(Note: This story was first published last year when Tom Brady announced his first retirement after the 2021 season. He unretired and played one more season. He made what appears to be a more definitive retirement announcement Wednesday morning. Here is an updated version of the story we originally published.
We admire it. We revel in it. We celebrate it.
Greatness, thy name is Tom Brady
The greatest quarterback to ever lace ‘em up has decided to retire after 23 historic seasons in the National Football League. Brady will leave with a ridiculous number of records, including the most passing yards (89,214), the most touchdown passes (649), the most regular-season wins (251), the most postseason wins (35), the most Super Bowl appearances (10), wins (7) and MVPs (5), and the most Pro Bowl selections (15).
He was also the greatest fantasy football quarterback of all time.
It all started on a fateful night on Sept. 23, 2001, in a Week 2 contest against the New York Jets at the old Foxboro Stadium. With 5:11 remaining in the game, Drew Bledsoe took a third-down snap and ran up the sidelines attempting to gain a first down. Before he was able to reach the line to gain, he was leveled by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.
Bledsoe was forced to leave the game, giving way to a sixth-round pick out of Michigan who didn’t come with a whole lot of fanfare. In fact, I remember writing a column about how Bledsoe’s absence would hurt the fantasy value of guys like Troy Brown and David Patten. Of course, the opposite would be true, and the legacy of Brady would begin.
Brady wasn’t a fantasy superstar right out of the gates, however. He finished his first season as a starter ranked 19th in fantasy points among quarterbacks. He would go on to rank 10th, 13th and 11th at the position based on points in the next three seasons.
That somewhat of a slow start in the stat sheets would then give way to greatness.
Brady wouldn’t rank outside of the top seven in fantasy points among quarterback in each of his next seven NFL seasons (he missed most of 2008 with an injured knee).
During that stretch, he averaged over 18 fantasy points four times and had three years with an average of 20-plus points per game. That might not sound like much based on the outrageous numbers we’re used to these days, but those were solid totals back then.
During the 2007 season, Brady threw what would become a career-best 50 touchdown passes and broke the record of 49 held by Peyton Manning (2004). He finished with 40 or more touchdown passes three times, including in each of his final two seasons at the ages of 43 and 44. Brady is one of just two quarterbacks in the history of the league to have at least three seasons with 40 or more touchdown passes in his NFL career.
The other is Aaron Rodgers.
Brady also threw for 5,235 yards during the 2011 season, which ranked second all-time in NFL history at the time. Drew Brees threw for a league-record 5,476 yards during that same year. Peyton Manning broke the record in 2013, throwing for 5,477 yards.
Brady would endure some less-than-stellar fantasy seasons during his final seven years in New England, finishing outside of the top 12 three different times, but he also ranked second (2015) and third (2017) in points among quarterbacks in that time.
In 2020, Brady decided to part ways with the Patriots after six Super Bowl titles and nine appearances. He would land in Tampa Bay, where he incredibly was even better in the stat sheets. During those three years – despite being in his early 40s -- Brady threw for a league-high 14,643 combined yards with 108 touchdown passes (third-most behind Patrick Mahomes and Rodgers). He also had 984.4 points, which ranked fifth among field generals.
In 2021, Brady led the league with 5,316 yards and threw for 43 touchdowns. His 374.7 points was the second-most he’s produced in a single season in his career and set a fantasy record for the most points scored by a player in his 40s. His ‘22 swan song saw Brady take a step back: He passed for 4,694 yards and 25 touchdowns, with a fantasy output of 271.7 points.
Brady holds the top five highest fantasy point totals in NFL history for a player who is at least 40 years old. The other players in the top 10 in this category include Brees (2019, 2020), Brett Favre (2009), Warren Moon (1997) and Jerry Rice (2002).
The G.O.A.T. leaves the game as the highest-scoring player in the history of fantasy football with 5,944.4 points, and he wasn’t a “compiler” either. In fact, he scored more points in each of his first two seasons in Tampa Bay than he had in any of his final four years in New England. Like a fine wine, Brady just got better with age and further cemented his place as the best quarterback in pro football and fantasy football lore.
Bucs without Brady? Uh-oh
Now for the bad news.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay and fantasy fans, the loss of Brady could signal the end of the Buccaneers’ recent run of success both in the regular season and postseason.
Brady’s absence almost guarantees that Rob Gronkowski won’t be making a surprise unretirement. Kyle Trask, a second-round draft pick in 2022, attempted nine passes asa rookie but few think he is the future in Tampa. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will see their fantasy value plummet without Brady throwing to them.
For the time being, let’s celebrate Brady’s career and accomplishments. We have been blessed to see the greatest quarterback in the history of the league, and we’ll probably never see another field general have even close to the same level of success both on the field and from a fantasy perspective. But as we look ahead to the Buccaneers fantasy prospects for 2022 and beyond, the greatness they’ve lost could be elusive.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!