Tom Brady’s football career traced an arc that bordered on mythical, his ascent from sixth-round N.F.L. draft pick to seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback and global celebrity. And it has ended, after more than two decades of unparalleled brilliance in his sport, in a pique of contradiction.
Brady, who once said that he would retire only when his performance began to decline, has decided to leave the N.F.L. still, at age 44, at the apex of his powers. He announced his retirement on Instagram on Tuesday, after leading the league, in his 22nd season, in passing yards (5,316), completions (485) and touchdowns (43) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost in the divisional round of the N.F.C. playoffs to the Los Angeles Rams. He won the Super Bowl with Tampa Bay last season, after winning six championships previously with the New England Patriots.
“I have always believed the sport of football is an ‘all-in’ proposition — if a 100% competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game,” Brady said in his Instagram post.
He added: “This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore. I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.”
Brady’s official declaration came days after ESPN on Jan. 29 reported his departure, initiating a frenzy that was initially debunked by his father, Tom Brady Sr., and his agent, Don Yee, who in a statement said Brady alone would announce the details of his future plans. Brady himself said Monday night that he was still taking time to decide.
Brady had for years stated that he wanted to play until he was 45 years old, a benchmark for him. But on his “Let’s Go!” podcast with Jim Gray in late January, he spoke about spending more time with his wife, the supermodel Gisele Bündchen, and three children, and said he would make a decision with their input.