TAMPA — The last image of Tom Brady playing in the NFL will be of him rallying the Bucs from a 24-point deficit to tie their NFC division playoff game against the Rams with less than a minute to play.
Brady did all he could, but the Bucs lost the game on a field goal, 30-27, as time expired.
The clock has finally drained on the remarkable career of the NFL’s greatest quarterback, just when football fans — especially in Tampa Bay — were clasping hands in prayer for another Brady comeback, if only for one more season.
Brady announced his retirement on Instagram Tuesday morning, saying he’s not going to “make that competitive commitment anymore.”
“I have always believed the sport of football is an ‘all-in’ proposition,” Brady wrote. “If 100 percent competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed. And success is what I love so much about our game.
“There is a physical, mental and emotional challenge EVERY single day that has allowed me to maximize my highest potential. And I have tried my very best these past 22 years. There’s no shortcuts to success on the field or in life. ...
“I have loved my NFL career, and now it’s time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.”
The announcement comes one day after Brady said on his Let’s Go! podcast that he was still undecided about his future. Brady goes out on his own terms and on top.
While the final season of his illustrious career didn’t end with confetti in his hair the way it did last season when he led the Bucs to a 31-9 win over the Chiefs in Super Bowl 55, Brady led the NFL in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43) during the regular season, making the case that even at 44 years old, he was the best at his position.
Brady’s final touchdown pass carried 55 yards in the air and fell perfectly in Mike Evans’ arms for a touchdown against the Rams.
Rather than a well-edited video or slick movie production, Brady announced his retirement with a simple, yet thoughtful, letter.
He said he enjoyed living and working in the Tampa Bay area and playing in front of the Bucs’ passionate fans. It was with the Bucs that Brady said he found his voice, speaking out on NFL labor issues and revealing a playful side of his personality that had been hidden during 20 seasons in New England. One of the most memorable moments of Brady’s career will be tossing the Lombardi Trophy in the boat parade across a swath of the Hillsborough River to tight end Cameron Brate.
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“To all the Bucs fans, thank you,” Brady wrote. “I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived here, but your support and embrace have enriched my life and that of my family. I have been honored to play for such a passionate and fun fan base. What a Krewe!
“To the city of Tampa and the entire Tampa-St. Petersburg region, thank you. It has been wonderful to be a resident of such a fun place to live. I want to be invited to our next boat parade.”
Brady thanked the Bucs’ owners for ensuring he had everything he needed to claim a world championship in Tampa Bay.
“To the Glazer family, thank you for taking a chance on me and supporting me,” Brady said. “I know I was demanding at times, but you provided everything we needed to win and your ownership was everything a player could ask for.”
The Glazers responded in a statement by calling Brady a legend. “Tom arrived in Tampa Bay with an unprecedented level of expectations and delivered some of the most memorable moments in our franchise history. Saying goodbye to a legend is never easy, but we wish him continued success in retirement.”
The Bucs will be a team in transition without Brady and find themselves in the middle of a crowded market for a quarterback. Former Florida Gators star Kyle Trask is the only quarterback under contract and he was inactive for every game as a rookie. Veteran backup Blaine Gabbert likely would consider returning to the team but hasn’t started a game since 2018.
Quarterbacks such as the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and Seahawks’ Russell Wilson have talked in the past about leaving their current teams, but it’s unlikely those organizations would trade either to an NFC rival.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht were in Mobile, Ala., to scout the Senior Bowl practices when news of Brady’s official retirement broke.
“Tom joined us as the greatest football player of all time and he quickly showed everyone in our organization what that meant,” Arians said in a statement. “He set a standard and helped create a culture that took our team to the mountaintop.”
Licht will have a busy offseason trying to convince at least a dozen Buc starters who are free agents to remain in Tampa Bay without Brady. The list begins with Brady’s best football buddy, tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was talked out of retirement and traded from the Patriots to the Bucs, where he was reunited with the only quarterback he ever played with in the NFL.
Other free agents include receiver Chris Godwin, who likely will be given the franchise player tag again; running back Leonard Fournette; offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa; cornerback Carlton Davis; safety Jordan Whitehead; defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul.
“It was the most rewarding two years that I could’ve imagined,’’ Licht said Tuesday. “More rewarding would’ve been two Super Bowls, but the fact that we won a Super Bowl and then this year had the best record in the league along with the Packers, it was just something that you couldn’t draw up. It’s something that will be talked about for generations. It’s awesome for me to see whenever I’m in different parts of the country to see people with Buccaneers jerseys, to see young kids wearing Tom Brady jerseys.
“It’s an unbelievable fairy tale story that we’ll be talking about forever.’'
Bucs guard Ali Marpet said he hopes Brady’s work ethic and attention to detail remain staples of their team.
“Tom is special, and I think for the guys that stick around, hopefully we can carry that approach or those lessons or the way he handles himself moving forward and we can continue to play at a high level,” Marpet said.
Brady will remain busy off the field, but it is unlikely he remains in Tampa Bay, where he has rented homes on Davis Islands. He and his wife purchased a $17 million Miami Beach property last year on the exclusive Indian Creek Island, dubbed Miami’s “Billionaire Bunker.”
Brady just launched his Brady clothing line that bears his last name and already is available at Nordstrom in Tampa. He has a production company and is currently serving as the executive producer of The Man in the Arena, a series that details Brady’s NFL career from his perspective.
He plans to spend more time expanding his TB12 brand, a fitness and nutritional company he founded with personal trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero. Last year, Brady co-founded Autograph, a digital collectibles site specializing in sports and entertainment NFTs that recently raised $170 million in a funding round. Brady’s other investments include cryptocurrency exchange FTX, card-trading service Alt and creator platform SageSpot.
Mostly, Brady will now have the chance to spend more time with his wife, Gisele, and his three children: Jack (14), Benny (12) and Vivian (9). Jack lives in New York with his mother, actress Bridget Moynahan.
“Our family is my greatest achievement,” Brady wrote Tuesday. “I always came off the field and home to the most loving and supportive wife who has done EVERYTHING for our family to allow me to focus on my career. Her selflessness allowed me to reach new heights professionally, and I am beyond words what you mean and to our family.”
Brady’s story is like a movie, going from a backup on his winless freshman football team in San Mateo, Calif., to sixth on the depth chart at the University of Michigan to the 199th player taken in the 2000 NFL draft to the greatest player in the NFL.
He retires after 22 seasons, 365 games and 10 Super Bowl appearances, having hoisted the Lombardi Trophy seven times. He was a three-time league MVP, five-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, three-time first-team All Pro and 15-time Pro Bowl selection, including in his final season.
He owns most of the passing records, ranking first in regular-season career passing yards (84,520), passes attempted (11,317), completions (7,263) and touchdowns (624).
Brady always said his favorite ring was “the next one.” And he will receive it from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in five years.