A year after guiding the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl and claiming his NFL-record seventh Lombardi Trophy, Tom Brady won't get a chance at an eighth this season, with Tampa Bay's comeback against the Rams falling short in Sunday's divisional-round showdown. Now, all eyes turn to Brady's future. Coach Bruce Arians wasted no time informing reporters after Sunday's loss that he'll be back in 2022, but amid reports of a potential retirement this offseason, the 44-year-old Brady was noncommittal, saying he hasn't "put a lot of thought into" his next steps and is "taking it day by day."
A tweet from @TB12sports, the account of Brady's health and wellness company, suggests that he could be back for a 23rd NFL season, but a number of teammates entered this weekend's playoff game not knowing the longtime QB's future, as CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora reported. ESPN indicated Sunday that Brady intends to take at least a month after the season to sort through his plans for 2022 and beyond.
What should Brady do? Run it back or hang 'em up? Let's make the case for each possibility:
Why Tom Brady should retire
What else is there to prove? Seriously. At 44, TB12 is already a living legend. He is literally the only player in NFL history to win seven league championships, and that's including stars of the pre-Super Bowl era. He owns almost every meaningful record for playoff QBs. He also proved over the last two seasons that he wasn't merely a product of Bill Belichick's Patriots dynasty, but rather, perhaps, the driving force of it, posting MVP-caliber numbers -- some of the best of his career -- in Tampa Bay.
If Brady walked away now, he'd obviously leave with a sour taste in his mouth, losing a home playoff game on a walk-off field goal, but no one will or would ever blame him for Tampa Bay's early exit this year. The Bucs were ravaged by injuries down the stretch, and yet Brady still had them on the verge of an NFC Championship return. Retiring now would allow fans to both celebrate his unparalleled legacy and imagine two or three or four more titles, knowing he left with his physical abilities intact.
Then there's the team factor. The Bucs aren't in a dire financial situation entering 2022, but they've got at least a half-dozen starters or key role players -- including running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski, center Ryan Jensen and cornerback Carlton Davis -- set to hit free agency. Starting wideout Chris Godwin will also be coming off a torn ACL, and the offensive line needs upgrades. With each year, the Bucs get a little older and more unlike their Super Bowl-winning selves. That's not to say Brady couldn't keep them contenders, but is the wear and tear worth it when any number of post-football ventures -- broadcasting, entertainment, coaching -- will not only be waiting but begging for him?
Why Tom Brady should keep playing
Are you kidding? So what if this guy has proven everything a Hall of Fame QB can prove? He's playing the best football of his historic career well into his 40s. Much like Aaron Rodgers with the Packers (except to a greater degree), he's seemed to shift into a higher gear as he's aged in recent years, acquiring as much added confidence, comfort and -- inexplicably -- arm strength as gray hairs. Lest we forget this man went to a brand-new team after 20 years in New England and literally threw his way to a seventh Super Bowl ring as his Buccaneers debut. This year, he was even smoother, especially considering his supporting cast was eventually depleted by injuries.
Sure, he's already won enough big games to cement his legacy. But for his sake, for the Buccaneers' sake, for the entire league's sake, he belongs on the field. Family and other off-field matters should obviously take priority -- it's his life, after all! -- but there is no good football reason why Brady should hang it up now or anytime soon. As long as he's decently protected, he's offering top-five passing production at worst. We take that for granted, considering his age, but it's true. Any team would pay a premium to have his intangibles atop its QB depth chart, even going on age 45. Why? Because no one's as trustworthy as he is.
It's not as if the Bucs offer a lousy situation, either. The NFC South is still very much in Tampa Bay's control. With Arians back and more financial flexibility than after their 2020 Super Bowl win, the Bucs are up against the Falcons, still transitioning; the Panthers, still rebuilding; and the Saints, who may or may not have Sean Payton and/or a real starting QB. Make some investments up front, out wide and in the secondary; and you're cooking again. As a bonus, Brady's presence alone would assuredly draw playmakers before and during the 2022 season, helping the team remain a force in the NFC.
It should be obvious: if Brady's life away from football permits him to return, he should absolutely be back. And at this point in his career, every single football fan should be rooting for that. The ageless wonder has been a villain to many over the years, by way of Patriots controversies or his own unceasing presence in the biggest games, but there is no scenario where the NFL is better off without him. Here's to at least one more ride.