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Tom Brady’s retirement leaves a void the next generation can’t fill

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The New York Jets had the best reaction when Tom Brady confirmed his retirement on Tuesday. After all, there was no franchise arguably more tortured, more humiliated by the quarterback in his 22-year career than these Jets.

“It better be real,” the Jets tweeted.

He is. And I wish it wasn’t.

No one can blame Brady for leaving the NFL at 44. He is already widely recognized as the greatest quarterback of all time. His accomplishments, particularly his seven Super Bowl rings (the most by a player in league history), may never be surpassed.

But don’t mind if I’m a little disappointed.

Just five months ago, Brady embraced the idea that he could play until he was 50. “I think I can,” Brady said on a podcast in September. Yes, Brady would come back to that remark soon, but if anyone could, it was Brady. He’s a man who, in the just-concluded regular season, led the league in passing yards with a career-high 5,316 yards. Game 17 helps inflate that mark, of course, although it bears repeating: the guy is 44.

But since that joke about playing another six years, Brady has reconsidered. He wants to spend more time with his family and immerse himself in interests outside of football. And that’s more than his right.

His retirement leaves an unusual void. It’s not often you see someone universally regarded as the GOAT — the greatest of all time — retiring when they’re still considered among the best. And while there’s no denying the NFL has a vibrant and entertaining group of young stars led by Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes who’s posting incredible numbers at quarterback, make no mistake: Brady is still in class. apart.

“I have always believed that the sport of football is an ‘all inclusive’ proposition – if there is not 100% competitive commitment you will not be successful, and success is what I love so much. in our game,” Brady said. in a report. “I’m not going to make this competitive commitment anymore.”

Football will not only survive, it will undoubtedly thrive without Brady, just as the NBA was doing well after Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and a new generation of stars rose to prominence.

But with all due respect to Mahomes and his generation, they are missing something that made Brady so memorable. Brady was fun to root against.

So your team didn’t approach the Super Bowl? That’s okay – most years you could watch just to cheer on whoever was on the sidelines in front of Brady (it’s not that the applause against him made a big difference). There were good reasons why Brady so often topped lists and polls of the NFL’s most hated players.

The chiseled face, the model wife. The healthier lifestyle you are. Temper tantrums on the sidelines. The scandals – from Spygate to Deflategate – bothered some, others didn’t like his apparent embrace of Donald Trump. If you were a fan of any other NFL team other than the New England Patriots or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you’re probably sick of everything he won.

Growing up as a Denver Broncos fan, I couldn’t help but hate Brady — and that was long before Peyton Manning signed with Denver and kicked this rivalry into high gear.

For me, the most disrespectful moment of Brady’s career wasn’t a pass, a touchdown or a celebration. It was during the 2011-12 playoffs when, with three minutes to go and the Patriots leading the Broncos 45-10, Brady suddenly threw the ball 48 yards downfield in third-and-10, putting the ball on the 10-yard line.

The result was so in hand — so assured — that coach Bill Belichick purposely had Brady throw early rather than just dial in a short run and launch his punt team downfield. And the Patriots could easily do that because of their dominance.

A fight, unsurprisingly, ensued.

“Look at that!” CBS’ Jim Nantz said as Brady’s punt went through the air. “He’s going to love this.”

What I wouldn’t give now for another punt from Brady. Another pass from Brady. Another two-minute manual exercise.

At some point, I got over my “hatred” of Brady. This job pretty much requires you to leave the fandom at the door, but it also goes beyond that. There was something dazzling about watching Brady in the latter part of his career. The inevitability of Brady’s comebacks in the fourth quarter, the way he could dissect defenses at will, was amazing to see.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Brady walks away now still able to play at an elite level. He’s always prided himself on trying to separate himself from his peers – and indeed he’s different from Manning and Drew Brees, two rivals whose abilities had clearly diminished by the time they chose to retire.

But in case Brady wants to play again? Well, that would be more than fine in my book.

Maybe just be careful telling the Jets.

Matt Paras covers the NFL for The Washington Times.