Tom Brady’s career is clearly in its final phase. Yet he’s not going out as most NFL quarterbacks do. Two decades in, he still outperforms many of his peers. His Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t taking the world by storm, but Brady’s individual performance only looks lesser-than because it compares to impossible standards.
He won’t be gone next year. Much like LeBron James — who compared himself to Brady not long ago — this first run with a new team might not define his late-career legacy just yet. It’ll be another year of sacrifices to stay on his game. All with an uncertain payoff. And no one is more aware of that than Brady himself.
What Tom Brady’s singular focus on the NFL has earned him
Brady likely learned to go all-in on football at an early age, because he wasn’t exactly a widely-regarded athletic specimen in his youth. His sisters were more naturally gifted in sports than he was. As he advanced through each level of football, he always seemed to struggle to hold on to his spot.
That continued all the way up to his late draft pick in 2000, as NBC Sports reports. He was seen as a smart QB, but risky due to his weak mobility. Bill Belichick wanted him, though, and thus began one of the legendary sports partnerships of the 21st century. At this point, it’s a curiosity that he ever went as late as the sixth round.
The next 20 years were marked by the type of success that exhausts the rest of the league. Six Super Bowl wins, including four Super Bowl MVP picks for Brady. He won the NFL MVP overall three times, in 2007, 2010, and 2017, according to USA Today. This relentless ability to stay relevant, as always with Brady, wasn’t the product of effortless athletic magic.
Does Brady’s success come at a price?
Each time Brady seemed to reach his peak, maybe had a few too many slip-ups in once season, he was talked about like his best days were behind him. Improbably, he always figured it out, always seemed to have a new answer for how to stay ahead of the pack. That meant putting in massive amounts of offseason work.
It’s clear how difficult that balance has been to maintain. Brady’s shaky final year in New England followed an uncharacteristically quiet offseason. NBC Boston reports that he and his wife Gisele Bundchen were having difficulties, and Brady made the rare choice to step away from optional practices.
It’s unlikely this was the first time stepping back from his NFL responsibilities would’ve helped his family life. But it was the first time he unequivocally, unapologetically told the NFL to wait.
Brady’s thoughts on the sacrifices he made for his NFL career
Brady recently opened up on this very topic in a sprawling interview on the Armchair Expert podcast. Host Dax Shepard asked, “What price have you paid for being so singularly focused on this endeavor?” Brady’s reply was clearly born of mixed emotions on the topic.
“I think the thing that’s most challenging for me is when people say I haven’t been the brother I could be. Couldn’t be ‘the friend’ to certain people at different times,” Brady said. “The people close to you get the short end of the stick, because you’re always busy, you’ve always got one other thing, you’ve always got work, you’ve always got one more obligation, one more call.”
“[I tell them] when football is done, I’ll have time. That’s hard to hear.” Brady’s long career has his family and friends waiting longer than most. When he finally wraps up his legendary NFL run, he intends to make up for his many years of the NFL dominating his life. For now, though, he’s playing an outsized role in building up the new Buccaneers — a project that takes great effort and time even off the field.