Tom Brady says it’s over. And Thursday, his words were more clear than some of the awkward in-and-out double-dutching with his buddy Jim Gray or answering questions at a random entrepreneurial conference.
Making the rounds with multiple media outlets to kick off an advertising campaign with Hertz, Brady began his tour with a door-closing of sorts while speaking to Sports Illustrated Now. Asked if he had a message for those who have continued to speculate about a potential return to the NFL, Brady delivered a succinct response.
“I’m certain I’m not playing again,” he said. “So I’ve tried to make that clear and I hate to continue to profess that because I’ve already told people that lots of times.”
Note the word certain.
This declaration sounded pretty definitive. If he ever plays another NFL game after this one, either he’s lying now or he became less certain later. Is either possible? Absolutely. Brady is on the record admitting that he has lied to the media when it suits him. And his first retirement back in the 2022 offseason showcased that he can change his mind. But just because either is possible isn’t proof that he’s keeping the door open for a return.
Brady easily could have done that on Thursday by making a much less definitive statement about not playing. Instead, he went in the opposite direction — making the declaration and then talking about his commitment to spending time with his kids prior to joining join Fox Sports as an NFL analyst in 2024, as well as seeking to secure a minority stake in the Las Vegas Raiders in the coming months.
Given that he’s spending more time on yachts than inside football facilities this offseason, it’s believable. The guy is going to be 46 in August. He’s not spending time with Raiders wideouts. There haven’t been any impromptu throwing sessions at some far-flung workout facility. And according to a league source that spoke with Yahoo Sports Wednesday night, Brady’s retirement papers haven’t been rescinded. He’s done literally everything he can to showcase that he’s retired. Right down to stating his own certainty about it on Thursday.
With that, it’s time for the rest of us to move on. Because it sounds like Brady finally has. To the point that when he spoke to Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Thursday and was asked about his knowledge of the Raiders offense, his answer pointed to his support of presumed starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I was part of Josh’s system for a very long time and he and I have an incredible working relationship,” Brady said. “And I know Jimmy very well too. I’ve known him for nine years and he’s a very talented guy. So I’m always pulling for him and I’ve always pulled for him.”
Of course, Garoppolo’s health has played a part in speculation suggesting Brady could go from Raiders minority owner to Raiders quarterback. Garoppolo had foot surgery in March and still hasn’t practiced in organized team activities. With full squad minicamp right around the corner this month, Garoppolo may not end up practicing with the Raiders until training camp in July. That’s certainly not ideal when it deprives the Raiders and Garoppolo months of valuable time gaining chemistry with the first-team offense. But it doesn’t yet signal a need for a secondary option, either.
That timeline isn’t helpful with the Brady rumor mill, but there’s little that can be done about that at this point. Particularly when you consider that Brady also made his own bed in another respect, previously engaging in a dalliance with the Miami Dolphins that now sounds slightly familiar. If you don’t recall that one, it went like this: Brady would retire during the 2022 offseason, join the Dolphins as an executive with a partial ownership stake, then step in as the team’s starting quarterback in either 2022 or 2023.
Brady got as far as retiring last offseason, before the whole plan was allegedly blown up when former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the team and NFL, which included claims that Miami team owner Stephen Ross had been tampering with Brady. Following that lawsuit, Brady unretired in a largely vague fashion and returned to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Afterward, Flores’ claims were investigated by the NFL and the Dolphins were stripped of a first-round pick when it was found that Ross had indeed committed tampering while pursuing Brady.
When you lay that against what is happening now — Brady retiring and seeking an ownership stake with a team that has a quarterback problem brewing — it seems like the same play is being run a second time with Raiders team owner Mark Davis rather than Stephen Ross. The same Mark Davis that, according to UFC President Dana White, nearly had Brady in the fold for the Raiders in 2020, following a deal that White claimed to have brokered himself.
But it’s worth noting that we’re staring back at that scenario three years later, with an older Brady and a Raiders roster that looks unpredictable at best. What might have worked in 2020 could be a complete disaster in 2023. And it’s fair to suspect that both Brady and Davis know that.
Yet, given all of that history and the reality of Garoppolo’s health issues, it’s really not much of a surprise that Brady is still getting asked about potential unretirement. And perhaps there will be less surprise if it turns out this is all just one grand facade to cover for a previously failed plan that is being concocted a second time. If that’s the case — if Brady secures a minority stake in the Raiders and then somehow ends up playing for the franchise — then I will count myself among the duped.
Until then, I’m taking Brady at his word. And I’m assuming when he says he’s “certain” he’s not playing again, we can finally be certain about moving on without him.