So Tom Brady isn't retired after all it seems. The greatest quarterback in NFL history is coming back for a 23rd season even though he had announced on Feb. 1 that he was stepping away from the game. What "unfinished business," as he cited in his return announcement on March 13, remains is anyone's guess. His statistics speak for themselves and his seven Super Bowl rings and postseason play are unmatched.
And it's not like he's still not at the top of his game. At 44 years old, he led the league in both passing yards and touchdowns, finishing second to Aaron Rodgers in the NFL MVP voting in the process. So with that in mind, where does his 2021 season rank among Brady's top 10 passing performances? Here's my list.
(14-2, AFC East champs, beat Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII)
After a 2-2 start, Brady led the Patriots to 15 straight wins and won a shootout with Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme in the Super Bowl. As he did against the Rams two years earlier, Brady led a drive in the final seconds that culminated with a winning Adam Vinatieri field goal.
(14-2, AFC East champs, beat Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX)
The winning streak from 2003 extended to an NFL-record 21 consecutive games as the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in three years. Along the way, Brady threw for 3,692 yards and 28 touchdowns.
(12-4, AFC East champs, lost to Denver in AFC Championship Game)
Brady threw 402 completions and led New England to its fifth consecutive AFC Championship Game (that number was extended to seven). There, a two-point loss to Denver prevented what in hindsight could have been a Super Bowl three-peat.
(13-3, AFC East champs, lost to New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI)
Brady had the first 5,000-yard passing season of his career, throwing for 5,235 yards and averaging a career-best 8.6 yards per attempt.
(13-3, AFC East champs, lost to Philadelphia in Super Bowl LII)
In the offseason, the 40-year-old Brady became the oldest player to grace the cover of the Madden video game franchise, but he did not succumb to its “curse.” Instead, he also became the oldest player to lead the league in passing yards and was named MVP for the third time in his career.
(14-2, AFC East champs, lost to New York Jets in Divisional Round)
Brady threw 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions and finished with a 111.0 passer rating, making him the first quarterback to have a rating over 110 in two different seasons.
(11-5, Wild Card, beat Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV)
Brady overcame the pandemic, joining a new team, and an MCL tear to throw 40 touchdown passes and lead Tampa Bay to its first playoff appearance since 2007. He then won his seventh Super Bowl and became the second starting quarterback to win one with two different teams.
(14-2, AFC East champs, beat Atlanta in Super Bowl LI)
After serving a four-game suspension because of the “Deflategate” scandal, Brady rejoined the team and had one of the finest seasons of his career. He threw 28 touchdowns next to two interceptions and crossed the 110 passer rating threshold for the third time in his career. Oh, and he also led the greatest comeback in NFL history to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI to earn his fifth ring.
(13-4, NFC South Champions, lost to Los Angeles Rams in Divisional Round)
Brady became the all-time leader in passing yards and completions and set the NFL record for most completions in a season with 485. He passed for more than 5,000 yards in a season for the second time in his career and also led the league with 43 touchdown passes.
(16-0, AFC East champs, lost to New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII)
New England acquired Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth in the offseason and Brady showed what he could do with a top-flight receiving corps. He became the first quarterback to throw 50 touchdown passes in a year, leading the Patriots to the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history. Only an unbelievable catch by Giants wide receiver David Tyree kept Brady and New England from realizing perfection, but passing-wise, this season is his best.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.