On the final day of the NFL regular season, Aaron Rodgers had a shot to lead the Green Bay Packers to an improbable playoff appearance after an uncharacteristically slow start to the season for the franchise.
Rodgers and the Packers had fallen to 5-8 on the season, but three straight wins got them back into playoff contention. And to seal it, all they had to do was beat the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in their last game. The Lions had already been eliminated by the time the game started, and Green Bay has dominated Detroit, particularly at home, for basically the entire modern era of NFL football.
The Packers played flat, and the Lions desperately wanted to send a message to a division rival for next season.
As the game ended, Rodgers sullenly walked off the field. Lions rookie Jameson Williams had reportedly asked Rodgers about a jersey swap but was told that he’s going to hang onto this one. That, combined with Rodgers’ flirtation with retirement last season and a recent string of disappointing postseason performances ramped up speculation that he could go through with retirement this season.
The Case for Brady Retiring
Although Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers technically made the playoffs, they did so only because their division was the worst in football this season. Someone had to go, and it was Tampa Bay despite finishing with an 8-9 record, identical to Rodgers’ Green Bay record this season.
The team might’ve been better off had they missed the playoffs, though. Tampa Bay was dismantled 31-14 at home by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round. Brady’s 66 pass attempts in that game were the most he’s thrown in a game in his career, and he completed just barely 50 percent of them. He also threw a red zone interception for the first time since he was still a New England Patriot in 2019.
Unlike Rodgers, who just flirted with the idea, Brady did officially announce his retirement last season. It lasted just a little over a month.
But, similar to Rodgers, Brady came back to a Tampa Bay roster that was depleted. The team doesn’t have as many weapons as it did during their Super Bowl season and the defense is worse. Rodgers also suffered from a lack of weapons at the skill positions, particularly missing DaVante Adams, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason.
Could They Play for New Teams Instead of Hanging It Up?
Brady and Rodgers both face similar issues with their current teams – limited flexibility to make the wholesale improvements needed to the roster to contend for Super Bowls immediately. So if both have a desire to play again, they’ll have to do it for new teams.
Brady’s situation is a little easier to figure out, as he will be a free agent if he continues to play. When Brady came out of retirement last season, it came at great personal expense and it was hinted at the time that he wasn’t coming back to just play one more season. Oddsmakers seem to believe that’s true as well, releasing odds on what Brady’s next team will be nearly as soon as the Bucs were eliminated from the playoffs.
Retirement is still an option, of course (currently with +160 odds that he will), but Brady has long been linked to his hometown San Francisco 49ers. After Tampa, the 49ers are a favorite to land his services. Quarterback needy teams like the New York Jets could also scrap their investment in Zach Wilson and turn to the veteran Brady. The Jets have a contending-capable defense, so a veteran star like Brady would make sense to take advantage of that and steady the offense.
Rodgers also has +160 odds to retire, but there are other options for him as well. He’s also from the Bay Area, so the 49ers could be a possibility, as could the Jets. The Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Commanders, and Tennessee Titans are also all teams that could contend with some retooling, and all could use upgrades at quarterback. Rodgers is under contract for a massive amount of money, though, so any new team he ends up on would have to give up assets to get him.
One thing that has been proven with both players is they don’t rush their decisions. So expect both to loom large over the offseason as teams interested in them come up with their recruiting pitches.