TAMPA — What’s next for Tom Brady?
“I’m going to go home and get a good night’s sleep, as good as I can tonight,” Brady said after his bid to add to his collection of Super Bowl rings ended on Monday night with a 31-14 thumping from the Dallas Cowboys.
Brady, 45, gave no clue as to whether he’ll retire after 23 NFL seasons. After last season, he retired in early February – then unretired 40 days later.
When asked when he’ll begin the process of deciding on his NFL future, he said, “(There) has been a lot of focus on this game, so yeah … It’s just been one day at a time – truly.”
One thing for certain: The setback in the NFC wild-card game – the first time Brady entered a playoff game on a team with a sub-.500 record and the first time in the postseason that he was a home underdog – would not be the way he’d want to go out.
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“Not the way we wanted to end it,” Brady declared before opening it up for questions at his postgame news conference. “But we didn’t deserve it.”
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Brady threw 66 passes – second-most in NFL postseason history – on a night the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (with the worst-ranked running game in the NFL) logged just 12 rushing attempts. He threw an interception in the red zone for the first time as a Buc, which blew the chance to tighten the game in the first half.
Brady, who completed 35 passes for 351 yards with two late TDs, was far from vintage. Several of his passes were way off the mark – either too short, too wide or too high.
He was not the efficient Brady we’ve seen over the years. Sure, the Cowboys defense had something to do with it. But the Bucs (8-10) didn’t exactly force the issue as Brady lost to the Cowboys for the first time in his career (7-1).
“They played (well) defensively and put a lot of pressure on us and we just couldn’t make enough plays,” Brady said. “Kind of typical of the way we played all year – just inefficient in the passing game and not very good in the run game. It’s hard to beat good teams like that.”
As Brady left the field, he congratulated several Cowboys players, including quarterback Dak Prescott, then jogged toward the tunnel. He removed his baseball cap and tipped it to the fans, then slapped palms with a few fans positioned close to the tunnel.
It was easy to look for clues as he left that could lead to the conclusion that he has played his final game. Asked if his emotions are any different now than they have been in ending previous seasons, Brady offered a quick, non-committal response.
“Yeah, it just feels like the end of the season,” he said.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles similarly was in no mood to ponder Brady’s future in the immediate aftermath of the defeat. Bowles said he expects that he will sit down with Brady for a conversation in the coming weeks.
“Nothing publicly needs to be said right now,” Bowles added.
“You always want every year to end great,” Brady said. “Unfortunately, in sports, it doesn’t work that way. There are 32 teams in the league and they’re all very competitive. Only one of them is really going to feel really good at the end of the year.”
Take it from a man with seven Super Bowl rings…and yet another ending that was far from ideal.