Sean Payton might not be the only big name leaving the NFC South. Hours before the longtime Saints coach officially announced he is stepping away from New Orleans after 16 years on the job, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady issued a thank you to his fans and teammates via Instagram Tuesday, reflecting on his 22nd and potentially final season in the NFL.
"I understand that at this stage in my career, there is going to be interest in my future whenever a season ends," Brady wrote, "but this week, all that is on my mind is the gratitude I have for this team and the fans that have supported us all year long. This year has been incredibly rewarding personally and professionally and I am appreciative of everyone who worked their ass off to help our team achieve so much."
"I always want to win," Brady continued. "I think that's pretty apparent by now, but that doesn't mean I equate losing to failure, especially when you go out fighting the way we did. There's so much to appreciate in a season like this when you're surrounded by a team that believes in each other, and plays for the people standing on either side of them. I'll spare you the 'Man in the Arena' quote, but that feeling is something that I promise I'll never take for granted. To everyone that was a part of it this year, thank you. I love you all!"
Brady's comments come a day after he spoke on his "Let's Go!" podcast, citing his family as a reason he might retire before the 2022 season. While the reigning Super Bowl MVP is under contract with Tampa Bay through 2022, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that some Buccaneers teammates were unsure going into the team's divisional-round game against the Rams if Brady would hang it up after the postseason.
Asked immediately after the Bucs' loss about his plans for next season, Brady was noncommittal, saying he hadn't yet contemplated his options.