Tom Brady’s NFL career came to an end Wednesday morning — for good this time, he insisted.
The New England Patriots always planned to honor the legendary quarterback in some form or fashion once his playing days were over. But what should that tribute look like? How do you properly honor the winnest, most prolific and flat-out greatest player to ever play for your team or any other?
The Patriots — Brady’s employer for 20 of his 23 NFL seasons — have yet to announce any specifics about how or when they intend to publicly recognize Brady for all he brought to the organization.
But here’s our take on how they should celebrate the future Hall of Famer:
1. Waive the traditional four-year waiting period for the Patriots Hall of Fame and induct Brady this summer. He’ll be the biggest no-brainer first-ballot inductee in the franchise’s history regardless, so why not expedite that process? This would allow the Patriots to stage an official tribute to Brady without dealing with the clunkiness of a one-day contract.
The latter certainly is possible, as well. Team owner Robert Kraft said last season that he hoped Brady would “retire a Patriot.”
2. Hold his induction ceremony sometime between the start of the preseason and the regular-season opener. The pre-Week 1 bye week the NFL instituted two years ago seems like the perfect spot for it. Invite as many of Brady’s Patriots teammates back to Foxboro as possible and move the event from the courtyard outside of the Hall of Fame/Pro Shop to inside Gillette Stadium.
Remember, the Patriots attracted 35,000 fans to Gillette for a Super Bowl sendoff back in 2019. They easily would be able to pack the stadium for a celebration of Brady’s unrivaled career.
3. Install a prominent Brady statue in the aforementioned courtyard, which would pair nicely with the massive north end zone renovation that’s scheduled to be finished in time for the 2023 season. The simplest design for this would be of Brady standing tall in the pocket and delivering a pass, but the Patriots also could choose to immortalize him in the middle of one of his fiery fist pumps.
The team can add a statue of Bill Belichick nearby once the head coach wraps up his own incredible career.
4. Retire Brady’s No. 12. This is a given and likely already is in New England’s plans, as the team has not issued the number since Brady’s departure in 2021 (while giving out Julian Edelman’s No. 11 and Rob Gronkowski’s No. 87).
The Patriots have not officially retired a number since they sunsetted Bruce Armstrong’s No. 78 in 2001. They have never retired the number of a player who won a Super Bowl with the franchise, with many stars doubling up during the Belichick era (think Tedy Bruschi and Dont’a Hightower both wearing No. 54, or Ty Law, Darrelle Revis and Stephon Gilmore all donning No. 24).
Brady’s should be the first, and his should be displayed somewhere inside Gillette Stadium. Unlike most NFL teams, the Patriots don’t have any in-stadium recognition of the eight jersey numbers that currently are out of circulation, not including No. 12.