Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls in six years as the Steelers' starting quarterback in the mid-to-late '70s. Two decades later, Bradshaw, an NFL commentator for Fox Sports, handed the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady after Brady won his first Super Bowl after leading the Patriots to a shocking upset over the Rams. Fifteen years later, Bradshaw handed Brady his fifth Lombardi Trophy while proclaiming him the greatest quarterback of all-time. Bradshaw, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989, cannot understand why Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a storied 20-year run with the Patriots. He said as much during a wide-ranging interview with Ed Bouchette of The Athletic.
"Why in the world does he want to keep on playing at 43 other than to prove to New England he's more important than Bill Belichick?" said Bradshaw, the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVP awards. "That's the way I would look at it. Why the hell do you want to go to Tampa? The only thing I can think of is ego gets involved and you decide, 'I'll show 'em who's more important.'
"I would never have done that, and I was shocked he was leaving. Shocked. I've never known a great quarterback — a great quarterback — at the end of his career, go to another team and do anything. Now, Brady's different — nine Super Bowls, six victories. He's a different cat. But the offense they ran in New England was perfect for him."
While there are examples of great quarterbacks that struggled on new teams late in their careers (most notably Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath) that support Bradshaw's claim, recent history suggests that great, albeit older, quarterbacks can flourish on a new team ... at least temporarily. In 1993, Joe Montana, after 14 seasons with the 49ers, led the Chiefs to their first conference title game in nearly a quarter-century during his first season in Kansas City.
In 2009, a 40-year-old Brett Favre enjoyed an MVP-caliber season while leading the Vikings to within a few plays of the Super Bowl. Four years later, a 37-year-old Peyton Manning won his fifth and final MVP award while leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Two years later, Manning was good enough to help the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 before riding off into the sunset.
Brady will not have the exact offensive scheme in Tampa Bay that he deployed in New England. But he will have an upgraded receiving corps with 2019 Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who each surpassed 1,000 yards receiving last season. Brady will also have the opportunity to work with Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, whose includes successful working relationships with Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer.
As Bradshaw alluded to, ego could be part of the reason why Brady wanted to continue his career elsewhere. While he has never said anything publicly disparaging about Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, one can't imagine that Brady was particularly pleased after hearing thatduring the 2017 season. That was surely part of the motivation behind his final Super Bowl run with the Patriots in 2018, to prove that he could still be "the guy" to lead New England's dynasty despite being north of 40. That drive to show everyone -- Belichick included -- that he can still be a championship-level quarterback is likely part of the reason why Brady wants to win another championship someplace else.
Unlike Brady, Bradshaw did not have the choice to play into his '40s; a lingering injury to his right elbow forced him to retire at 35-years-old. But even if he could have continued playing beyond the 1983 season, Bradshaw says his decision would have remained the same.
"I could never have played for anybody but Pittsburgh, all right?" Bradshaw said. "I was never going anywhere else, no matter what. If they traded me, I would have retired."