Tom Brady is gone, but he won’t be forgotten. You’ll never be able to forget him, in fact, because whether he pops up as an analyst, coach, or pitchman, we’ll see that mug everywhere for all time even when NFL media isn’t beating us over the head with Super Bowl highlights. Through his infuriating, seemingly endless greatness, Brady has become a permanent part of the NFL landscape, and you’d better gird your loins for never entirely being rid of him.
He’s no longer capable of hurting other teams on the field, though, as he made his retirement official today. That retirement blows a huge hole in the hull of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one they’ll struggle to plug with Kyle Trask.
I’m not going to engage in any hagiography with Brady’s career—you won’t be able to escape that, either—but suffice to say Falcons fans has plenty of reason to dislike him and did. His retirement is the sole gift he’s ever given this fanbase, and while it’s extremely belated, we’ll take it. That retirement also completes a startling, speedy detonation of the NFC South, one that has seen the winningest coach in the division hang it up and one of the best quarterbacks of all time leave, and once the dust settles there will be four weakness-riddled football teams in this division.
I think any one of those teams can now credibly talk themselves into winning the division. The Panthers have enough quality pieces on defense and in their offensive supporting cast to think they can at least be a so-so team with better coaching (eh) and a better quarterback (more doable), and being so-so might win this thing. The Saints are a solid coach and a quarterback upgrade away from at least contending themselves, while the Buccaneers can at least surrounded Kyle Trask or their TBD starter with a diminished but still capable roster. The Falcons have the sole established quarterback now and could, with a really good offseason, also be at least solid and vault themselves into contention in perhaps the weakest division in football in 2022. Whether this moves up the timetable for Atlanta and forces them to consider making some win-now moves in light of the opportunity remains to be seen, but my expectation at the moment is that some team is going to win the NFC South at 8-8-1 and it might even be Atlanta.
We’ll see where things stand after the offseason, though. For now, just be glad we won’t ever have to see the Falcons play Tom Brady again, assuming he stays retired.