl to the Eagles. Maybe an appearance in the booth will bring home the reality that Brady is finally done playing.
There is no reason for him to do any more on the field.
We all thought he was crazy when he said he was going to play until he was 45. And then he went out and did it.
He left New England abruptly at the beginning of a pandemic that is still going and went to Tampa, where he carried the losingest franchise in pro sports history to a Super Bowl victory in his very first season.
That should have been the end right there. Instead, we got two years of petulance and broken tablets. Brady made faces at teammates, got his coach fired, took sabbaticals, and increasingly got rid of the ball too quickly to avoid getting hit. We saw him make sad playoff exits in his final two superfluous seasons.
Poor Tom chucked the ball 66 times in his final game, a bad playoff beating on “Monday Night Football” at the hands of the Cowboys. The sorry Bucs finished 8-10. It wasn’t Willie Mays-in-the-1973-World Series-bad, but it was not the way we wanted to see Tom finish.
More riches and attention awaited if Brady wanted to enjoy 2023 courtships, but did he really want to end his career with the godforsaken New York Jets after establishing himself as the greatest quarterback of all time?
No. Why keep going? He could only get hurt or do more damage to an image that was pretty perfect in almost all the days when he won championships for the New England Patriots.
That’s the Tom Brady we celebrate today.
Foxborough folks should get started on the statue at Patriot Place right now. We all know Tom is on the New England Mount Rushmore with Bill Russell, Ted Williams, and Bobby Orr. It can be argued that we had the greatest player ever in each of the four major American team sports.
Brady is the certified GOAT because of what he did here. He transformed a sketchy franchise that was ever-ready to be mocked into the NFL’s most powerful and feared brand. Brady and Bill Belichick were the 21st century Russell and Red Auerbach, and New England was blessed to have him all those years. Together, Tom and Bill won six Super Bowls and went to three more.
I’ll always wish it ended for Tom and Bill when they won that last one, the 13-3 grinder over the Rams in Atlanta in 2019. That was the last time it was really good for Tom and the Patriots.
After that, we watched the slow bleed toward the end of Brady’s career.
And now it’s really over.
In the words of John Updike, Brady has “met the little death that awaits all athletes.”
And he’s free to start living again.
Read more about Tom Brady
- Tom Brady retires once again — and ‘for good’ this time, he says
- Timeline: Looking back at the highlights from Tom Brady’s 23-year NFL career
- A secret plan, a bombshell lawsuit, and a soccer match: Inside Tom Brady’s un-retirement
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.