If you were expecting some flowery, syrupy retrospective on Tom Brady’s career, now that the legendary quarterback is officially retiring, you came to the wrong place.
Blame it on the fandom I’ve never been able to shake, despite my team’s ineptitude severely testing my loyalty way too many times to count. My father started rooting for the Jets when he was growing up on Long Island and I maintain that the worst thing he ever did for me was make me a Gang Green follower. That means for about two decades, I watched Brady own the Jets like he was Woody Johnson himself. Then I had to stomach seeing Brady roll through the AFC playoffs just about every winter and hoist a bunch of Vince Lombardi Trophies while acting like the most psychotic competitor—who got away with yelling at teammates unlike anybody else—when he wasn’t whining to the refs like a baby. And let’s not forget about Deflategate, but Patriots fans hate when you bring that episode up.
For all those reasons and more, before his seventh and final Super Bowl victory last February, I wrote how I was sick of Tom Brady. So I’m glad news leaked out over the weekend that the GOAT was about to step away for good, only to be confirmed a few days later by Brady himself on social media. I’ve seen enough Brady to last me two lifetimes, and I love seeing new blood like Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford, and a bunch of the other awesome young QBs around the league get shots at glory because—call me a contrarian—I think a little variety’s better for business than having the same character in the Super Bowl every February. Brady basically dominating everybody else, the way it felt when he was slinging the football in New England and then Tampa Bay, quite frankly, got pretty fucking boring a long time ago. He carried 13 Patriots squads to the AFC Championship Game and played in a record 10 Super Bowls, including last year’s with the Buccaneers. As I joked last February, I would love to know what kind of deal Brady signed with the devil. Because his run of unprecedented success, in a sport that prides itself on parity, ain’t natural.
But let me be clear. Despite rooting hard against Brady while expecting him to get every break in the book—which he basically did, if we’re being honest here, starting with him introducing America to the “Tuck Rule” 20 years ago—I still respected the hell outta him. Or secretly wished he could’ve quarterbacked my team as I marveled at his uncanny ability to win like nobody else, play longer than everybody else, and carve out a career that will never, ever be replicated.
I could waste space listing all his accolades, but football fans know that no one ever won as many games as Brady, tossed as many touchdowns as Brady, threw for as many yards as Brady, won as many Super Bowl MVPs as Brady, or made as many Pro Bowls as Brady. As a traumatized Jets fan, I guess I can always hang my hat on the fact that my squad quasi-helped launch Brady’s career. It was, after all, Mo Lewis’ brutal, bone-rattling hit that nearly killed Drew Bledsoe back in 2001 (seriously, Google it, kids) that gave Brady his chance to take the reins in New England.
Despite rooting hard against Brady while expecting him to get every break in the book—which he basically did, if we’re being honest here, starting with him introducing America to the “Tuck Rule” 20 years ago—I still respected the hell outta him.
Annoyingly, Brady actually proved to be likable away from football. We were lucky enough the past two seasons to see way more of his waggish, self-deprecating personality—shameless self-promotion alert: Check out his appearance on The Complex Sports Podcast last year, when I got him to talk about his prodigious tequila consumption during the Tampa Bay Super Bowl boat parade—after he left the constraining confines of Bill Belichick and his “Patriot Way” of doing business. Brady’s way more introspective and, despite having an infamously crazy diet, way more of an “every man” than I think 98 percent of us realized when he was in New England. Sartorially speaking, no football player ever looked as suave off the field as Brady, who morphed from that doughy sixth-round selection out of Michigan (199th overall) in 2000 into a fashion icon who rocked some of the flyest, most sophisticated fits the NFL’s ever seen. He also just happened to end up marrying one of the most famous models of all time.
The renowned philosopher Aubrey Drake Graham once rhymed you can’t have everything, but Brady just might be the exception to the rule.
So as much as I love/hate the guy, I’m glad he decided it’s time to cede the brightest spotlight in American sports—being the best quarterback—and allow others to chase greatness. Plus, I’d rather see a legend go out on his own terms rather than be forced out the way other Hall of Famer QBs like Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and the original GOAT, Joe Montana, were due to injuries. It became almost comical how Brady defied Father Time, playing an incredibly demanding and dangerous position better than just about anybody despite being closer to 50 than 30.
But as happy as I am to see him send in his retirement papers, I also realize the NFL won’t be the same next fall, just like the NBA was never the same after Michael Jordan called it quits (albeit three different times). Football’s losing the greatest player at its most important position, a modern marvel who had more influence on rule changes and the record book than just about any player in NFL history. As much as I don’t want to admit it, the NFL is more enjoyable with Brady in it, if only for the fact that there are just a handful of quarterbacks really worth watching nowadays and it was so much fun hate-watching him. Sports needs villains—in a good, clean fun kinda way—and Brady will forever be No. 1 when it comes to football players for me and all my fellow Jets fans.
On Tuesday morning, Brady took to Twitter and Instagram to explain his decision. He wrote how he no longer wanted “to make that competitive commitment anymore” as he simultaneously thanked teammates, coaches (except, hilariously, Belichick), friends, and family for their commitment to him and their support of his pursuit of greatness. Seven Super Bowl rings and a legacy that no one will ever come close to matching later, Brady deserves a salute. So here goes: Good riddance to goddamn GOAT.