Pundits stopped bloviating about how great Brady was for his age and insisting he could play into his 50s, as they did when he retired the first time, and began begging him to quit.
“You out here looking like somebody that’s stealing money,” Marcus Spears, a former N.F.L. defensive lineman who is now an ESPN personality, said on a podcast. He added: “Bro, go home, bro. Go home. Figure out something else to do. I know it’s Tom Brady. I know it’s the G.O.A.T. You scared to get hit, and you play football. Those two things don’t align.”
Many debated whether Brady, who was a free agent after the 2022 season, would sign with another team. The San Francisco 49ers, his favorite team as a child in the Bay Area, seem to be a good quarterback away from a Super Bowl appearance. The Las Vegas Raiders have Brady’s longtime offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, as their head coach and many talented offensive players.
“Honestly, after watching tonight’s game, who would want Tom Brady starting on their team next year?” Ryan Clark, a former N.F.L. defensive back who works as an ESPN personality, wrote on Twitter after the Buccaneers’ loss to the Cowboys.
So was coming back in 2022 worth it for Brady? He will likely answer that one day on his podcast or on a Fox broadcast, where he will be a commentator. Brady wasn’t terrible in his final season; he threw for the third-most passing yards in the league and the sixth-highest total of his career. But he was clearly not the player he once was, nor did he have a championship-level team around him. So Brady’s career, which had played out like the perfect Hollywood movie, came to what seemed to be an unsettling end.
“All of us have to go out on our terms, or we won’t be happy, and most of us don’t get to leave on our own terms,” said Smith, who retired after the 2021 season, his 11th in the N.F.L. “They make that decision for you. So I think that it was worth it because he gets to have the closure that he walked away when he was supposed to.”