FREE NEWSLETTER

Walking Away

Howard Rohleder

IN PROFESSIONAL sports, superlatives are often overdone. Even the GOAT designation—greatest of all time—is sometimes applied prematurely. But love him or hate him, Tom Brady is arguably the GOAT among NFL quarterbacks and perhaps among all NFL players. For proof, look no further than his collection of record-breaking statistics, Super Bowl rings and most valuable player awards.

Could it be that he has added another GOAT designation with his epic fail at retirement? Brady reversed his retirement announcement from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after just 40 days. What did he figure out in those 40 days that changed his plans? The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median NFL player career is six years. Brady has played for 22. Didn’t he know that retirement was coming?

Maybe it’s a matter of finances. Despite earning in a few years what most people earn in a lifetime, an unfortunate number of NFL players file bankruptcy after their football days are over. Tom and his wife Gisele reportedly have $26 million worth of homes in various states. Perhaps they neglected to factor the mortgage payments into their retirement plan. Maybe they miscalculated how much early retirees pay for health coverage. Perhaps they forgot to fund 529 plans for the kids’ college. Still, with a reported individual net worth of $250 million, coupled with his wife’s $400 million, I’m guessing Brady doesn’t need the paycheck.

In a HumbleDollar article last October, Mike Drak described “failing” retirement because he didn’t recognize in advance what retirement would mean for his identity and sense of purpose. For Brady, maybe we shouldn’t discount the feeling that comes with having millions of fans scream his name at every snap.

Brady’s stated reason for reversing his retirement decision was “unfinished business.” The fans take this to mean he wants another Super Bowl win. This speaks to Brady finding his life’s purpose in his work. He reportedly has other business interests and could readily step into a variety of post-NFL careers. We have to presume that, even at age 44, none of these other career options has the appeal or the competitive juice Brady finds in throwing the football to players half his age.

With any job, there’s always unfinished business. The question is whether you can walk away from it. If you were hit by a bus, chances are the business would continue without you. Will the NFL struggle to survive without Brady on the field? It’s doubtful.

Regardless of your work, there’s something to be said for going out at the top of your game. Being originally from Detroit, I remember running back Barry Sanders, a near GOAT, who walked away from the game in his prime. Tom Brady probably still has it. But it would be unfortunate if he plays so long that he ends up tarnishing his brilliant career.

Browse Articles

Subscribe
Notify of
6 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
excel lent
excel lent
10 months ago

When Brett Favre came over to the Vikings that first year, he almost got them to their best chance at a winnable Super Bowl. Vikings fans were crushed again, but if you have something left in the tank, go for it.

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
10 months ago

I think “going out on top” is an admirable objective but is overrated. I was director of a large IT organization and wanted to retire when things were going really well. I was able to do so thanks to the hard work of a great staff and the blessings of the Good Lord. However, 11 years later, my job no longer defines me and I do not believe the status of my organization when I retired matters much (it did at the time).

I know people whose careers ended in less than good circumstances and that does not seem to bother them. They seem content and happy with life and well they should.

The Drake
The Drake
10 months ago

If your work defines your life you’re missing the point of life. Of course not everyone sees life the same way as Brady does. To each his own. He is the GOAT and I doubt he will diminish his reputation by playing too long. His standards are far beyond our expectations.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
10 months ago

Athletes who “unretire” usually don’t play at their previous level, and it can be painful to watch. There’s a lot to be said for hanging it up when you’re at the top.

Still, you have to be a little in awe of the sheer competitive drive of Brady—to willingly subject his 44 year old body to more pounding when he could be doing anything in the world instead. Some folks just have a different DNA set than the rest of us mortals.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Forsythe
Chazooo
Chazooo
10 months ago

Muhammad Ali comes to mind…

Mark Royer
Mark Royer
10 months ago

Good point. I recall O.J. Simpson hanging on too long and getting beat out as the 49ers starting running back by Paul Hofer. Who? Exactly. Good player and a fan favorite, but not a GOAT.

Free Newsletter

SHARE