At around 6 a.m. ET Wednesday morning, one of greatest careers in professional sports history came to an end. Roughly two hours after informing his former team, Tom Brady then told the public that he was indeed calling it quits after a legendary, 23-year career as an NFL quarterback.
By playing the 2022 season, Brady accomplished his goal of playing at age 45. While it wasn't his best season, Brady still managed to make history; he led the NFL in pass attempts and completions while completing a career-high 490 passes. Brady's play helped lead the Buccaneers to a division title while giving him a chance to fittingly end his career in the postseason.
There's a lot to unpack following the news of Brady's retirement, including the biggest winners and losers following the bombshell announcement. Here's a look at who benefits the most and least from Brady's retirement.
Winner: Tom Brady
Brady, who fought back tears in his retirement video, obviously didn't want his fabled career to end. But the fact that he was able to retire on his own terms should serve as a consolation prize considering many careers don't end that way.
Brady also walks away without having tarnished his legacy. Sure, Brady's 2021 season was better and, should have he remained retired last year, the final image of his career would have been his epic comeback attempt against the Rams in last year's postseason that was capped off by his game-tying touchdown pass to Mike Evans. But Brady did nothing to negatively impact his legacy this season, and by playing at age 45, he was able to check off one of his biggest goals.
Brady only gave himself two options this offseason, per ESPN: retirement or remaining with the Buccaneers. Given he chose the former, that is an obvious loss for the Buccaneers, who now find themselves officially in the market for a quarterback.
The Buccaneers have other needs (specifically on the offensive line), but quarterback will now enter the forefront following Brady's announcement. Tampa Bay may elect to give Kyle Trask -- a 2021 second-round pick -- a shot at the starting job, but he'll undoubtedly have outside competition in the form of either a rookie or a veteran (or both).
Winner: NFC conference
Brady's departure makes things easier for the entire NFC. The division mostly impacted by Brady's decision is the NFC South, which is now wide open following Brady's retirement. In fact, the biggest winner in the NFC may be the Carolina Panthers, who made a late-season dash to catch to the Buccaneers with interim head coach Steve Wilks.
Brady's retirement further opens the championship window for other NFC teams who previously had to go through Brady. It also reinforces the growing imbalance between the quarterbacks in the AFC vs. the ones in the NFC. The AFC -- which currently includes Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Josh Allen, among others -- has significantly better quarterback play than the NFC.
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Las Vegas was reportedly the front-runner to land Brady should he have played outside of Tampa in 2023. With Brady retired, and with Derek Carr prepared to leave the team this offseason, the Raiders have major quarterback questions heading into the offseason.
While Brady never indicated it was a possibility, there were surely some Patriots fans who were holding out hope that Brady may consider a farewell season in New England. That won't happen now, as the next time Brady will be at Gillette Stadium will likely be in a celebratory setting.
Winner: Pro Football Hall of Fame
It didn't take long for the Hall of Fame to let everyone know when Brady will be eligible for induction. Brady will undoubtedly be voted in during his first year of eligibility. The same can be said of J.J. Watt, who also recently announced his retirement.
Should this morning’s retirement announcement truly be the end of @TomBrady’s illustrious career, 2028 is a year worth noting. pic.twitter.com/w6xIaYKDe2— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 1, 2023
With Brady and Watt as the headliners, this will likely be one of the most-anticipated Hall of Fame weekends in history.
Loser: NFL fans
Whether you cheered for him or his team or not, fans who watched the NFL for the past 20-plus years were given a front row seat to watching the greatest player in NFL history. Decades from now, young fans who grew up watching Brady can tell their grandkids that they watched the seven-time Super Bowl MVP do his thing. Based on who they were cheering for, they'll recall stories involving either ecstasy or heartache regarding their memories of watching the G.O.A.T. in action.