At this point, the potential of a ground-breaking development regarding Tom Brady’s future is limited at best. He’s 44 years old and is still playing professional football — the end is close, even for someone like Father Time’s biggest nemesis.
But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback is the most famous football player to ever walk the earth, and remains atop the league and playing at a ridiculously high level after two decades in the NFL. So, naturally, there’s interest in when he’ll decide to finally hang ’em up.
And now, all of a sudden, everyone seems to have a hunch or a feeling that this could be the final postseason run in Brady’s storied career.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said this past week on “NFL Countdown” pointed out the fact Brady has yet to publicly commit to playing next season — other than, of course, Brady’s continued insistence on playing until he’s 45.
“Tom Brady, 44, right? He always says he’s going to evaluate his career after each season,” Schefter said Sunday. “We still have to wait to see how the Buccaneers’ season unfolds and plays out. He has said he’d like to come back, but he’d also like some time to think about it.
“And because he’s the GOAT, it’s worth mentioning here, you just never know if it’s going to be his last postseason. Again, he’d like to come back, but with Brady, anything is always possible.”
There’s admittedly not much there, but that tidbit does come on the heels of ESPN writer Seth Wickersham’s “hunch” that this is Brady’s final run.
“This is just a hunch,” he wrote in an ESPN postseason predictions column, “but I’m predicting this will be the last playoff frun for three future Hall of Fame quarterbacks with their current teams. We know that the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger will retire. But I think Tom Brady will, too. And finally, Aaron Rodgers will leave Green Bay after another season without reaching the Super Bowl.”
Wickersham certainly knows a thing or two about Brady and his career. He profiled the then-Patriots quarterback way back in the day and recently wrote the most comprehensive book about the Patriots’ dynasty. Whether he still has a direct line to Brady is uncertain, but he’s tapped in around the league, so when he says these sorts of things, people tend to listen.
And then, finally, there’s Bill Simmons. The longtime columnist-turned-podcaster-turned-media mogul isn’t working the beat like Schefter or even Wickersham, but he’s probably got a pretty strong network of people who do know things. So, when he said this on his podcast Monday, it certainly was interesting.
“By the way, not inconceivable this is Brady’s last game,” Simmons said of the Bucs’ divisional-round matchup against the Rams. “I keep telling people this. I think everything’s on the table after this season for him. ? I think everything’s on the table for him. I do. Every game could be his last, but he still looks great — look at (Sunday).”
If it feels like we’ve done this dance before, it’s because we have. These conversations were annual rites of passage at the end of each Patriots season when Brady called New England home. So that does make you wonder whether this is Brady trying to get some sort of postseason leverage over Tampa Bay.
If it’s purely a power play, the most important (and most interesting) question is why Brady wants that leverage. The contract is always a consideration, and Brady took a team-friendly deal followed by a team-friendly extension/restructure to help the team navigate the salary cap. There’s also head coach Bruce Arians, with whom Brady has seemed at odds during various points of an otherwise wildly successful Bucs run.
Or maybe Brady just wants to spend more time with his family and retirement is finally here. Regardless of what happens, though, there is one certainty in this entire thing: Brady has nothing left to prove on the field.