What was the point of Tom Brady's final season?

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With seven Super Bowl rings on his fingers and a one-way ticket to the Hall of Fame in hand, Tom Brady has finally called an end to his playing days in the NFL.

The question is, why did Brady play at all in 2022?

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The past calendar has been something of a whirlwind for Brady, even by the lofty standards of a player who has long been a living legend and the face of the league.

On Feb. 1, 2022 -- the same day Brian Flores filed his landmark racial discrimination lawsuit, in which Brady was later revealed to be a key player -- Brady retired for the first time. The announcement came after days of Brady and his camp forcefully denying reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington that Brady would in fact be calling it a career.

But, not even six weeks later, Brady was back, ending his retirement and confirming he would return to the Bucs. From there, Brady's first order of business was to push out head coach Bruce Arians, with whom he apparently didn't see eye-to-eye.

However, it wasn't Byron Leftwich -- Brady's reputed "co-offensive coordinator" and a hot head coaching candidate -- who took over for Arians, as many would have guessed, but rather defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

It's not exactly clear what the relationship between Brady and Bowles was like, but their pairing would seem to be an odd one at first glance.

Bowles, now getting his second chance as a head coach after washing out with the Jets, was likely to want to run the team to his liking in what could possibly be his last opportunity in that role. Moreover, Bowles is a conservative, defensive-minded coach, while in Brady he was inheriting a sharp-elbowed, prolific-passing veteran quarterback who was unlikely to sit back and let the head coach call all the shots.

While the Bowles-Brady tandem actually never seemed to become an issue, it didn't take long for things to start going wrong for the Bucs from a roster perspective.

The team was already without mercurial star receiver and Brady favorite Antonio Brown after cutting him late in the 2021 season. Rob Gronkowski, another Brady favorite and former Patriots co-star, likewise opted not to return after an injury-marred '21 campaign, while star receiver Chris Godwin's status was uncertain after suffering a torn ACL late in '21.

Perhaps most alarmingly, at least from Brady's perspective, was that the offensive line was in flux due to the surprise retirement of Ali Marpet and season-ending injuries suffered by starters Ryan Jensen and Aaron Stinnie during training camp.

It didn't take long before reports surfaced that Brady looked "miserable" at training camp.

On the one hand, who could blame him? On the other, it didn't exactly bode well for the upcoming season.

Further compounding matters was the apparent troubles in Brady's personal life.

In mid-August, it was reported Brady would be excused from camp for an undetermined amount of time due to "personal reasons." At one point, Bowles even admitted he couldn't say for sure whether Brady would be back at all.

All manner of rumors swirled about as to why Brady was gone. Initially, it was framed as Brady joining his family on a long-planned vacation, but eventually it began to emerge that he was going through marital troubles with wife Gisele Bundchen.

Brady seemed to confirm as much upon his return to the team, when he obliquely told reporters that he had "a lot of shit going on."

"I'm 45 years old, man," he added.

Indeed.

Later, it was reported that Bundchen had given Brady an ultimatum to either choose between his family or his apparent addiction to football. Even with the Bucs' season stuck in neutral, Brady seems to have chosen football. They later confirmed the split, with Brady calling it "amicable."

Meanwhile, Brady's supposedly unparalleled commitment to the game appeared to be wavering, too. He was reported to have missed a walkthrough practice days before his team's Week 6 loss to the Steelers in October, in order to attend Patriots owner Robert Kraft's wedding. Not exactly a development befitting a reputed world-class competitor.

On the field, Brady was still producing at a relatively high level, albeit not quite at his own impossibly high standards. Still, it wasn't translating into dominance for the Bucs, who won the dreadful NFC South despite a losing record. It marked the first time in Brady's illustrious career that he helmed a losing team.

That is a testament to Brady's career brilliance, and there's plenty evidence to suggest he's leaving with more than a little left in the tank in terms of productive play. One question is, would anyone have him?

But it's a moot point, because it seems Brady's heart is no longer in it, or at least not on a middling Bucs team, and while it's admirable for him to recognize that now, it appears he's one year -- and a retirement/unretirement saga -- late on that.

Something doesn't add up, and there's surely more to the story. As Brady himself once admitted, 90 percent of what he says publicly is a lie anyway.

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