Just a man on a beach. By himself. Full of emotion.
Excelling at a kid's game deeper into adulthood than anyone before him, Tom Brady somehow wedged his way into the selfie generation. But his latest wasn't of the highly-choreographed-yet-inane variety that is the standard for some 20 years his junior. It had weight. On the verge of tears, seemingly without a script, he announced his retirement.
"For good," he said.
It's the right call. Even though he can still play. And at a high level.
Brady led the league in passing attempts and completions at 45 years old. He was third in passing yards, and he had a nearly three-to-one (25-to-9) touchdown to interception ratio. He ranked seventh among all quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus passing grade. He ranked eighth in completion percentage over expected, an accuracy metric tabulated by Next Gen Stats.
He's only one year removed from having an MVP-caliber season -- throwing 43 touchdowns against 12 picks and racking up over 5,000 yards passing -- and only two years removed from winning his seventh Super Bowl. In the right situation, he has enough left to win one more.
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San Francisco could've come calling. It would've offered him an opportunity to finish his career with his hometown team, something he was reportedly interested in back in 2020 after he left the Patriots. The 49ers allegedly weren't interested enough to pull the trigger having just come off a Super Bowl appearance with Jimmy Garoppolo.
In 2023, Kyle Shanahan's team will have one of the most talented rosters in the league, as they did this year. But they're a quarterback away from contention, and Brady would've gotten them there as soon as he put pen to paper as a free agent. Especially in an NFC that is lacking the number of true Super Bowl threats residing in the AFC.
If Brady wanted to keep playing but stay on the East Coast to be closer to his three children, the Dolphins might've been looking for a quarterback depending on Tua Tagovailoa's health. They wanted him badly enough a few years ago that they were willing to risk whatever punishment would've befallen them had their tampering come to light.
The Jets have been very open about the fact that they're looking for a veteran passer this offseason, too. Would Brady do it? Really? The Jets? They have a roster that's ready to compete with the right guy behind center.
South Beach. New York City. An opportunity to get back into the division he dominated for two decades and compete against his old team twice a year. An opportunity to be in one of the league's most high-profile markets. Tantalizing options for football followers, for sure. Maybe for Brady, too.
And then there was Vegas. They've already made it clear that the Derek Carr Era is over there. Brady's friend and longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could've made a play for a reunion. Talk about business opportunities -- especially as the sports gambling market explodes. Plus, an opportunity to win.
In the AFC, there are few teams as talented around the quarterback as the Raiders. Davante Adams. Darren Waller. Josh Jacobs. It would've been a situation similar to the one dripping with talent that he stepped into in Tampa Bay in 2020.
Would it have been fun to see Brady play one more year? With a new team and a chance to win? Of course. For everyone else.
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But Brady -- with real life tugging at him and a challenging football season weighing on him -- seemed worn down in every way during his cuarenta y cinco campaign. Fun was not the word. Joining another club and all that's associated with it -- reframing mindsets, reshaping a culture, learning a new group of teammates -- would've been daunting.
Makes sense, then, that this is the route Brady has chosen. He has his health. He has time for his family. He has a chance to attack whatever is next for him in such a way that it may be even more fulfilling than competing for rings, which kept him busy for more than half his life.
There's no question he has enough left to make someone else's season a memorable one. But he's had enough. And for arguably the best decision-maker in the history of his sport, that's what makes this last call feel like the right one.