Tom Brady says he ignored critics who claimed he should have stayed retired

The Bucs quarterback struggled on and off the field but won his 19th division title on Sunday.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during Sunday's NFC South-clinching win over the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during Sunday's NFC South-clinching win over the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Jan. 3|Updated Jan. 3

TAMPA — Tom Brady said he heard the critics during his struggles on and off the field this season who said he should have remained retired.

But after leading the Bucs to a defense of their NFC South title with a 30-24 win over the Panthers on Sunday, the quarterback said he never questioned his decision to return to the league.

“I know people (say), ‘Tom you should’ve retired. You should’ve done this or done that,’” Brady said Monday on his “Let’s Go!” podcast with Jim Gray. “That’s okay. People can have a lot of feelings about those or opinions and so forth.

“But I think for me, there’s always gratification when you make this commitment and you have a group of individuals that do the same and you see something pay off. That’s what life is about. A lot resilience and overcoming different obstacles over the course of the year and ultimately coming together for a common goal.”

Off the field, Brady had a very public divorce from his wife of 13 years, Gisele Bündchen. Meanwhile, his team watched a 2-0 start dissolve into a 6-8 record before back-to-back wins Dec. 25 at Arizona and Sunday against the Panthers. The Bucs are locked into the fourth seed in the NFC heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale at Atlanta.

Brady said he never allowed doubt to creep into his thoughts and relied on his ability to compartmentalize to get through the difficult times.

“I learned this awhile ago,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are said outside what’s between your ears. Obviously, what’s between your ears and what you tell yourself is the important thing. I think people said earlier this year, ‘Oh, it doesn’t look like he’s having fun and he doesn’t want to be out there and he doesn’t want to play.’ ... What’s between my ears is more important than that.”

For inspiration, Brady said he frequently reads the poem, “The Man in the Glass,” by Peter Dale Wimbrow, Sr.

It reads in part:

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass

“I think that’s a good lesson for everybody,” Brady said. “You’re always going to face critics. You’re going to face people that have their own opinions, and the opinion you have of yourself is the one that matters most.”

Brady admits he hasn’t been without mistakes this season. In the three games prior to Sunday’s win, he threw six interceptions and two lost fumbles. But in the end, he led the Bucs back to the postseason.

“Over 23 years, have I always gotten it right?” Brady said. “No way, not even close. But has the intention been great? The intention has been great. And I’ve loved it, and I’m happy we’re in the playoffs and I’m happy we get a chance to go compete for a world championship.”

He’s got jokes

Overall, Brady was in a joking mood, and he was prepared with one-liners.

• On his chemistry with receiver Mike Evans, who had 10 catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday:

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter

We’ll deliver a roundup of news and commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

“It hasn’t been as good as it has been the last couple years. I missed Mike a few times. We had a few where we were very close. It feels good to connect. I’m glad we were connecting through the air all day. A little different than Southwest Airlines lately.

• “Mike said I put it in his bread basket. That’s what I’m always trying to do. Except I don’t like to eat a lot of bread. He knows that, so I’d prefer different references Mike moving forward.”

• “The fact that I’ve actually thrown three touchdowns per day this year (2023) is pretty good. I don’t know if I’m going to keep this pace up, too.”

• Gray observed that he hadn’t heard Brady so happy in awhile.

“We haven’t won like this in awhile,” Brady said. “This is Happy Tom. This is what we get.”

• • •

Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.