TAMPA, Fla. — After throwing 66 passes and mostly getting knocked around and eventually out of the 2022 season's playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Brady stood at a podium, explaining what went wrong.
“Kind of typical how we played all year — inefficient in the passing game, not very good in the run game, so, it’s hard to beat good teams like that,” Brady said after a 31-14 drilling at the hands of the Cowboys.
He dodged questions about his future, then slipped back into the Buccaneers' locker room, through the bowels of Raymond James Stadium and eventually into a black Tesla where, with videographer in tow, he drove away for … what?
What’s next for Tom Brady will be the No. 1 question of this offseason.
His demeanor following Monday night’s debacle did not portend a 23-year veteran knowing he’d just played his final game. He cracked a smile as he chatted with backup QB Blaine Gabbert while changing into street clothes, gave a quick pat on the back to his offensive linemen as they sat in front of their lockers, and told more than a few Bucs players and reps, “See you tomorrow.”
He was light, maybe relieved this slog of a season was finally over, but mostly unemotional.
Is this — a 35-of-66, two-touchdown, one-interception, mostly forgettable performance — how Tom Freaking Brady is going to go out?
If there’s one thing Monday night’s loss exposed in the 45-year-old Brady it’s that his game has been largely reduced to dinking and dunking. There’s very little stretching the ball downfield. Instead it’s an assortment of swing passes and shallow crossing routes and just trying to get rid of the ball before he gets drilled.
His average of 9.6 yards per completion is the lowest of his career and second-lowest in the NFL this season behind only Kyler Murray. What that translated to was defenses that weren’t worried about Brady going over the top, instead clamping down and creating tight windows for even the easy throws.
And yet, even at 45, in a season when he posted the worst record of his entire 23-year career, he still managed to throw and complete more passes than any other quarterback in the league — more than even he ever had in a single season.
How do you square the two?
This isn’t O.J. Simpson limping to the finish line in a Niners uniform, or Willie Mays playing out the string as a New York Met. Brady is a year removed from leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns and very nearly won his fourth MVP.
The only reason his future is in question is because of his age. And yet, here we are.
Brady’s entire career has been highlighted by proving people wrong, from that first Super Bowl victory over the mighty Rams to the seventh over the indomitable Chiefs … and everywhere in between. Counting him out even as the calendars continued to flip beyond the historical comparison of any other quarterback in NFL history became so perilous, most of us stopped doing it.
“I’m going to go home and get a good night sleep,” he said when asked what’s next.
Does the end of this one feel different than year’s past?
“Just feels like the end of the season,” he said.
And with that, he was gone.