New England Patriots: A tribute to the greatness of Tom Brady

Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots legend Tom Brady has officially announced his retirement from the NFL, putting an end to the greatest career in the league’s history. Brady retires from football as the game’s undisputed GOAT (greatest of all time for those unfamiliar), and it’s safe to say that we will never see a career quite like Brady’s.

For awhile, it seemed like we were never going to get to this day. Brady had long talked about wanting to play into his 40’s and even mentioned reaching age 50 at one point. Even his actual retirement was cast in doubt for the past few days after word leaked to the press before Brady was comfortable letting the world know what his decision was.

But the day has finally come. After 22 seasons, Brady has called it a career. While the rest of the league is probably celebrating the fact that they don’t have to worry about running into Brady anymore, fans of the league are celebrating the many achievements of his career.

Whereas the NBA has Michael Jordan and the NHL has Wayne Gretzky, the NFL can now officially appoint Brady as the greatest player in the league’s history. Truthfully, the case probably could have been closed five or six years ago, but Brady made sure there was little doubt about who was the best when he retired. And now that he has, it feels like a proper time to look back at all he accomplished throughout his historic career.

The New England Patriots would not be the same without Tom Brady

There hasn’t been a time in my life where Tom Brady was not a part of the NFL. Much of the younger generation of NFL fans can say the same thing. I was lucky enough to be around for the start of the dynasty, although I couldn’t tell you what I was doing when the Patriots won their first three Super Bowls (probably sleeping if I had to take a guess).

Growing up watching the Patriots go out and dominate their opposition pretty much every single week became one of my favorite hobbies. A culture of winning had been established in New England that hadn’t been seen in this region since the Larry Bird era of the Boston Celtics. When I was younger, it was something I would take for granted, in part because I wasn’t old enough to realize how improbable a dynasty of this caliber was in modern sports.

As I began to realize that the Patriots weren’t just a normal team, and that not all teams go out and post winning seasons no matter who is on their roster, I became more invested with Brady and the Patriots. I realized that not only was the winning pedigree unusual, but the whole journey that culminated with Brady raising his first Lombardi trophy was extremely unlikely. But it did.

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Brady wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, and he played sparingly in college during his time at Michigan. He fell all the way to the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, and was the fourth quarterback on the Patriots roster. Yet when Drew Bledsoe got his knee ripped to shreds by Mo Lewis, Brady got the call and never looked back.

The New England Patriots implemented a winning culture in the region, and Brady was at the forefront of it. There have been 12 major championships between the four major Boston sports teams (Patriots, Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and Boston Bruins) since 2001. And the fans of all these teams got tag along for the ride, and witness greatness that had never been seen before.

The 2007 Patriots team was really when my investment in Brady and football took off to new heights. The team had won a lot before, but this was something never seen before. When they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, it crushed me. The same thing could be said four years later when history repeated itself against the Giants.

It seemed like the championship window for the New England Patriots was closing as Brady got older. The playoffs were pretty much a given; Brady and the Patriots never played 16 game seasons. But after reeling off three Super Bowl wins in his first four years, it seemed like Brady had hit a wall.

If the first half of the Patriots dynasty taught us anything, it was that you can do anything you set your mind to. Brady was the human embodiment of that every time he took the field. And yet he defied the odds even further by winning three Super Bowls right off the bat. It’s safe to say that Brady’s influence has had a large impact on fans like myself who grew up watching him constantly exceed expectations week in and week out.

The second half of the dynasty reinforced that concept, but in a different way. Brady could have probably retired after his third Super Bowl with his legacy in tact. But Brady wanted to prove that he was different from every other athlete who had suited up before him. He had already proven he could play well, but the second half of his career was devoted to playing at a high level despite his age. As always, Brady had his doubters. And unsurprisingly, Brady proved them wrong.

The New England Patriots made it back to the Super Bowl in 2014 against the Seattle Seahawks, who were looking to become the first repeat champions since the Patriots in 2003/04. Brady and the Patriots had been counted out from the get go that season (remember we’re onto Cincinnati?), but they didn’t let it bother them.

Brady led a furious comeback against the Seahawks to win his fourth Super Bowl, but that was eventually one-upped by his historic 28-3 comeback over the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl two years later. During this stretch, Brady had come to personify another strong life lesson; never give up. Nobody would have blamed him for rolling over and dying against the Falcons, but he stuck with it and led his team to the greatest comeback in NFL history.

By this point, Brady’s case for the greatest of all time was probably set in stone. Yet his drive for more was relentless. He won another ring two years later against the Los Angeles Rams, giving him six Super Bowls, more than any other player in NFL history.

When Brady departed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2019 season, it certainly stung. But now that he has retired I feel like I can fully appreciate the guts it took to make that move.

Brady had only known the New England Patriots organization. Switching teams at age 42 certainly isn’t easy, let alone switching teams and then immediately leading them to a Super Bowl. If there was ever any doubt about Brady’s greatness, it was all but erased after his seventh Super Bowl victory that came last year with the Bucs.

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Sports provide you with a lot of life lessons, and growing up watching Brady provided myself with many that I still carry with me to do this day. Everyone likes to talk about the impact Brady made on the field, and why wouldn’t they, he was spectacular. But not many take the time to recognize the role model Brady was for kids like me who grew up watching him dominate every weekend.

The NFL lost one of the greatest ambassadors to their game today when Brady officially announced his retirement. He was a legend on and off the field, and many of the records he has left behind will never be touched. I’m just thankful I got to witness the journey.