New England Patriots

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 12: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates a 58-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman #16 (not pictured) in overtime against the Buffalo Bills at Raymond James Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Who squealed? Who’s the rat? Smoke them out!

That’s what Tom Brady may be trying to figure out at the moment, because it seems that someone leaked his impending retirement announcement to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington. The latter reported on Saturday that Brady is retiring after the best 22 seasons any football player has ever delivered. That led to the predictable and appropriate outpouring of tributes and stories about the Greatest of All Time.

It wasn’t long before a flurry of reports suggested that Brady hasn’t made his final decision on retirement. The easy take was to assume that Schefter, whose reputation has taken a bit of a hit since his “Mr. Editor” controversy in Washington, simply got this one wrong.

But the truth seems to lie in more of a gray area. Because, you know, gray areas are often a thing and life is never as simple as some people on the internet want it to be. The latest on Brady from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is evidence enough of that.

  • “Nobody has actually denied that Tom Brady plans to retire,” Rapoport said. “There have been statements that sound like denials … everyone has said, not ‘no’ but not yet.”

    Note that one of the later reports disputing Schefter’s original bomb, from Rick Stroud, said that Brady “has not informed the Bucs of his plans to retire.” Not that he did inform the Bucs that he’s not retiring. See the difference?

    That’s what Rapoport is ostensibly confirming, here. That Brady is in fact going to retire, and just hasn’t made it official with anyone yet.

  • TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 19: Head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watch from the sidelines during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    TAMPA, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 19: Head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watch from the sidelines during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    This all adds up to someone spoiling the surprise, spilling the beans. Schefter and/or Darlington got someone legit to talk. Same with Rapoport.

    But the problem, for Brady, is that he lost control of the story, and that’s obviously something important to him. He probably wanted to announce it his own way, perhaps at the end of his Man in the Arena documentary on ESPN+. It’s unlikely he really wanted the news getting out via tweets from Schefter.

    So, for now, he can say he hasn’t retired, hasn’t decided. He’s technically correct, the best kind of correct. And he can dupe people into believing he actually took this little pocket of time to “decide,” before finally announcing it himself.

    If Brady wasn’t actually retiring, and wanted people to know, he could have solved that problem with a single tweet. So the only logical explanation is that he is waiting to announce his retirement on his own terms.

  • FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 03: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waves to the crowd as he runs off the field after defeating the New England Patriots in the game at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 03: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waves to the crowd as he runs off the field after defeating the New England Patriots in the game at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    So, for now, the report that Brady intends to retire stands. The most likely explanation of Saturday’s craziness is that the retirement announcement leaked before Brady could make his own grand announcement.

    Perhaps not the most fair to Brady, but Schefter and Darlington are reporters, not his PR team. If they have it down cold and know it for a fact, then they should report it. They did.

    Brady should blame whoever squawked to ESPN, rather than the messengers. Not that he’s blaming anyone. Enough people are doing that for him.

    Ultimately, this boils down to Brady still retiring. As much as people may want ESPN to be wrong.