Tom Brady Plans to Retire After 22 NFL Seasons, Reports Say—But He’s Staying Quiet

Tom Brady won seven Super Bowls, broke passing records and gave the illusion he could play forever. Now the legendary quarterback will soon say it’s over, according to reports.  

Brady, 44 years old, is set to announce his retirement, according to ESPN and The decision would bring an end to perhaps the most successful career in the history of the National Football League, which he dominated for more than two decades during an unprecedented run of longevity and performance after once being selected in the sixth round of the draft. 

However, Brady’s camp did not immediately confirm that a final decision had been made on his status—producing a day of frantic speculation over whether a decision had actually been reached. In a since deleted tweet Saturday, the account for Brady’s TB12 business had celebrated his accomplishments and said, “thank you for it all.”

“I understand the advance speculation about Tom’s future,” his agent, Donald Yee, said in a Saturday statement. “Without getting into the accuracy or inaccuracy of what’s being reported, Tom will be the only person to express his plans with complete accuracy.  He knows the realities of the football business and planning calendar as well as anybody, so that should be soon.”

Additionally, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians confirmed in a text message Saturday that Brady had reached out to the team and said he hadn’t made a final decision yet.

Brady’s career would end with the quarterback in a pantheon of his own. His seven Super Bowl rings—six with the New England Patriots, and one last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—are the most ever. He holds the records for the most passing yards, touchdowns and completions. He outlasted the entire careers of players who were drafted after him and retired so long ago that they’re already in the Hall of Fame, where Brady figures to join them in five years. 

His time in professional football also included a rare legal battle between the league and its biggest star when the NFL suspended him for four games over an allegation that he was involved with the deflation of footballs prior to a playoff game.  

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers lost to the Rams in an NFC Divisional playoff game last week.


Steve Jacobson/Zuma Press

His potential decision to call it quits can be seen as both a surprise and an inevitability. He had previously said he aimed to play until he was 45. And it appeared there was nothing on-the-field from stopping him: Brady led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns in 2021. 

But more recently, after the Buccaneers’ playoff loss last weekend that ended their season, he said it would be a decision based on family, not football. He expressed a desire to spend more time with his children and wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, who has previously indicated her desire for him to retire. 

Whenever Brady exits, he will do so with an unmatched legacy. He created a dynasty in New England. He lifted a moribund franchise to a title in Tampa Bay. He was once the youngest quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl and now he’s the oldest. He won over the course of three different decades after rising from relative obscurity to become the greatest player in the sport’s history. 

Tom Brady won six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots.


Charles Krupa/Associated Press

After four years at Michigan, Brady was selected with the 199th pick of the 2000 draft by the Patriots and their new head coach

Bill Belichick

to serve behind established starter Drew Bledsoe, who New England had drafted with the No. 1 overall pick seven years earlier. 

But in the second game of Brady’s second season in 2001, one play changed the course of football history. New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis hit and injured Bledsoe. Brady started the next game and finished the regular season, winning 11 of his 14 starts and beginning a run that established his reputation for coming through in the clutch. He led comebacks, including one in the playoffs against the then-Oakland Raiders, during a game that became most famous for the “tuck rule” play that was called a fumble, then ruled an incompletion. 

Then he triumphed during the Super Bowl in spectacular fashion. The Patriots were 14-point underdogs to the then-St. Louis Rams and their high-powered offense. But Belichick’s defense kept the Rams in check for most of the game while Brady put his team in front with a 17-3 lead. After St. Louis came back to tie it up with 90 seconds left, Brady marched the offense down the field to set up the game-winning field goal. When it sailed through the uprights, the 24-year-old became the youngest Super Bowl-winning quarterback. 

The Patriots went 9-7 and missed the playoffs the next season, but the only other season they would miss the playoffs during his time with the team was in 2008, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first game. That was also one of the most remarkable facets of his career: that year was the one season he missed starts due to injury. 

The best explanation for his knack for avoiding devastating injuries was  how he played the game. Brady mastered the art of subtly moving around the pocket with a sixth-sense for incoming pass rushers. He got rid of the ball quickly and better than anyone else and rode a tidal wave of change that surfaced during his career: the NFL in recent years has overhauled its rules to protect the safety of its players, and quarterbacks in particular. 

Those abilities were on full display when the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls after the 2003 and 2004 seasons—giving them three in four years. They are still the last club to win consecutive championships. 

But Brady’s greatest statistical season came in a year when they failed to win it all. In 2007, Belichick armed Brady with an arsenal of passing weapons. Most notably, the Patriots had acquired Randy Moss, the mercurial yet super-talented wide receiver, for just a fourth-round pick. 

The deal preceded a year when Brady and the Patriots went on an incredible run. Brady threw for 50 touchdown passes with only eight interceptions, en route to the second of his three Most Valuable Player awards. The Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season, and didn’t so much beat their opponents as they annihilated them. Their average margin of victory during those wins was 20 points. 

The juggernaut fell short of a perfect season in the Super Bowl, though, against a quarterback and a team that would become a familiar foil. Down 14-10 in the fourth quarter, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning engineered a game-winning touchdown drive that became known for receiver

David Tyree’s

catch when he pinned the ball against his helmet. The Giants won and repeated the feat four years later, with another win against Brady and the Patriots. 

That was part of a nine-year stretch when Brady and New England came up short in the big game. The next time they won it all came after the 2014 season when they topped the Seahawks 28-24, with Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson throwing a stunning interception at the 1-yard-line in the game’s final seconds.

But Brady’s legacy from that postseason is more connected with a phrase that is still taboo in Foxborough, Mass.: Deflategate

The Patriots had demolished the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in that year’s AFC Championship, yet controversy erupted from the blowout after the Colts flagged that one of the footballs seemed to be underinflated. That led to an investigation and allegation that Brady and team officials deliberately deflated the footballs below NFL standards because the quarterback preferred the balls that way. 

Tom Brady after Super Bowl LI.


Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The bombshell turned football fans into amateur physicsts as they debated possible explanations for the balls’ inflation levels while the league launched an investigation into the issue. Months later, a 243-page report was released by the investigators, and it concluded that it was “more probable than not that” that Brady was aware of two team staffers releasing air from the balls. Brady and the team vociferously denied the accusation, placing the NFL’s most prominent franchise and its best player in direct conflict with the league.  

The Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of draft picks while Brady was suspended for four games. The saga, though, dragged on for over a year as Brady successfully appealed the suspension in court, allowing him to play for the entire 2015 season. But when an appeals court overturned the decision, Brady eventually sat out the first four games of 2016. 

He avenged it with his pièce de résistance. Brady came back from the suspension, led the Patriots to the Super Bowl and engineered the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. Down 28-3 in the third quarter to the Atlanta Falcons, he stormed back to tie the game up and win the game in overtime. 

The Patriots lost in the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles the next season before winning it again a year later. That gave Brady six rings with New England, the last of which came as a 41-year-old. 

Then, after a 2019 season when Brady’s numbers had declined, the Patriots lost in the opening round of the playoffs. For the first time in his career, he became a free agent and there were serious questions about his future: Was he still an effective player? Would he…

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