Tom Brady is in the Super Bowl. Again. He is 43-years-old. He is still playing professional football at a high level. February 7 will mark his 10th Super Bowl appearance. He marches on with the inevitability of Thanos and the golden glow of Thor. It should be impossible, and yet there Brady will be on Super Bowl Sunday yet again.
And every year, every fan in the league plays a game that, to this point, has only ended in pain: Will this be the year Brady retires? The answer last year, as it had been every year prior, was no. Instead of retiring after his worst season in years ended in a noncompetitive Wild Card Weekend loss, he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There is no indication he plans to retire after this year's success.
According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, he does not plan to retire after next year at this junction, either.
Brady has proclaimed for several years now his intention to play until he was 45-years-old. The season he turns that age will be the final year of his Bucs contract. It seems like a natural ending point for an illustrious career, regardless of what happens between then and now.
But we've also said that two or three times already about Brady and he's still out there carving up zone defenses like he was a decade younger. Do any of us believe he'll actually walk out of that door and head to the old QB farm when the time appears right? I don't think so. Not willingly.
Brady will play until he is dragged kicking and screaming out that door. It doesn't matter if he somehow conjures up another MVP season and caps it off with a ring. He doesn't care about going out on top. Brady will play until he personally believes he cannot anymore. If he gets to the Super Bowl, or close to it, every year for the duration of his Bucs contract (not an unlikely scenario given the strength of his supporting cast), would he really walk away? No. The man is addicted to winning.
There are two ways Tom Brady retires. He either gets hurt severely enough that he realizes playing professional football as a middle-aged man is a terrible idea (the worst-case scenario) or his team sputters to an average record and misses the playoffs entirely because Brady was unable to drag them there. The latter scenario is the only way Brady will be jolted into realizing his talents are not what they are anymore, and to continue on the path would be folly. Even then, it's not a sure thing. Brady is not a player destined to ride off into the sunset on the high of a championship. That would have happened after the 2018 championship if Brady was content with that ending. He will go and go until the wheels fall off.
As Darlington notes, Brady's family will be the biggest factor taken into consideration when the quarterback evaluates when to hang them up. He is a Family Man. That's the wild card here. Despite whatever Brady's plans are for the next two seasons and beyond, if Giselle tells him to put away the cleats, he will probably do it. No way to predict that. But if it's up to Brady, the man will play until he is physically incapable of doing so. Apparently, that is far longer than anyone ever thought was possible.