Both Tom Brady’s retirement and NFL career weren’t supposed to happen this way
It was never going to be easy for Tom Brady to retire, but no one thought it was going to happen like it did.
After an earlier-than-anticipated exit in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Rams, the buzz around a potential Brady retirement seemed to grow more and more as each day passed.
Many figured he would take some time to think about it all, and likely make his decision in a month or two.
Instead, his whole world flipped upside down in less than a week.
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For years, Brady has been in control of his own messaging, whether it’s been across his social media channels, his own podcast, in a multi-episode series on Facebook, or even his ongoing “Man in the Arena” series through ESPN+.
His online presence has risen to incredible heights over the years, with highly-produced hype videos and funny clips showing off the fun side of a player whose lips were sealed throughout a 20-year run with the New England Patriots.
Many expected he would use the “Man in the Arena” series to announce his retirement. Some figured he would drop it via a long video on Instagram, or at least thought that he would utter the words himself in some sort of press conference.
Rather than any of those options, ESPN’s own reporters took that opportunity away from him.
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On the Saturday before the day that each conference’s Super Bowl representative would be finalized, Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington shook the football world to its core by announcing Brady’s impending retirement via Twitter.
Brady didn’t get to reveal his retirement. “Sources” did it for him.
Having gone to college for journalism, it’s easy to understand why it happened the way it did. You don’t sit on any news when you’re Adam Schefter or Jeff Darlington, let alone when it has to do with the greatest player in NFL history.
But, after the whole Andrew Luck situation a few years ago, which led to Luck being booed by his own fans in Indianapolis in his last time walking off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, you would’ve thought things would be different.
At the very least, you would imagine that Brady had earned that respect over the last two decades.
Instead, the world had to wonder about whether or not it was happening, rather than being able to fully celebrate one of the greatest athletes of all time.
It was awkward, uncomfortable, and everything in between, as you would expect.
Brady’s father was denying the reports. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers publicly stated that Brady had not retired, and Brady’s agent relayed similar sentiments.
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A few days later, Brady dropped a podcast, where he said that a decision had yet to be made, which seemed to directly contradict ESPN’s reporting.
Less than 20 hours later, Brady dropped a lengthy statement on Instagram to announce that he was finally hanging up his cleats.
It was an odd situation all around, which honestly created more question marks than opportunities to properly absorb the news.
Brady didn’t wait long enough to give fans the impression that Schefter and Darlington’s reporting was incorrect, and ESPN could take pride in the fact that they were a few days ahead of Brady’s official retirement announcement.
There was no video or audio of any kind to explain the decision, just some slides in a social media post that could’ve been written in the Notes app on an iPhone.
There was no mention of the Patriots, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, or fans in New England. Brady omitted the first 20 years of his career in favor of the last two.
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It was weird. It felt rushed. It left a sour taste in some people’s mouths.
It was a lackluster performance from someone who was known for putting on masterful clinics on the football field.
Brady would make things right as the days went on, even dropping a video on the 20-year anniversary of his first Super Bowl win to properly acknowledge his time with the Patriots, and the immense amount of success he had throughout his career.
If he had done that a few days earlier, it would’ve made a lot more sense.
Instead, it’ll go down as one of the weirder retirements in NFL history.
Brady’s retirement wasn’t supposed to happen this way. But, then again, neither was his NFL career in the first place.
Brady entered the fray because of a nasty injury to Drew Bledsoe, and earned the starting job in New England in the most anticlimactic way possible.
He wasn’t supposed to bring the Patriots to the Super Bowl, and a game centered around the “Tuck Rule” even led to some questions about whether New England should’ve appeared in Super Bowl XXXVI against the then-St. Louis Rams.
Brady shouldn’t have had the success that he did in the early stages of his career, considering his status as a sixth-round pick in the draft, and he wasn’t supposed to stick around as long as he did, either.
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But, at the end of the day, fans were left to bask in his glory, and celebrate one of the greatest to ever do it in any sport, let alone in football.
His retirement brings about those same types of feelings.
Yes, it was underwhelming. Yes, it wasn’t what it should’ve been.
But, it shouldn’t take away from everything Brady accomplished throughout a dominant run in his sport.
In fact, it’s likely the most fitting way that this out-of-nowhere success story’s retirement could’ve ever happened anyway.
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