Tom Brady announced his retirement from the NFL after 22 seasons this week, closing the book on a storied career that included 15 Pro Bowls, three MVPs and a record seven Super Bowl wins, including one in 2020 at age 43. He didn't step down because of diminished physical talent, however, finishing his 22nd season as one of the league's top passers while trying to lead the Buccaneers to a repeat as world champions.
Where does Brady's final season rank among the best send-off years in NFL history? In honor of his 22 years under center, here are 22 of the greatest individual finales, including that of TB12 himself:
22. Luke Kuechly (Panthers LB)
Final season: 2019
Notable numbers: 144 tackles, 2 INTs
Injuries forced the tackle machine out of Carolina's defense, but he remained an elite presence right before he hung it up, notching his seventh straight All-Pro honors.
21. Charles Woodson (Raiders S)
Final season: 2015
Notable numbers: 74 tackles, 5 INTs, 4 FRs
The former corner fought through injuries to go All-Pro at the back end of the Raiders' secondary.
20. Calvin Johnson (Lions WR)
Final season: 2015
Notable numbers: 88 catches, 1,214 yards, 9 TDS
Like another Lions great who went out on top (more on him below), "Megatron" remained a clear-cut No. 1 when he called it quits.
19. Roger Staubach (Cowboys QB)
Final season: 1979
Notable numbers: 3,586 yards, 27 TDs, 11 INTs, 92.3 rating
Staubach led the Cowboys to an 11-5 finish and NFC East title at age 38, and his yardage and TD totals were career highs.
18. Jamir Miller (Browns LB)
Final season: 2001
Notable numbers: 101 tackles, 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss
Miller made little noise as a Cardinals linebacker but exploded in Cleveland before an injury ended his career, earning an All-Pro nod and Defensive Player of the Year buzz.
17. Kurt Warner (Cardinals QB)
Final season: 2009
Notable numbers: 3,753 yards, 26 TDs, 14 INTs, 93.2 rating
A year after guiding Arizona to the Super Bowl, Warner threatened to do it again at 38, leading a 10-6 finish and throwing five TDs in the Cardinals' playoff win over the Packers.
16. Andrew Luck (Colts QB)
Final season: 2018
Notable numbers: 4,593 yards, 39 TDs, 15 INTs, 98.7 rating
Just 29 when he abruptly retired prior to 2019, Luck guided a 10-6 finish and playoff win for the Colts while setting career highs in passes (639), completion percentage (67.3) and QB rating. He was second in the NFL in TD passes and fifth in yards, posting numbers comparable to the 2021 versions of Matthew Stafford, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes.
15. Pete Pihos (Eagles TE)
Final season: 1955
Notable numbers: 62 catches, 864 yards, 7 TDs
Technically an end in the pre-tight end era, Pihos led the NFL in catches and yards as one of the top pass catchers of his time.
14. Barry Sanders (Lions RB)
Final season: 1998
Notable numbers: 1,491 yards (4.3 yards per carry), 4 TDs
Before hanging it up at 31, the shifty all-star led the NFL in carries and finished fourth in rushing yards just one year after topping 2,000.
13. Tiki Barber (Giants RB)
Final season: 2006
Notable numbers: 1,662 yards (5.1 yards per carry), 5 TDs
The NFL's fourth-leading rusher at 31, he logged his fifth straight 1,000-yard season to help lead the Giants to the playoffs.
12. Jerome Brown (Eagles DT)
Final season: 1991
Notable numbers: 9 sacks, 2 FRs
A staple of Buddy Ryan's dominant defensive line alongside Reggie White, Brown was right in the thick of his prime as an All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year candidate before a fatal car crash at 27 prior to the 1992 season.
11. Don Hutson (Packers WR)
Final season: 1945
Notable numbers: 47 catches, 834 yards, 9 TDs
The numbers may look modest today, but in the 1940s, they were gaudy. The top target on "Curly" Lambeau's Packers, he led the NFL in catches and finished second in yards, TDs and yards per game (83.4).
10. Bobby Boyd (Colts CB)
Final season: 1968
Notable numbers: 8 INTs
The top cover man for the Baltimore Colts at the time, Boyd was an All-Pro catalyst for the team's 1968 NFL championship.
9. "Spec" Sanders (Yanks DB)
Final season: 1950
Notable numbers: 13 INTs
Yes, the Yanks. "Spec" originally played QB and RB in the All-America Football Conference, an NFL rival, before the New York Yanks -- an actual NFL team that lasted only a few years -- lured him out of retirement. He only played on defense due to knee issues and proceeded to lead the league in picks before hanging it up again.
8. Sterling Sharpe (Packers WR)
Final season: 1994
Notable numbers: 94 catches, 1,119 yards, 18 TDs
Before a neck injury ended his career, the older brother of longtime tight end Shannon Sharpe starred as Brett Favre's top weapon, posting the second-most receiving TDs in NFL history at that point.
7. Robert Smith (Vikings RB)
Final season: 2000
Notable numbers: 1,521 yards (5.2 yards per carry), 10 TDs
The former first-rounder exploded on his way out, totaling more rushing yards than NFL MVP Marshall Faulk en route to All-Pro honors and Offensive Player of the Year consideration before retiring at 28.
6. Cecil Isbell (Packers QB)
Final season: 1942
Notable numbers: 2,021 yards, 24 TDs, 14 INTs, 87.0 rating
In his fifth and final NFL season, Isbell easily outpaced the entire league through the air long before passing became the focal point it is today, leading the NFL in yards and TDs while going 8-2-1 under "Curly" Lambeau.
5. Tom Brady (Buccaneers QB)
Final season: 2021
Notable numbers: 5,316 yards, 43 TDs, 12 INTs, 102.1 rating
A year after winning his seventh Super Bowl and contending for MVP, the 44-year-old Brady set career highs in passes (719) while leading the NFL in yards and TDs, coming within 200 yards of breaking the single-season record for yardage. He led Tampa Bay to a 13-4 finish and his record 35th all-time playoff win.
4. John Elway (Broncos QB)
Final season: 1998
Notable numbers: 2,806 yards, 22 TDs, 10 INTs, 93.0 rating
Elway was more like a top-10 QB than top-three QB a la Brady, leaning on a 2,000-yard season from Terrell Davis, but his finish gives him the edge, as he won Super Bowl MVP to claim a second straight title in a big-game rout of the Falcons.
3. Otto Graham (Browns QB)
Final season: 1955
Notable numbers: 1,721 yards, 15 TDs, 8 INTs, 94.0 rating
The numbers look paltry today, but consider he also had six scores rushing and led the NFL in passer rating, claiming his third MVP and, most importantly, guiding a second straight championship to cap a 9-2-1 season. Graham's title-winning finish marked his Browns' record sixth straight appearance in the NFL Championship.
2. Jim Brown (Browns RB)
Final season: 1965
Notable numbers: 1,544 yards (5.3 yards per carry), 17 TDs, 328 receiving yards, 4 TDs
The future Hall of Famer won NFL MVP for his all-purpose dominance at the finish line, leading the NFL in carries, yards, rushing TDs and rushing yards per game, powering an NFL-best 11-3 finish for Cleveland, as well as a trip to the NFL Championship.
1. Norm Van Brocklin (Eagles QB)
Final season: 1960
Notable numbers: 2,471 yards, 24 TDs, 17 INTs, 86.5 rating
If you wanna go out, you wanna go out like Norm. Second in yards and TDs behind only Johnny Unitas, Van Brocklin set career highs in TDs and QB rating to win NFL MVP, lead the Eagles to a 10-2 finish -- their best in 11 years -- and capture the NFL Championship with a fourth-quarter comeback over Vince Lombardi's Packers. Before instantly transitioning to the sidelines as the Vikings' head coach, "The Dutchman" was given full control of the Eagles' offense and let it fly, retiring at 34 having just teased his peak as a gunslinger ahead of his time.