Last week the greatest quarterback and player in NFL history in Tom Brady announced his retirement from the National Football League after an unprecedented career that will never be touched again by any player on quarterback, at least in our lifetimes. I want to give my salute to the greatest to ever do it, as this guy has been in the NFL my entire lifetime when he came in as a sixth round draft pick being picked 199th overall by the New England Patriots in 2000 out of the University of Michigan, talk about longevity!
In Brady’s rookie year he didn’t get much playing time, as he was behind other quarterbacks such as John Friesz, Michael Bishop, and then Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Brady would appear in just one game that season where he completed just one pass in three attempts for six yards in a 34-9 blowout to the Detroit Lions.
In his second season, Brady would replace Bledsoe in the second game of the season against the New York Jets after Bledsoe was hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis and Brady would complete the rest of the game by throwing for 46 yards on 5-of-10 completions in a low scoring 10-3 loss to the Jets.
In his early years Brady was more of a game manager, starting his first career game on Sep. 30, 2001 against what would be his career nemesis in Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, and would end up beating him in a 44-13 rout where he completed 13-of-23 passes for 168 yards, but with no touchdowns. Brady's first touchdown career pass would come two weeks later on Oct. 14, 2001, when he flashed dominance, throwing for a pair of touchdowns with 364 yards.
Brady helped lead the Patriots to a 11-5 finish in his second season and threw for 2,843 passing yards to go with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his first season as a starter. The true rise and beginning of the Brady story began in Super Bowl 36 against the then St. Louis Rams against Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner in which he was named the starter over Bledsoe against the team known as, “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
The Rams had Warner, but also other guys, such as Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Orlando Pace, among others that made them the favorites to win the championship. But, Brady proved what mettle he was made of by helping the Patriots go off to a 17-3 lead, but Warner helped lead his team back to tie the game with just 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. Brady wouldn’t crumble under the pressure though, as he would complete 5-of-8 passes to help drive the Patriots 53 yards down the field to help set Vinatieri up for the game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired to seal the first Super Bowl ring in Brady's career. The legend of Brady began after that first Super Bowl ring, putting the Patriots and himself on the map of the sports world in what would eventually become a dynasty.
Bledsoe would get traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2002, which put Brady as the bonafide starting quarterback for the first time in his career for a full season. The Patriots wouldn’t end up repeating in 2003, losing to the Cleveland Browns in a tiebreaker to make the postseason, but Brady was starting to blossom into the enigmatic quarterback we would see for the rest of his career, setting a then career high of 3,764 passing yards, 28 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
The dynasty would begin the next two seasons, as Brady would lead the Patriots to back-to-back Super Bowl wins over the Carolina Panthers in 2004 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005 who were led by another star quarterback in Donovan McNabb. On his way to those Super Bowl wins, Brady would help lead his team to the best record in AFC in both seasons (14-2) and in both games he threw for a combined 594 yards and five touchdowns to just one interception on efficient throwing.
Brady’s run of consecutive Super Bowls came to an end in the 2005-06 season, after a 4,000 yard passing season when his team lost to the Denver Broncos after they intercepted Brady twice to head to the AFC Championship game where they would eventually lose to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in what would be his first Super Bowl title.
The next season saw his arch-rival Manning prevent Brady from reaching the Super Bowl again. Manning would go on to have a monstrous game at home throwing for 349 yards against a Patriots defense that ranked second in yards allowed that season while leading a 66 yard drive for his Colts that was capped off by a Joseph Addai three-yard touchdown that would give the Colts their first lead. Brady would then throw an interception on the last-minute drive with the Colts winning 38-34 and eventually taking the Super Bowl title.
After a bitter defeat to his rival, Brady would go on to post one of the most dominant individual statistical seasons in NFL History in his age 30 season where he set records of 50 touchdowns with just 8 interceptions that season, while passing for 4,806 yards and posting a 117.2 passer rating, thanks to Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss and a dominant Patriots offense. Brady would go on to win the first MVP of his career and led his Patriots to the only undefeated regular season in NFL History with a 16-0 record.
The 2007 Patriots still hold the largest point differential of all time, outscoring their opponents by 315 points. Their dominance didn’t stop in the regular season, as they would go on to advance past the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Colts who took them out the previous year to return to the Super Bowl once again since 2005. The Patriots were 18-0 heading into Super Bowl 42 and were looking to become the first team ever to go undefeated all year and win the Super Bowl.
But, another Manning had other plans, no not Peyton, but his younger brother Eli Manning and the underdog New York Giants surprised the Patriots 17-14 that was highlighted by a 13-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Plaxico Burress on the go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds left to crush the perfect dreams of a perfect campaign for the Patriots.
The next season the Patriots didn’t have a chance to redeem themselves as Brady would tear his ACL and MCL in the opening quarter of the season-opener of the 2008 season against the Kansas City Chiefs when he was hit by Bernard Pollard. The team would go 11-5, but would wind up missing the playoffs without their leader at the helm.
Overall, Brady wouldn’t win another Super Bowl until 2014 against the Russell Wilson-led Seattle Seahawks, a decade after he won his last one. Brady was the face of the NFL from the highs of his career, such as coming back down 28-3 in Super Bowl 51 against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, to winning multiple MVPS, winning multiple Super Bowls & Super Bowl MVPs, as well as breaking numerous NFL records such as most career touchdowns (624), and most career passing yards (84,520), just to name a few.
He also had to overcome obstacles such as Deflategate, the media saying he couldn’t win without his longtime coach Bill Belichick, who he won six of his seven Super Bowls to form one of the greatest dynasties in sports history, overcoming the ACL injury, turning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a winner, and so forth.
Him and Belichick were a dynamic duo that crushed the dreams of 31 other teams in winning the Super Bowl and were smarter, more sophisticated, and always found a way to manipulate teams into making them do what they wanted to help them win. Their relationship wasn’t always the best though, as Belichick threw Brady under the bus during the Deflategate era and never really gave his quarterback the praise he deserved during his time there despite recently calling him the greatest of all time.
Brady would leave the only franchise he called home in the NFL for 20 years in the Patriots to join the better weather down in South Florida with the Buccaneers, who at the time of Brady’s arrival had the lowest winning percentage in NFL History until he took them to Super Bowl 55 and won against firepower offense of the Chiefs led by their young star in Patrick Mahomes. Brady would go on to win the MVP of the game and would comeback for what would be his last season in which he had an MVP campaign and threw for a career high in completions (485), passing yards (5,316), first downs (269), and passing attempts (719).
It’s going to be weird seeing an NFL that has had Brady in it for my entire lifetime and the NFL is still in a great place with exciting young quarterbacks such as Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, and others. But, there is only one Tom Brady as he is a three-time MVP, a whopping seven-time Super Bowl champion (most all-time), five Super Bowl MVPs (most all-time), 15-time Pro Bowler (most all-time), six-time All-Pro, five-time touchdown leader (most all-time), most career wins (243), and a laundry list of other records.
Whatever Brady pursues in retirement, whether that is analyzing the game as a broadcaster, continuing to expand his brands such as TB12, or even just spending more time with his kids, he ends his career as the greatest quarterback and player in NFL History. Salute TB12! The game will miss you.