Why the NFL Will Never See Another Tom Brady

Alex KayContributor IFebruary 1, 2022

El quarterback Tom Brady de los Patriots de Nueva Inglaterra levanta los brazos luego de que su equipo anotó el touchdown decisivo en la prórroga del Super Bowl ante los Falcons de Atlanta, el domingo 5 de febrero de 2017. (AP Foto/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. is officially retiring, bringing the greatest career in NFL history to a close.

The 44-year-old announced the decision through a series of Instagram posts Tuesday—and fans will never see another player like him.

The numbers speak for themselves. He played an incredible 22 seasons, winning Super Bowl titles in a record seven.

Brady finished with a 243-73 regular-season record, never once suffering through a losing campaign.

The quarterback notched at least 10 wins in all but two seasons, his second year as a starter in 2002 and when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the 2008 opener.

He amassed 84,520 yards and 624 touchdowns through the air, just two of the myriad NFL records the California native holds.

Brady's postseason heroics were even more remarkable, as he won more playoff games—going 35-12 across 19 trips—and more championships than any other player in NFL history.

He won his first title with the New England Patriots after taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe during the 2001 season and his last at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign, his first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after joining as the most notable free agent ever.

Record books aside, even if Patrick Mahomes or someone else makes an improbable run at the numbers, the NFL won't see another Brady because of his status as a sixth-round draft pick who overcame the odds of even making a roster in 2000.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

In Bill Belichick's first year on the job, the legendary coach made the exceedingly rare decision to retain four quarterbacks on his 52-man roster. A vast majority of teams carry no more than three QBs, with many only having two active players at the position.

Brady narrowly slipped onto the depth chart, starting his career as the No. 4 QB behind Bledsoe, John Friesz and Michael Bishop.

It remains the only time the Patriots kept more than three signal-callers on their final roster during Belichick's long-standing tenure with the organization.

Brady's subsequent stardom through parts of three different decades as the pinnacle of NFL quarterback talent makes him the ultimate draft anomaly. Teams will never let a guy like him slip through the cracks again.

No general manager wants to be remembered in the same vein as the six who selected quarterbacks before Brady in the 2000 draft. Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, Chris Redman, Spergon Wynn, Chad Pennington and Giovanni Carmazzi were all taken before New England finally stopped the Michigan product's fall at No. 199.

With the depth and breadth of the modern draft process, along with the evolution of analytics and scouting, teams now arguably know more about these prospects than they do themselves.

That, coupled with an intense focus on finding franchise quarterbacks—five were taken in the first round last year alone, and a record eight came off the board by the end of the third round—often results in signal-callers getting drafted far too early rather than too late.

As great as Brady ended up being, he didn't win seven titles by himself.

The quarterback's incredible skill helped maximize the talents of those around him, but he also put his teams in position to acquire better players by taking less money than his market value on many of his contracts.

He left an estimated $60 million to $100 million on the table during his two decades with the Patriots, per Business Insider (h/t Yahoo's Tyler Greenawalt).

Other players at the position have been making earth-shattering amounts of cash, while Brady's pay has hardly stood out among top QBs.

Mahomes, who Brady outdueled in Super Bowl LV, became the NFL's highest-paid player when he signed a 10-year, $450 million contract in 2020. Jimmy Garoppolo—Brady's former backup in New England—had the league's highest base salary in 2021, making $24.1 million while keeping the seat warm for first-round pick Trey Lance.

Brady's deals only netted him more than $20 million per year over his final three seasons.

There were few knocks on Brady during his lengthy career, but one of the most consistent was the perception that he was a "system quarterback." Some believed he thrived only because of the genius coaching and roster crafting that Belichick masterminded, allowing his Patriots to consistently beat more skilled counterparts such as Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

Brady proved his doubters wrong in Tampa, assembling two of his greatest statistical seasons—he recorded nearly 10,000 passing yards and threw for 83 touchdowns in his 33 regular-season games with the Bucs—after leaving New England.

It did take some time for the signal-caller to jell with his new teammates and coaches, resulting in a ho-hum-for-Brady 11-5 record in 2020, but the team rallied to become unstoppable by the end of the campaign.

The quarterback used a now-famous bye-week meeting in Week 13 to home in on what worked and throw out what didn't. It launched an eight-game winning streak that took the team on a journey through Wild Card Weekend all the way to a Lombardi Trophy.

Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

While Brady didn't get to ride off into the sunset with a record-extending eighth Super Bowl title, superstars who won a championship in their final season—such as Peyton Manning and John Elway—have been far more of an exception than the rule.

Despite failing to go out on top, Brady's final appearance was one that won't soon be forgotten.

With most of his supporting pieces absent or injured, the quarterback willed his team back from a 27-3 deficit midway through the third quarter of a divisional-round matchup with the star-studded Los Angeles Rams.

While the Bucs couldn't summon the same magic that the Patriots did when Brady led them back from a 28-3 deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI—arguably the greatest comeback in football history—and lost 30-27 on a game-ending field goal, the performance showed the passion and resolve that has separated Brady from so many other talented quarterbacks over the last 22 years.

With that victory, Los Angeles became one of the few teams to topple Brady on three consecutive occasions.

It would be the final history-making moment in a career sprinkled with more of them than any other player to ever grace the gridiron.