Tom Brady retirement: 12 most memorable moments from an unmatched career

Tom Brady is officially retiring. Here are 12 of the most memorable moments from Brady’s career, on and off the field.

Tom Brady says goodbye to New England

Let's start at the end (of sorts). Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were so intertwined by March 17, 2020, that when Brady announced on social media he was leaving, it was the biggest story in sports.

In two separate messages, Brady expressed appreciation to the organization and fans, and also to team owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick — which wasn't a given, seeing as how many felt the two had a sometimes-frosty relationship. A few days later, Brady announced he was signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

By then, the day we never thought we'd see came to pass. It's hard to put into words how seismic it felt without much actually happening. It still is.

Brady maintains innocence in wild deflate-gate news conference

Surreal. If we had to sum this up in one word, it would be surreal. There were seven live television trucks in the Gillette Stadium parking lot. Well over 100 media members from local and national outlets crammed into the media workroom. And all for the air pressure in footballs.

Six days earlier, Brady and the Patriots had blown out the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the 2014 season AFC championship game. The Colts later notified the NFL they suspected the Patriots were under-inflating their footballs, and the league began probing the matter.

Brady's meandering, voice-cracking, generally uncomfortable disposition during the news conference only seemed to raise general suspicion further. The NFL eventually commissioned Manhattan attorney Ted Wells to investigate, and after his report, the league decided to suspend Brady four games and fined the Patriots $1 million while forfeiting two of their draft selections.

After various appeals and legal wrangling, Brady ended up missing the first four games of the 2016 season. He returned on Oct. 9, 2016, completing 70 percent of his passes with three touchdowns in a 33-13 win over the Cleveland Browns. Brady finished his abridged season with 35 touchdown passes and just two interceptions — and another title and Super Bowl MVP award in a game that's still ahead on this list.

Marrying Gisele Bündchen

Does this look like a young man who would grow up to marry one of the most beautiful women in the world (obviously bad Photoshop job excluded)?

Or this?

But somehow, the endearingly goofy kid from San Mateo, California, who grew up to become Tom Brady met and then married Gisele Bundchen. In case this is your first time logging onto the Internet, Gisele looks like this:

And even if she grew up watching futebol in her native Brazil and not football, Bundchen stands by her man, angrily defending Brady in the moments after the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants.

What’s funny is that for as famous as Brady is here in the United States, in most other countries he’s “Gisele Bundchen’s husband.” In the modeling world, Gisele is arguably the G.O.A.T. herself.

Tom Brady epoch begins after Drew Bledsoe is blasted by Mo Lewis

Though Drew Bledsoe likely doesn’t remember Sept. 23, 2001, as the same kind of milestone most members of the Patriots organization and fan base do, it is a day that changed the fate of the franchise.

That’s when New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis drilled Bledsoe, then the Patriots’ franchise quarterback, on a fourth-quarter sideline hit. The tackle not only caused Bledsoe to briefly black out, it caused severe internal bleeding due to a severed blood vessel. Incredibly, Bledsoe briefly returned to the game after the hit, only to be rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital afterward. Team doctors thought Bledsoe might have had ruptured his spleen; he actually suffered a hemothorax, and nearly three liters of blood filled his chest.

On that day, Bill Belichick was in his second season as New England head coach and sporting just a 5-12 record in the job at that point. With Bledsoe down he was forced to turn to the team’s backup, second-year sixth-round pick Tom Brady.

Generally, starters don’t lose their job to injury, particularly after an injury as dangerous as the one Bledsoe suffered. It seems callous to let someone else keep the job you had to leave through no fault of your own. But once Bledsoe was healthy Belichick decided to stick with Brady, who took New England from an 0-2 start to its first Super Bowl title in a matter of weeks.

19-Oops: Patriots' historic 2007 season falls just short

The day the New York Giants arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in advance of Super Bowl XLII, they did so with players wearing all black – they were in town, they said, for a funeral.

The death of the Patriots’ 19-0 season.

It seemed fairly absurd at the time, a stunt staged by a plucky underdog. Brady even scoffed when told that New York receiver Plaxico Burress predicted a 23-17 final score in favor of the Giants.

The Giants defense battered Brady, attacking him through the middle of the line. He was sacked five times and pressured constantly, at one point seeming to duck away from pressure that wasn’t there.

Despite it all, Brady handed the New England defense a 14-10 lead with 2:42 to play. But thanks to one of the most spectacular catches the NFL has ever seen by David Tyree (still wondering how the play wasn’t whistled dead because Eli Manning appeared to be in the grasp of a couple of Patriots), the Giants scored the go-ahead touchdown. Brady was left with just 35 seconds to manufacture a miracle, and he couldn’t do it.

Understandably, he’s called the loss the toughest of his career.

'With the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL draft …'

Now, all these years later, they are the answer to a trivia question and the subject of an ESPN documentary: Who are the six quarterbacks chosen ahead of Tom Brady in the 2000 draft? The answer reads like a bad punch line: Chad Pennington. Giovanni Carmazzi. Chris Redman. Tee Martin. Marc Bulger. Spergon Wynn.

Brady was mocked for crying during an interview for “The Brady 6” doc, but we’d cry too. Brady has more Super Bowl rings than Wynn had career starts, and Giovanni Carmazzi never played in an NFL game!

True to form, Brady bounced back from his draft disappointment quickly. According to a story New England owner Robert Kraft is fond of telling, shortly after the draft he passed the lanky new quarterback, who was carrying a pizza box in the bowels of the team’s old Foxboro Stadium. Kraft said to him, “I know you; you’re Tom Brady. You’re our sixth-round draft choice.” And Brady looked Kraft in the eye and responded, “I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.”

Tuck rule (sorry, Raiders fans)

It was a strange rule. A rarely invoked rule. Dare we say, a dumb rule.

But the Tuck Rule — NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2, now dearly departed — is the rule that saved the Patriots’ 2001 season, and saved Brady the ignominy of fumbling away a divisional-round playoff game against the Oakland Raiders.

Late in a close and snowy game, the last that would be played at decrepit Foxboro Stadium, Brady looked to his left. He noticed a defensive lineman in his path as he started his forward pass motion, so he pulled the ball back. That’s when former Michigan teammate Charles Woodson drilled Brady, causing a fumble. The Raiders, up 13-10 at the time, fell on the loose ball and everyone in New England and beyond thought the game was essentially over.

But wait. Referee Walt Coleman reviewed the play and determined that Brady, as outlined in The Tuck Rule, lost the ball as he was trying to tuck it back into his body. It was an incomplete pass, not a fumble.

Given new life, the Patriots put Adam Vinatieri in position to hit the game-tying field goal. Then Vinatieri won the game in overtime. Patriots fans rejoiced, and Raiders fans have cried foul ever since.

Brady returns to New England

After spending 20 seasons with the Patriots, Brady returned as a visiting player Oct. 3, 2021. In typical Brady fashion, he led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to pick up yet another win, his first and only victory over his former franchise.

Brady finished the contest with modest numbers, completing 22-of-43 passes for 269 yards. Brady did not throw any touchdowns or interceptions during the 19-17 win. He also broke the NFL record for most passing yards in the first quarter. Brady called the experience "surreal" during a postgame interview with NBC's Michele Tafoya.

Brady hyped up the game on social media, calling it his "homecoming." Patriots fans came out to support Brady, wearing his jersey and cheering for him up until game time. On his first drive, Brady actually heard a few boos.

After ignoring each other during the contest, Belichick and Brady had a lengthy talk after the game. That chat was planned, and the two met for roughly 25 minutes in the Buccaneers' locker room. Brady declined to reveal details of that conversation, saying it was private.

Brady wins Ring No. 7 in first season with Buccaneers

Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl ring his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl ring his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Was it Brady or Belichick?

That's the (admittedly dumb) question that followed the greatest coach and quarterback in NFL history after the two split up in the spring of 2020. But Brady scored a big check in his column almost immediately.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV 31-9 over the Kansas City Chiefs behind Brady's MVP performance, going 21 of 29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Moreover, the Bucs themselves gushed about how much influence he had on the team during a challenging COVID campaign, from "football for junkies" to late-night text sessions.

With seven Super Bowl rings — one more than any franchise had itself — Tom Brady effectively put to bed his GOAT status, whether quarterback or even NFL player.

Brady wins No. 4 with incredible comeback against ‘Legion of Boom’

Super Bowl XLIX is largely remembered for Malcolm Butler’s last-moment heroics, but Brady was fantastic in the fourth quarter. His great play put the Patriots in position to win, and for Butler to make his memorable play.

The Patriots and Seahawks were tied 14-14 at halftime, but Seattle put 10 points on the board in the third quarter while New England’s three drives ended interception-punt-punt.

Seattle hadn’t given up more than seven points in the fourth quarter since Week 5 of the regular season, four months earlier. Brady led his team to 14 points in the final quarter.

Fourteen completions against just two incompletions over two drives that totaled 20 plays and 132 yards – Brady just kept the chains moving against one of the best and most famous secondaries in NFL history. He eventually gave the Patriots the lead.

And then came Butler’s big moment. Brady screamed like a child, jumping up and down on the sideline as he realized he would be raising the Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time.

Brady calmly leads a two-minute drill to beat the Rams, win first ring

NFL fans of a certain age will always have a soft spot for John Madden. The late coach and broadcaster with the larger-than-life personality was beloved for his folksy style, punctuating replays with “bam!”

But in the waning minutes of Super Bowl XXXVI, even Madden didn’t believe in Brady.

The Patriots had held “The Greatest Show on Turf” to just 17 points, and were knotted with the Rams 17-17 when Brady and the offense gathered on the field for the final time.

They were starting at their own 17. There was but 1:21 left on the clock. They had no timeouts. On the Fox broadcast, Madden memorably said he thought the Patriots should play it safe and go to overtime.

Enter Brady, the coolest customer this side of a convenience store in Nome, Alaska.

Brady did what we’ve seen him do dozens of times since then, as he methodically marched the Patriots downfield. Five yards to J.R. Redmond. Eight more yards to Redmond. Then 11 yards to Redmond after an incomplete pass. Brady hit Troy Brown for 23 more yards, putting New England in Rams territory. Six yards to Jermaine Wiggins placed the Patriots at the 30. After one last incomplete pass, Brady ceded the field to Adam Vinatieri with seven seconds remaining. Vinatieri nailed the kick. In the span of 19 weeks, Brady had gone from relative unknown to Super Bowl XXXVI MVP and a legend in Massachusetts.

And as it turned out, he was just getting started.

Brady turns 28-3 into fifth Super Bowl title, becomes forever boogeyman

It has been memed. And re-memed. And for pretty much everyone outside of Atlanta, it hasn’t gotten old.


The Patriots were down 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons midway through the third quarter of Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5, 2017. Even to the most diehard Patriots fan it looked like a done deal. How could it not? It’s easy to say now that Brady was at the helm so of course New England had a chance, but how many were saying that around 8:45 p.m. ET that night?

New England got off to an awful start, likely one of its very worst of the Brady Era: punt-punt-fumble-punt-interception. And the interception was an 82-yard pick-six.

Once they got down 28-3, the Patriots had nothing to lose. They went for it on fourth down from their own 46, and picked up 17 yards on a Brady-to-Danny Amendola pass. On the same drive, a third-and-long was picked up when Brady ran for 15 yards; the touchdown cut into the Falcons’ lead a bit, but still, New England was down by 19 to start the fourth.

And still.

We all know what happened next. The 39-year old quarterback, the man who will forever carry the chip of being the 199th pick in the 2000 draft, the two-time league MVP who was forced to sit out the first four games of the season after a protracted fight against the league and its commissioner over his alleged involvement in the possible deliberate manipulation of air pressure in balls, the son who navigated the season with a heavy heart as his mother battled cancer, did it again. He put his team on his back and carried it, up a mountain no other team has come close to scaling in a Super Bowl, all the way to the top.

And then he took in the view.

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