The Morning After: Why is Tom Brady still playing football?
The greatest player ever is still going. Is this heroic at 45? Sad? It's OK to enjoy this while it lasts.
Another MERRY CHRISTMAS to all… with a reminder. Our special is still running. Subscribe to GoLongTD.com or gift a membership to a loved one at 25% off. When you go with the annual rate, you’ll also receive a personally signed copy of “The Blood and Guts: How Tight Ends Save Football.”
First, an indisputable fact: Ninety-nine percent of sports legends refuse to retire exactly when we ask.
As much as we yearn for professional sports to resemble an addictive Netflix series, the final season for legends is almost always anticlimactic. Sad.
The End can be painful. Brett Favre’s career ended with a concussion against the Chicago Bears. His head slammed into what had effectively become a sheet of ice at the University of Minnesota. When the trainer arrived, Favre was snoring. Out cold for 15 seconds. Reflecting on this night, from his home in Mississippi, Favre recalled being confused. He didn’t know why Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs were clapping. Didn’t know why the Bears were even here. And looking back, he told me he stayed in so many games exactly like this throughout his career. “What’s the long-term effects?” he asked aloud. “I don’t know.” Jim Kelly was carted off in a dazed, confused state. Knockout shots ended Steve Young and Troy Aikman.
The End can reboot as a spinoff and bomb. Michael Jordan scripted the perfect final scene with the Chicago Bulls — one that’d eventually turn into ESPN’s most-watched documentary ever — but, lest we forget, he returned as a Washington Wizard after three years of retirement. His Airness went 37-45 in back-to-back seasons.
The End is aesthetically bizarre. Jerry Rice as a Seattle Seahawk. Emmitt Smith as an Arizona Cardinal. Shaq playing for half the NBA. And where things often get complicated is when the greats are merely good. Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in 2015 as a glorified game manager. Wayne Gretzky put up good numbers by anyone else’s standard at age 36, 37 and 38 with the New York Rangers but long gone were the days of his video game-like evisceration of NHL teams.
Only Tom Brady knows what Tom Brady expected in 2022, but the greatest football player ever did lead the entire league in yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43) and had his Tampa Bay Buccaneers within a play of his 15th career conference championship game.
He wasn’t thinking ’15 Peyton. Not with the “TB12 Method” coursing through his veins.
He wasn’t thinking of injuries. Not with the NFL trying to incubate quarterbacks from danger.
Brady understandably expected a very real run at an eighth Super Bowl title.
Instead, his Buccaneers are 7-8. Each week is a slog. Brady often looks miserable. This offense operates as if trudging through four feet of snow most of the time. As all Dads here can relate, Christmas Day was action-packed at Go Long HQ, from the 4:30 a.m. wakeup to the 8 p.m. crash-landing to bed. I didn’t watch Brady’s comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals until the next morning with a 17-month-old son nibbling Cheerios on my lap and a 3-year-old daughter playing with her new dollhouse over my shoulder and, man. It was in that moment that I couldn’t help but wonder — yet again — why? Why does Brady insist on playing at age 45? He cemented his status as the sport’s greatest player ever long ago. He’s rich. He doesn’t need to risk his own head hitting the turf. He could take one deep exhale and, once and for all, hang out with his own kids in a state of serenity. Brady could’ve spent Christmas night sipping wine, relaxing, instead of trying to beat Trace McSorley in his 380th career game.
Re-watching the stalled drives and wayward incompletions, football didn’t even seem fun for him.
We all know about the divorce.