Brady’s Back! (Like He Never Even Left)

Published 11 months ago -

By: Kyle Sorgi, Sports Editor

In case you haven’t heard by now (or have heard, but still can’t believe it), Tom Brady is unretiring! He will return to the Buccaneers for his 23rd NFL season just one month after playing what many people thought was his last game in the NFC Divisional Round against the Super-Bowl-champion Rams. On February 1, Brady announced his retirement less than one week after the playoff loss; and just 39 days later on March 13, he took it back on social media with the following message:

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now.
I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. Without them, none of this is possible.
I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business.

In his age-44 campaign, Brady paced all quarterbacks in completions (485), attempts (719), yards (5,316), touchdowns (43) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (43-12), and finished 2nd in quarterback rating (68.1) behind MVP Aaron Rodgers. The laundry list of accolades and records to Brady’s name grew larger when he broke the records for most career passing yards, completions, and games with three or more passing touchdowns. On top of that, he became the first quarterback to make 300 starts, win multiple starts after turning 44, and win a game against all 32 NFL teams. If the Bucs win the Super Bowl next season, Brady can tie Michael Jordan (who also came out of retirement to extend his career) for most championship round MVPs in NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL history. Whether or not he does that, he holds 35 regular season, postseason, and Super Bowl records- some of which may never be touched. While Brady has nothing left to prove, his passion and drive for the game remain as alive today as when he was drafted in 2000.

However you feel about TB12’s return, this is not the first instance of an NFL player coming out of retirement to continue their career. Former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre was the last quarterback to do so. After 16 seasons with Green Bay, Favre announced a retirement that only lasted a couple of months, but was long enough for the Packers to move onto Aaron Rodgers. After playing the next season with the Jets, he retired again for six months before spending his last two seasons with the Vikings. Favre posted career bests in completion percentage, interceptions, and quarterback rating in his first season with Minnesota, as well as one of six career 4,000-yard seasons. While it took a couple of years to prove it, Favre showed that he still had something left in the tank after unretiring.

Other notable players that returned to the NFL after former retirements include running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Deion Sanders, wide receiver Randy Moss, and tight ends Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski. Lynch had the most success with the Seahawks before retiring in 2016, but returned there for his final season in 2019 after two years with the Raiders. Sanders first retired in 2000 after a 12-year career and stayed retired for three years before a brief stint with the Ravens. Moss also announced his first retirement after 12 seasons, but waited only six months to play one final season. Witten played for 15 seasons before joining ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew, but that only lasted one year when he returned for two more seasons. Most people around here remember what Gronk did for the Patriots in nine seasons before retiring in 2019 and then rejoining Brady in Tampa Bay in 2020 for a Super Bowl ring.

If any player is most qualified to perform best after coming out of retirement, it’s Brady. He’s already widely deemed the G.O.A.T. in the NFL (and, to some, across all sports), and his performance with the Bucs last year is evidence that he can still compete at a high level- even if it doesn’t mean winning the Super Bowl. Unlike most athletes that play into older age, we have not seen a dramatic regression from Brady. In fact, he has become one of the most consistent performers across all sports despite playing into his mid-40s.

When I first heard the news, I was surprised because the notion that Brady could retire after this past season had been around for so long. It was almost common knowledge to everyone (except Brady, I guess) that he was going to retire after the season. I was still a little shocked to hear of his retirement because Brady had returned and defied expectations before (and part of me figured he would just do it again), but I was definitely more shocked about the unretirement.

However, I don’t think this will impact how well he can perform because he was not retired long enough to miss any real action. I see it as no different than if he just said he was coming back from the get-go. Last season, Tampa Bay’s pass-heavy scheme made Brady throw the ball a career-high 719 times, which was 82 more times than his next highest total (637 in 2012). This tells me that if he underperforms, volume won’t be the reason why. Until Brady fully retires, I find it very hard to write him off the scene. The Bucs will still be favorites to win the NFC South and contend for the Super Bowl, and my perception of what he can do as a player is no different than before his return (if you can even say he left).

10 recommended
bookmark icon