Brady leaves Bucs in limbo with retirement

by Gary Shelton on February 2, 2023

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

In the end, his career outlasted the adjectives used to describe it. What finer legacy can there be?

Goodnight, Tom Brady.

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Brady, the finest quarterback to ever grip a football -- and only a moron would disagree -- retired again Wednesday morning. This time, it sounds like it will last.

Oh, Brady could come back and make more money, but the driving force for Brady was never money. He could pile up more statistics, but he didn't play for numbers, either. He played for championships, and with this team, that seemed out of reach for even his talents. So he closed the door, finally, leaving his franchise who-knows-where.

Granted, Tampa Bay got just a sliver of Brady's greatness, just one of his seven championships, just 32 of his 251 regular-season wins, just 10 of his 46 career fourth-quarter comebacks. Most of his greatness was in New England.

Still, there was enough left over for the Bucs. He passed for 14,642 yards here. He threw for 108 of his touchdowns. He won't make the Hall of Fame primarily because he was a Buc, but Tampa Bay shares a claim on part of his legacy.

It's odd. Every now and themn, I'll see a comparison to Aaron Rodgers of Peyton Manning when it comes to the greatest-ever title. That's silly. Rodgers has one title. Manning has two. In a bottom line sport, that doesn't put them in the argument. Greatness is about men and moments, about titles and accomplishments. It isn't a beauty contest of the tightest spiral or the longest pass.

Likewise, I never quite got the backlash to Brady. It was like people trying to find flaws in a Rembrandt. He was so good for so long that people started to pick nits.

Frankly, there has never been anyone like Brady. People want to compare George Blanda, who played until he was 48. But Blanda was essentially a kicker after age 39. Besides, his lifetime record was 53-50-1. No comparison.

I was amused, however, at all of the guesswork involved with Brady. Even as he left, there was speculation he was going to go to the Raiders, the 49ers, the Commanders, the Patriots, even the Dolphins after they denied any interest. There is speculation about his love life, about his weight, about surgery, etc.

So what will you remember of Brady? The Super Bowls, obviously. The comebacks. The way he made his franchise matter. You'll remember the constant speculation about every facet of his life. You'll remember the way he made you believe his team always had a chance.

Those are Brady's considerable footprints as he walks away, leaving his old team in limbo as he goes.

Where do the Bucs go from here? Do they turn to the unproven Kyle Trask. Or the sadly proven Blaine Gabbert. Do they bring in another quarterback. Maybe all three. Can the Bucs still compete for the NFC South title? Or the NFC South cellar?

Much of it depends on the ownership, of course. If they decide to play for a title, they could bring in an import and try for it. Or maybe they decide to absorb their salary cap problems and struggle through.

Those are the decisions for the off-season, however. For now, there is a gaping hole in the Bucs' identity. A team that never had a quarterback like him has never had such a hole.

Brady may have been lousy at retirement. Everything else, he nailed.

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