‘I had slim hope and had my fingers crossed’: Bruce Arians got his Tom Brady wish

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady calls a play against the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 23.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady calls a play against the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 23 in the NFC divisional playoffs. Brady announced his retirement in the days after the game, but he now says he’s coming back.
(Jason Behnken / Associated Press)

After 22 seasons and a record seven Super Bowl rings, Tom Brady began a new chapter Sunday of his storied NFL career.


The 44-year-old quarterback is coming back to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers less than two months after announcing his retirement. Citing “unfinished business,” he announced the news on social media.

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” he wrote. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”


The news came a day after Brady attended a Manchester United soccer game. That team, along with the Buccaneers, is owned by the Glazer family.

Tom Brady announced his retirement Tuesday at age 44. The quarterback was the embodiment of success and amazement during his 22 seasons in the NFL.

Feb. 1, 2022

Reached at home by the The Times on Sunday, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Brady had given him the heads-up before publicly announcing his decision to return.

“It’s great news,” Arians said. “The city’s going crazy. Our players are excited. Obviously the whole organization is pumped up again. When does the best ever retire and then come back to you? Especially with the way he was playing last year.”

Brady, the oldest player in the league and the only quarterback to play in (and win) a Super Bowl in his 40s, was coming off a spectacular season in which he threw for a career-high 5,316 yards and also set new bests for completions (485) and attempts (719). He made a strong case for a fourth most valuable player award but lost to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

The Buccaneers fell short in their attempt to defend their Super Bowl title, losing in the divisional round to the eventual champion Rams.

Arians said that for weeks he was holding out hope that Brady would reconsider.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians celebrates with Tom Brady after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians celebrates with Tom Brady after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021.
(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

“I had slim hope and had my fingers crossed for a long time,” the coach said. “We stayed in touch. Tom’s an easy guy to stay in touch with. I got a heads-up and was just waiting for the day.”

Some people speculated that Brady might resurface with the San Francisco 49ers, his favorite team as a kid growing up in San Mateo.

Earlier this month, Arians foreclosed on the idea of letting Brady play for another team, calling it “bad business.” Asked what it might take to pry loose the quarterback known as the “GOAT” — Greatest Of All Time — the coach playfully floated his idea of a fair deal.

“Five No. 1s,” he said. “Maybe.”

When he announced his retirement Feb. 1, Brady wrote: “My playing career has been such a thrilling ride, and far beyond my imagination, and full of ups and downs. When you’re in it every day, you really don’t think about any kind of ending. As I sit here now, however, I think of all the great players and coaches I was privileged to play with and against — the competition was fierce and deep.”

Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young was not surprised the allure of the game drew Brady back.

“No matter how anyone on the street wants to think it feels, you haven’t lived with what it feels like to play great football and to face the challenge,” Young said. “And then when it goes away. … Life is sublime and wonderful with family and everything else, but there’s nothing like that. There’s nothing that you can concoct to be like that. Once you see it end — and I don’t care who it is — you fall off a cliff.


“Emotionally, you plan, you plan, you plan. Then you get away a month or two and you’re like, hey, no, no, no.”

Even though concussion issues abruptly ended his own career, Young said he completely understands what Brady likely is feeling.

“You’re the greatest of all time, and then the next day you’re not great at anything,” Young said. “What you’re greatest at, that’s now behind you. What’s in front of you, you’re not even good at very much. There’s humility to retirement.”

Arians understands and has an appreciation of what unretirement can bring. After all, he retired after he was fired as offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers in early 2012. He only returned to the NFL after friend Chuck Pagano asked him to join his Indianapolis Colts staff.

So what happened after that?

Arians became the first interim coach to be named the NFL’s coach of the year, won that award again as coach of the Arizona Cardinals, then led the Buccaneers to a Lombardi Trophy.