After 22 years in the NFL, Tom Brady finally hangs up jersey


Illustration by Adithi Katikhaneni.

Theodore Garvin, Staff Writer

He has beaten every single NFL team at least once. He has accumulated seven Super Bowl wins, 10 Super Bowl appearances, and a three-time MVP. The man that created this historic 22-year career announced that he will let his number 12 jersey finally dry with his blood, sweat, and tears soaked into the hundreds of seams of the infamous shirt. 

He is Thomas Edward Brady: the unanimous vote for the greatest NFL player of all time.

At the beginning of his storied career, Tom Brady started as a tiny bug in the vast NFL jungle, being drafted in the second to last round in the year 2000’s NFL Draft. That’s right. Some of the greatest players of all time weren’t always chosen in the first round of the draft.

Back when the NFL had more than seven rounds in the draft, players that found their groove were greats like Johnny Unitas, drafted in the ninth round by the Steelers eventually becoming a legend with the Colts, and Deacon Jones who was drafted in the 14th round by the Los Angeles Rams. 

However, this isn’t about them, this is about Mr. Brady. 

Brady started his college career off far from his hometown in San Mateo, California, with the Michigan Wolverines. He began his freshman and sophomore years only playing in six games, which isn’t unusual for underclassmen. Then in his junior and senior seasons, he played in 23 games with mostly average stats—posting over 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. These kinds of numbers weren’t good enough for most teams, but the Patriots took a chance on Brady. The new head coach, Bill Belichek, saw Brady poised as the backup behind proven quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe had taken the Patriots to the Super Bowl four years before falling to Brett Favre’s Packers. 

In Brady’s sophomore season in the NFL, the Patriots took a turn for the worst against the Jets in week two, as Bledsoe went down with a lung injury that would sideline him for an entire month. 

The Patriots ended up losing the game 10-3, but the game after began the era of Brady. 

Brady balled out the rest of the season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns, leading him to be named the starter for the rest of the season. He also made his first out of 15 Pro Bowls that he would be dubbed to later down the line. This was just the beginning as Brady and Belichick, the now-iconic rising duo, were looking towards a Super Bowl. Brady battled and eventually led them all the way there. They were about to face off against the Super Bowl champions of two seasons before: The Los Angeles Rams. 

The Rams were known as the Greatest Show on Turf and rightfully so; they had one of the most high-powered offenses in history at their disposal. It was a back and forth battle but somehow, Brady and the Patriots were too much for the Rams as they took home the Patriots and Brady’s first-ever Super Bowl trophy. 

For the next several years, Brady began his campaign as the best quarterback in the league, defeating the Panthers and Eagles to take home his next two Super Bowl titles. He had already cemented himself as the best quarterback in the league, but now he was making his case for the Hall of Fame only six years into the league. 

He was also looking for something that had only been done once: The perfect season. 

Back in 1972, the Miami Dolphins and head coach Don Shula completed the dream by not losing a single game. Since that point, the Dolphins hadn’t really done much except for becoming Brady’s divisional rival. After two years straight of disappointing losses in the playoffs, 2007 was destined to be the year. 

Brady, along with his supporting offense and a ridiculously dominant defense, defeated everyone in style, leaving a trail of blood behind them. They were 16-0 heading into the playoffs and were facing the Jacksonville Jaguars who fell 31-20. Next, were the Chargers who wanted revenge for last year’s close loss to the Patriots 24-21 in the AFC championship. Not all dreams come true though, as the Chargers only scored 12 points to the Patriots’ 21. Once again, Brady would return to a place that he knew so well, the Super Bowl. This time, it was against the 10-6 wild card team the Giants, and their quarterback Eli Manning. They won ten games but came on strong in the playoffs, narrowly escaping the grasps of the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Packers. The Patriots came prepared, but the Giants stood strong and one helmet catch later gave the Giants the chance they needed to take home the trophy. The perfect season disappeared just like that.

After that year, Brady experienced his first severe injury in the NFL, tearing his ACL and knocking him out for the rest of the season. Three years went by with Brady and a newer and younger supporting offensive cast made up of Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, and Patrick Chung were looking to head back to the promised land. 

Not all of the guys drafted in Brady’s day had left though, as Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker, and Andre Carter stuck around. In 2011, luck once again was on Brady’s side as they climbed back up from whence they came. They had made it back to the Super Bowl but it was against a familiar foe. It was Eli Manning and the Giants. They once again made a playoff run for the ages defeating the best to get back to the best. Brady and the Patriots were excited because they wanted revenge. Brady and Manning came out ready to fight, but ultimately Brady lost again, 21-17. Brady would never get his revenge.

Two years passed and Brady’s stardom was now beginning to fade as he had made his case for the hall of fame, but now it looked like he was finished. The Patriots realized this and drafted highly valued prospect Jimmy Garoppolo with the 62nd overall pick in the draft. This was a bullet to the heart for Brady as he believed that he was being looked at as if he had nothing left in him. He took this personally but didn’t really seem to see Garoppolo as a real threat just yet. The reason behind this was Brady came off his worst season yet and the Patriots were looking for answers immediately. Brady started off the season struggling and in a week four matchup against the Chiefs, the Patriots were demolished, but this led to something huge. Due to Brady’s poor play in that game, Garoppolo was put in during garbage time and Brady was put on the sidelines for the first time in 14 years. Garoppolo even led a scoring drive against a Chiefs defense that had held up all night. This was new for many, but it wouldn’t last long as Brady came back for vengeance leading the Patriots once again into the playoffs. 

He led his team straight back to the Super Bowl in a dominant run in the playoffs, stumbling away from quarterback Joe Flacco’s Ravens and burying Andrew Luck’s Colts in the AFC championship game. Brady was back in the Super Bowl for the sixth time in maybe his most controversial season yet. This is one of the best reasons why he is the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). The Seahawks and young quarterback Russel Wilson were the only thing standing in his way to get Super Bowl number four. Seahawks took the lead early and looked like they had it, but Brady rumbled back taking the lead 28-24 with barely any time left. The Seahawks were on the goal line, and instead of running it with their powerful running back in Marshawn Lynch, they elected to pass the ball. First down was on and the ball was snapped and thrown incomplete. Second down came and the ball was snapped, Wilson looked around, threw it, and it was intercepted by Malcolm Butler and the game ended. 

The Patriots and Brady had won their fourth Super Bowl. It had been 10 years since the last one, but now Brady finally recaptured the trophy. 

This year must have been full of stress, though, as reports started to come out about an apparent scandal that the Patriots, and specifically Brady, had ordered for their footballs to be deflated, making them easier to catch in the AFC Championship game against the Colts. 

This would affect the 2015 offseason in a few different ways. Even though Brady made it out of the season with another ring and his starting job, he still wasn’t able to escape the thing that was lurking behind him. Due to the scandal, Brady was dealt a suspension by the NFL. Many people thought this was unfair as there had actually been little proof to back the accusation. It wouldn’t have really changed the outcome of the game, though, as the Patriots were just all around better than the Colts. Brady fought the suspension and eventually got the suspension overturned. This didn’t last for long as the NFL got the suspension reinstated for the following year, 2016.

They went into the playoffs wanting another Super Bowl and looked poised to do it. They beat the Chiefs, and now were back to where Brady felt at home: The AFC Championship. It didn’t matter though as the defending champs of the 2015 year ended up being a bust as they lost an extremely close battle to Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the eventual Super Bowl champions. Brady had been stopped by  Manning once more. Although Peyton Manning retired after that year, going out on top, he and Brady had many battles with the series being tied 3-3 and stakes as high as the playoffs. Manning got the last laugh as he knocked Brady out of the playoffs one final time.

It had become a routine at this point to see the Patriots in the playoffs and usually as the number one seed. Now, people were hopeful that this might not be the case, because in 2016, Brady had to serve his suspension for the apparent Deflategate scandal, which by the way, still hadn’t been fully proven. Brady was suspended for four games and teams hoped that this would be enough to stop the now Patriots dynasty from winning another ring. This led head coach Bill Bellichek to have to shuffle between backup quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brisett, but they ended up leading the Patriots to a 3-1 record.

This was the perfect setup for Brady. As he came back, he unleashed hell on the NFL, going 11-1 in the rest of the regular season. 

They rolled through the rest of the playoffs beating the Texans and Steelers with ease. All of this led to Brady having the opportunity to face the red hot Falcons and MVP Matt Ryan in what was sure to be a historic game. The game started out with the Falcons rolling over the Patriots in the first three quarters, leading 28-3. This score ended up going down in infamy for all of the wrong reasons as they would let the lead slip through their fingers. The Falcons would let down their guard for the rest of the game. 

Every NFL team knows that this is the wrong move, especially against Brady.

Brady quickly started to boost the energy of the Patriots game as they came back, leaving the Falcons tripping over themselves left and right. With all signs pointing to the Falcons winning that game, they had blown the lead and they let the Patriots take a Super Bowl to overtime for the first time in history. The coin went up and the Patriots had won the coin toss. They quickly rolled down the field scoring the touchdown that would complete one of the greatest comebacks in history. The Patriots and Brady had captured their fifth Super Bowl in history, largely thanks to the G.O.A.T. (Brady).

Next season, the Patriots finally had another chance at making and winning two super bowls in a row which they had yet to accomplish. Like always, Brady sped through the regular season with the number one seed. They were set up to face the Steelers in the Divisional round not giving the Titans any sort of hope. They beat them handily and then faced the Jaguars in the AFC Championship. After once again breaking a lead that the Jaguars held and winning the game. Brady had what looked like a team he would mop the floor within the Philadelphia Eagles as they had lost their all-star quarterback Carson Wentz due to injury and backup Nick Foles came in. 

Even though they were underdogs in every game they played in the playoffs, they came ready and looking for their revenge when Brady beat them 12 years prior in 2005 in the same game with the same stakes. The game was back and forth with both quarterbacks playing some of the best games of their careers. But at the wrong moment, Brady was strip-sacked, sealing the game for the Eagles. They had won their first Super Bowl in franchise history and Brady had lost.

The year after, Brady seemed as if he was finally slowing down with the team’s defense leading them back to the playoffs. He took control of the Chargers and Chiefs in very high-scoring games but ultimately came out on top. Brady was back for the third straight time against the Rams. His first-ever foe would now be his last with the Patriots. He quickly beat them in a defensive game, winning his sixth Super Bowl. It seemed that Brady would never retire, but in another slow year for Brady, he would fall in the divisional round to the Titans. Brady decided it was time to call it quits in New England and headed to Tampa Bay. Patriots fans cried, and the rest of the NFL cheered. Nobody expected the Buccaneers and Brady to do great that year but they made it to the playoffs as a wildcard team. In a historic run, Brady would once again find his groove leading them to the Super Bowl. No one could believe that at age 43 Brady was back where he belonged. He performed like he was 24 again, dominating the Chiefs and taking home his seventh title.  After a little bit of a tipsy parade in Tampa, Brady seemed like he could take home ten more titles. 

The following year, Brady would make a historic run again having an MVP caliber season at age 44. They were once again back in the playoffs as Brady ran through the Eagles for good measure, but fell to the Rams as a little bit of revenge for three years earlier. 

With the retirement of Ben Rothelisburger of the Steelers, who was another one of Brady’s rivals throughout the years, it looked as if he was the next one to go. After a leaked report came out, it was official Brady was ready to hang it up. The man who had done it all was done. He was worn out, beaten and battered, but still standing. Someway and somehow, he had defied every standard that had been put on any NFL player. 

After a great goodbye in the form of a letter, Brady was done. That is the story of the greatest player in NFL history; the greatest of all time, Tom Brady.