When Tom Brady jogged off the field at Raymond James Stadium for what may be his last time as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the violent playoff defeat, he took off his cap and waved briefly to the fans.
His season with the Florida team was certainly over after the 14:31 against the Dallas Cowboys, his time with the Buccaneers was likely and possibly even as an active football professional in the NFL. The 45-year-old's career end (again) is not out of the question, and US media have also been speculating about a move to another NFL team for some time.
"I'm going home and I'll try to sleep as well as possible tonight," Brady said at the press conference in response to a question about further proceedings and the speculation about his future that is now growing. "There was a lot of focus on this game. It's one day at a time, really." It just feels like the end of the season.
Last game of Tom Brady?
When, after a little more than four minutes of questions and answers, in a black sweatshirt and another cap on his head, he thanked the journalists, it seemed as if he was deliberately avoiding any reference to his future - despite an "I love this organization" towards his at least current employer. "I thank you for the respect shown and I hope I was able to return the same. Thank you very much" were his last words.
In any case, the end of the playoffs did not provide arguments for a fourth season with the Buccaneers. At half time the team was 0:18 behind, the hosts didn't do anything offensively. "It was typical of how we played all year. Not very effective in passing, not good in running. It's hard to be a good team when you play like that," Brady said.
Buccaneers too harmless against Cowboys
Even the main round was a disappointment, in the 23rd NFL year of his career he experienced more defeats than successes in the main round for the first time with only 8 wins in 17 games. While Dak Prescott shone and celebrated on the other side with four touchdown passes and one touchdown, Brady's facial expression became more and more dissatisfied and helpless. For a long time, the Bucs didn't develop any danger at all against the Cowboys and even after the first touchdown at the end of the third quarter they were largely without a chance. "We didn't want to end it like that. Tough night," Brady said.
Instead of going head-to-head with his childhood favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers, in the Divisional round next weekend, Brady's time to really start making decisions about his future. US media recently reported that at least three teams were interested in the services of the most successful player in the history of the league, including the Las Vegas Raiders with Stuttgart's Jakob Johnson. Both were teammates with the New England Patriots, and Raiders coach Josh McDaniels was one of Brady's most important contacts at the time.
Brady's resignation from retirement
Brady had already ended his career a year ago. After narrowly losing to eventual champion Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round, he announced his decision in a long statement on social media - but changed his mind just 40 days later and announced his resignation and another attempt with the Bucs on his eighth Super Bowl triumph.
But he's never been as far from it as this season in his entire time in Florida. "Sometimes you get lucky but more often than not the team that deserves it wins and they played well today," he told the Cowboys. He and the Bucs didn't do that that night and this season, however.