It seems like Tom Brady is going to play forever. Or at least until he’s 45 years old, something that the legendary Patriots quarterback has repeatedly told reporters in the past.
But there’s only so much that almonds, avocados and falling asleep before 9 o’clock every night can do. As the old saying goes, Father Time is undefeated, and the end of star athletes’ careers often comes before those athletes are ready to hang them up.
So even though Brady told reporters Sunday night that “I expect to be back… I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back” in 2018, rumors have started to swirl that we might have seen the last of the GOAT of NFL quarterbacks. Those comments came immediately in the wake of a gutting 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52, and speculation is that Brady may be reconsidering.
In fact, BetOnline has even put up betting odds on whether or not Brady will retire before the start of the 2018 season. And while the odds on ‘No’ are a steep -1500, the +800 odds on ‘Yes’ are still high enough that we actually need to start considering the possibility of a Brady-less NFL in 2018.
Are Things Falling Apart In New England?
As the dust settles on another year in Foxboro, it’s not a stretch to call the Patriots’ 2018 campaign a disappointment. This was a team that was considered a threat to run the table, only to lose its first game of the season at home to Kansas City.
And while the Patriots overcame some early-season stumbles (don’t forget, they started the year with a 2-2 record, and 1 of those wins required a last-minute rally at home against Houston) to finish 13-3 and reach the Super Bowl for the third time in 4 years, their leaky defense was exposed for 40 points and 538 total yards in the NFL title game by Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles.
Those are just the on-the-field lowlights. Off the gridiron, a rift between Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft was brought to the fore in an ESPN report.Kraft and Brady allegedly forced Belichick to deal back-up QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers, and Belichick retaliated by revoking the on-field privileges of Brady’s personal doctor. Star cornerback Malcolm Butler was mysteriously benched in the Super Bowl. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left town to coach the Lions, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was set to become the head man in Indianapolis before reneging this week.
Heck, even Belichick himself is believed to have one foot out the door as well, with BetOnline posting odds on whether he’ll be the Pats’ coach at the start of 2018 (Yes is -500, No is +350). And Brady might also lose his personal safety blanket down the middle, with tight end Rob Gronkowski mulling over his future. In yet another BetOnline prop about the uncertain future of the Patriots’ organization, Gronk is -700 odds to be back in 2018 and +450 to retire.
Why Else Would Tom Brady Retire?
It seems like Brady’s greatest motivation to keep playing these days is to win more Super Bowl rings. But with how difficult those rings have been to come by in recent years, there’s no guarantee that continuing to play is going to allow him to achieve that.
For all their regular-season success since 2004 (winning the AFC East every year but one), the Pats have just 2 Super Bowl titles to show for it. And those titles didn’t come easy, either. The one in 2014 required a Butler end-zone interception in the dying seconds to preserve a 28-24 win over the Seahawks. Last year, the Patriots had to overcome a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to edge the Falcons 34-28 in OT.
Health is also clearly a huge priority in Brady’s life, and might even take precedence over football. He’s got more money than he could spend in 10 lifetimes, yet made the effort of creating a book (The TB 12 Method) about healthy living and wellness. The chance to walk away from an 18-year career without any life-altering injuries might be too much for Brady to resist, especially if he enjoys spending time with his children as much as the documentary Tom vs. Time made it look like he does.
Speaking of family, the greatest influence of all is Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen. The supermodel publicly supports Brady’s NFL playing career, but she’s also reportedly told friends for several years that she wants him to retire and “just be able to be at home”. Brady acknowledged the pressure from his wife to hang them up after last year’s Super Bowl, telling Jim Miller of Sirius XM NFL Radio that “if it was up to my wife, she would have me retire today. She told me that last night three times.”
Why Won’t Tom Brady Retire?
Because he’s still really, really, really good.
Brady’s 2017 campaign ranks right up there with the best that he’s ever posted. The Associated Press obviously felt that way, making Brady the oldest player ever (40 years, 184 days) to win the NFL MVP award after TB12 led the league with passing yards and finished third in touchdowns and passer rating.
Under Brady this season, the Pats racked up the most yards of any team in football while scoring the second-most points. And as good as Brady’s regular season was, he was even better in the playoffs. He completed 61 of 91 passes for 627 yards, 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in wins over Tennessee and Jacksonville, then posted video-game numbers of 505 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Super Bowl against an excellent Eagles defense.
Another reason for Brady not to retire is that he hasn’t suffered any major injuries since the torn ACL that cost him virtually the entire 2008 season. Not counting the 4 games Brady sat out at the start of 2016 in punishment for his unproven role in Deflategate, the star QB has not missed a start in 15 of his last 16 seasons. He’s taken a few more sacks in recent years behind a weaker Patriots offensive line, but Brady’s ability to repeatedly get back up and into the fray, coupled with his confidence in his diet and fitness regimen, may make him feel invincible at this point.
Finally, Brady’s never been one to back down from a challenge. Whether it’s leading the Patriots back from second-half deficits, being suspended by the NFL or hearing national media publicly and stupidly suggest that he’s near the end, Brady has always answered the bell. With all the talk about how New England’s dynasty is finally crumbling, I can’t imagine Brady not wanting to prove all the critics wrong once again.
It’s weird to see the Patriots organization, a model of stability, in such disarray. Never in the Belichick-Brady era have we seen so much uncertainty about the status of coaches and star players, or so much unrest in the front office and in the dressing room.
However, under no circumstances do I see Brady walking away. I think a lot of these rumors may be wishful thinking on the behalf of envious teams and fans who are tired of the Patriots dynasty and just want to see it come to an end. But even after losing their defensive coordinator and with Belichick’s future status in some sort of limbo (I fully expect him to come back as well), the Patriots are still +550 favorites to win the Super Bowl next year.