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12 numbers that help explain Tom Brady’s legendary NFL career

Brady is officially retiring from pro football.

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Exactly one year after his first retirement from pro football — one that lasted only five weeks — Tom Brady has stepped away from the game it again. Whether or not he will come back this time around remains to be seen, but his announcement on Wednesday morning still gives us an opportunity to pay tribute to the greatest quarterback of all time.

A lot will be said about the former New England Patriots legend, but for now let’s just go through his career by breaking it down into numbers. We could literally pick dozens, but here are the 12 that we think are most fitting to paint the picture of his legendary career.

199: If you followed pro football at all over the past two decades, you are probably aware of Tom Brady dropping all the way to the 199th overall selection in the draft. In retrospect that seems like a dubious decision on part of the NFL’s then-31 franchises, but it did make sense: Brady was not the most talented of players, and his senior year at Michigan saw the team try to replace him with Drew Hanson. He found a way to still leave his mark on the team, leading it to an Orange Bowl victory. Nonetheless, six other QBs were famously drafted ahead of him.

4: When Brady arrived in New England in 2000, he was not near the bottom of the depth chart. He was the bottom of the depth chart. As the fourth quarterback on the roster, his career could have taken a different turn had head coach Bill Belichick not seen something in him worth keeping around. So, the Patriots, decided to have Brady as their QB4 for the 2000 season — low-key one of the best decisions in NFL history.

81: By Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady had supplanted Drew Bledsoe as the Patriots’ starting quarterback (thanks to an assist by Mo Lewis). In that role, he led the team to a 14-3 halftime lead over the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams. The NFC champions did come back in the second half, and eventually tied the game at 17 with only 1:30 to go in the fourth quarter. When Brady and company took over at their own 17-yard line, 81 ticks were left on the clock. What followed was a 9-play, 53-yard march to set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal. New England had its first championship, and Brady the title of “Comeback Kid.”

10: In 2014, Tom Brady had gone nine seasons without a Super Bowl win and at age 36 there were questions about his long-term outlook. The Patriots acknowledged those by investing a second-round draft pick in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. No. 10 did not turn into New England’s next franchise quarterback, but his presence and the surrounding narrative lit a fire under Brady that would carry him to three more titles with the Patriots. From that perspective alone, it was a good investment.

12.5: Brady’s career was one of unparalleled success, but it was not without its blemishes and controversies. Most famously, he was at the center of the wackiest scandal in NFL history: Deflategate. The league found the pressure levels inside the Patriots’ footballs for the 2014 AFC title game against Indianapolis too low, quickly accusing team and QB of cheating. The measurements taken that day were easily explained by science — long story short: the atmospheric conditions were to blame — but Brady was still suspended for four games and New England fined two draft picks. In case you’re wondering, his preferred PSI level of 12.5 is within the permitted range.

7: On the list of players owning the most Super Bowl rings, Tom Brady stands alone. He led the Patriots to six championships during his 20 years as their starting quarterback, and also won a title in his first of three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For comparison, no other player has won more than five titles (Charles Haley), and no other QB more than four (Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw).

20: The goal of playing the game of football is easy: to score more points than your opponents. Teams having Tom Brady as their quarterback did that a lot; he left the field a winner on 286 occasions. Success was a constant through most of his career, and it led to some truly outstanding achievements. One of those: Brady-led teams won 20 division titles in his 23 years in the league. The only times in his career he did not earn a hat and T-shirt came in 2000 (backup to Drew Bledsoe), 2002 (starter) and 2008 (torn ACL in the first quarter of the season opener).

45: Brady embraced the Patriots’ one-day-at-a-time mantra upon arriving in New England, but at one point he grew beyond the organizational mindset and began to look ahead. How far? To age 45. Brady stated that it would be his goal to play until that age, and it seemed that he would not reach it when he retired aged 44 last offseason. Five weeks later, he was back to play his age-45 campaign as well. It was not his best, but it allowed him to check that prominent box.

11,870: Tom Brady is a superstar, and one of the most famous athletes in the United States and beyond. Quantifying fame is not an easy thing to do, obviously, but we can at least try — so here goes: Pats Pulpit was founded in 2006, heading into Brady’s sixth season as a starter. Since then and including this one, we have published 11,870 articles mentioning him. That number is pretty abstract, so to put it into perspective: we published 3,173 stories in all of 2022, meaning that we invested roughly 3.74 years worth of coverage into Brady.

383: Earlier today we wrote about Matthew Slater being second all-time among Patriots players with a combined 248 regular season and playoff games. Brady, meanwhile, played 326 games for the organization plus an additional 57 during his three-year campaign in Tampa Bay. The number of games he participated in speaks for his continued excellence, and also his longevity: outside of his torn ACL in 2008 and the four-game Deflategate suspension in early 2016, Brady never missed a start since being promoted to QB1 in 2001.

15,914: A tip of the hat to Tucker Boynton, who came up with this number — one that is truly mind-boggling and one of the most unique achievements in Brady’s career. In his 22 years after moving into the starting gig in New England, he never played a single meaningless snap of football. That means that Brady was in the theoretical hunt for a Super Bowl throughout his entire 15,914-snap career as the Patriots’ and Buccaneers’ starting QB.

317,619,794: Brady retires as the most successful quarterback the league has ever seen, and he also steps away a pretty well-off man. According to Over The Cap, he earned $317,619,794 from contracts alone through his 23 NFL seasons — the highest such mark in NFL history. His per-year average of $13,809,556 is not on the top of the list, though, which can be seen as further proof that he was, in fact, a relative bargain for portions of his career.

If we were to throw in an additional 13th number into the mix, it would be this: 2028, the first year that Brady will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Being the most decorated NFL player of all times, he will make it in on first ballot.

It will be the next chapter in a story that is already unmatched.