Justin Herbert and Maxx Crosby took MVP honours as the AFC landed a fifth consecutive Pro Bowl victory, fending off a fightback to win 41-35 against the NFC in Las Vegas.

At Allegiant Stadium, which staged the game for the first time, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Herbert completed seven of 11 attempts for 98 yards and two touchdowns to take the offensive MVP award.

Herbert said of the game, played in a spirit of bonhomie: "I think it's an awesome opportunity to come out here and play with the greatest football players this game has to offer. I had a lot of fun out there."

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Crosby engaged with the showpiece occasion and made five total tackles, three pass deflections, two sacks, and three tackles for loss, earning the defensive MVP honour.

Last year's match was cancelled due to the pandemic, and this game made up for lost time early on. Kyler Murray threw an early pick-six as Darius Leonard danced his way through to put the AFC ahead. The NFC were soon level as Kirk Cousins found Kyle Juszczyk with a 14-yard pass, only for the AFC to respond in kind when Mark Andrews was found with a 15-yard pass by Herbert.

Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off Patrick Mahomes to take the NFL within one point, only for Myles Garrett to dash in for another TD to widen the gap between the teams. The AFC could not pull away at that point, and Murray's 35-yard touchdown pass for Mike Evans meant it was 22-21 to the AFC early in the second quarter.

Andrews was found by Herbert for a second time as the AFC stretched their lead once more, before Mac Jones found Hunter Renfrow to nudge the AFC 34-21 ahead.

Stefon Diggs helped himself to a touchdown as the AFC opened up a 41-21 lead, before TDs from Kyle Pitts and Dalvin Cook ate into that.

LeBron James was left stunned by Tom Brady's decision to bring his storied NFL career to an end this week, commenting that "a small piece of me definitely left".

After a few days of speculation, Brady announced on Tuesday that he was calling time on his long career at the age of 44.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback decided he could no longer commit himself 100 per cent to the sport.

Brady's retirement saw tributes pour in from all over the sporting world, such has been his impact on the NFL – he holds the record for the most Super Bowl wins (seven) and Super Bowl MVP awards (five).

James returned to NBA action on Saturday after a five-game absence, starring with a triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers sealed an overtime 122-115 win over the New York Knicks, and that gave him the opportunity to join the praise for Brady.

The four-time NBA MVP was almost emotional in response to Brady's retirement, lauding him as one of his inspirations.

"I personally was just so in shock when I saw it," he said post-game. "I was one of the ones who didn't say anything when the first, initial announcement came out. I didn't retweet anything, say anything because I wanted to hear it come from him. Then when he came out with his announcement, I was like… You know?

"As a guy who's kind of been my motivation factor over the last few years, seeing what he's able to do at his age and always kind of being a leader of a team.

"Even at his age, people still gravitate towards him and gravitate towards his energy, and how he prepares and things of that nature.

"So, a small piece of me definitely left when Brady decided to retire, that's for sure."

Doug Pederson has been named as the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL franchise announced on Thursday.

The Jaguars fired the previous man at the helm Urban Meyer back in December after a tumultuous 13-game spell in charge.

Super Bowl-winning coach Pederson was first interviewed by the Jags on December 30 and had a second one on Tuesday. Having spent the 2021 season out of the game, he has now secured a return to the NFL.

The 54-year-old previously spent five seasons at the Philadelphia Eagles between 2016 and 2020, making three playoff appearances and ending with a 42-37-1 record.

It was the 2017 season that was the jewel in Pederson's crown when, after going 13-3 in the regular season, the Eagles survived the loss of starting quarterback Carson Wentz to get through the playoffs and win Super Bowl LII 41-33 against the New England Patriots with backup QB Nick Foles.

Two more playoff appearances would follow but after going 4-11-1 in 2020, Pederson was fired at the end of that season.

"Doug Pederson four years ago won a Super Bowl as head coach of a franchise in pursuit of its first world championship," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said via a team statement. 

"I hope Doug can replicate that magic here in Jacksonville, but what is certain is his proven leadership and experience as a winning head coach in the National Football League. It's exactly what our players deserve. Nothing less.

"Combine this with his acumen on the offensive side of the ball, and you have why I am proud to name Doug Pederson the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I know our fans will warmly welcome Doug and his family to Duval and I personally look forward to having Doug as part of everything we envision for the team, downtown and community in the years ahead."

Mayer's brief tenure was riddled with issues, which included two videos going viral showing him dancing close a woman who was not his wife in Ohio in October.

There were reports of tensions between Meyer and the Jaguars players and coaches which included former kicker Josh Lambo alleging the head coach had kicked him in the leg while stretching in warm-ups prior to a practice.

Pederson inherits a team with a miserable record for over a decade. The Jaguars have lost 10 or more games in 10 of the of their previous 11 seasons, and have gone 4-29 over the previous two which included a 20-game losing streak – representing the second longest in the history of the NFL.

They went 3-14 in 2021 and will have the first pick in the NFL Draft.

The New York Giants insist they decided on their next head coach only after interviewing Brian Flores, disputing claims made in a class action lawsuit he filed against the league.

Flores alleged in the suit that the NFL is rife with racism and has a "disingenuous commitment to social equity".

He is suing the league along with teams at whose hands he claims he experienced racism, naming former team the Miami Dolphins along with the Giants and Denver Broncos as defendants, together with "John Doe Teams 1 through 29".

The NFL said Flores' claims "are without merit", saying it would put up a defence. The three teams named by Flores also rejected his allegations.

Among the allegations made by Flores is that he inadvertently learned he had failed to get the Giants job last week before his interview, which the lawsuit claims was "a sham" that "humiliated" him.

The suit contains screen grabs of an alleged text message conversation between New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Flores, in which Belichick congratulates Flores on what he believes is an impending appointment, only to realise he was messaging the wrong person, having intended to contact Brian Daboll, who got the Giants job.

During the text exchange, Flores questioned whether Belichick had messaged the correct person, with the Patriots coach having indicated he had inside knowledge on who would land the job.

According to the lawsuit's contents, Belichick at this point realised his error and apologised to Flores, who worked for him for 10 years with the Patriots.

However, the Giants released a lengthy statement on Thursday, saying: "The decision on who we would hire as head coach was made on the evening of January 28, one day after Mr. Flores spent an entire day in our offices going through his second interview for the position, meeting with ownership and other staff members, and receiving a tour of our facility."

The team added Belichick would have no knowledge of any decision, as the alleged conversation suggested.

"The allegation that the Giants' decision had been made prior to Friday evening, January 28, is false," the Giants said.

"And to base that allegation on a text exchange with Bill Belichick in which he ultimately states that he 'thinks' Brian Daboll would get the job is irresponsible.

"The text exchange occurred the day before Coach Daboll's in-person interview even took place. Giants' ownership would never hire a head coach based only on a 20-minute zoom interview, which is all that Mr. Daboll had at that point.

"In addition, Mr. Belichick does not speak for and has no affiliation with the Giants. Mr. Belichick's text exchange provides no insight into what actually transpired during our head coaching search."

The Giants included a timeline of Flores' day at their facility and said: "We hired Brian Daboll as our head coach at the conclusion of an open and thorough interview process. No decision was made, and no job offer was extended, until the evening of January 28, a full day after Mr. Flores' in-person interview and day-long visit to the Giants."

Tom Brady was restored to the 99 Club on the Madden NFL video game after announcing his retirement. 

After 22 seasons in the league during which he won seven Super Bowls and set a new record for all-time passing yards, the 44-year-old quarterback confirmed he would not return to the field for the 2022 season. 

EA Sports, the creators of Madden, ensured Brady finishes his career with the highest overall rating possible on the game. He had been rated 97 this year.

"Celebrate 22 years of playing Madden with the GOAT," the game's official Twitter account posted. "Welcome back to the #99Club: @TomBrady." 

Brady led the NFL with 5,316 passing yards and 43 passing touchdowns this season but called time on his career following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round. 

The veteran QB said he was ready "to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention" in a lengthy statement confirming his decision on Tuesday. 

Denver Broncos president of operations John Elway has dismissed "sham" interview accusations made by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores as "false and defamatory".

Flores has launched a class action lawsuit, alleging the NFL is rife with racism and has a "disingenuous commitment to social equity".

In the suit, Flores alleges that when he interviewed for the role of head coach with the Broncos in 2019, Elway and former Denver executive Joe Ellis were late and appeared "completely dishevelled" from an evening of heavy drinking.

Flores is suing the league along with teams from which he alleges he has personally experienced racism, naming the Dolphins and the Broncos along with the New York Giants as defendants, together with "John Doe Teams 1 through 29".

The suit, filed at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, demands a jury trial. The NFL said Flores' claims "are without merit", adding that it would put up a defence. The three teams named by Flores have also rejected his allegations.

The NFL has a 'Rooney Rule' in place that requires all teams seeking a new head coach "to interview at least one or more diverse candidates".

It is alleged in the lawsuit that Flores "was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule" by the Broncos and was never intended to be "a legitimate candidate", while also criticising the interview board.

The Broncos described the various claims against the franchise as "blatantly false" and "baseless and disparaging", to which Flores responded on ESPN's Get Up! show on Wednesday, saying: "I deal in truth, that's my reaction. I deal in truth. Honesty, integrity is important to me, and hopefully, there's a day we find out the truth on that one."

Elway released a statement on Thursday to further deny the claims made by Flores, saying: "While I was not planning to respond publicly to the false and defamatory claims by Brian Flores, I could not be silent any longer with my character, integrity and professionalism being attacked.

"I took Coach Flores very seriously as a candidate for our head coaching position in 2019 and enjoyed our three-and-a-half-hour interview with him. Along with the rest of our group, I was prepared, ready and fully engaged during the entire interview as Brian shared his experience and vision for our team.

"It's unfortunate and shocking to learn for the first time this week that Brian felt differently about our interview with him.

"For Brian to make an assumption about my appearance and state of mind early that morning was subjective, hurtful and just plain wrong. If I appeared 'dishevelled,' as he claimed, it was because we had flown in during the middle of the night - immediately following another interview in Denver - and were going on a few hours of sleep to meet the only window provided to us.

"I interviewed Brian in good faith, giving him the same consideration and opportunity as every other candidate for our head coaching position in 2019."

The Broncos recently appointed Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their new head coach, having parted company with previous head coach Vic Fangio, who was hired in 2019.

Fangio achieved a 19-30 record during his three seasons with the franchise, failing to reach the playoffs throughout his tenure.

New York Jets offensive lineman Cameron Clark will retire at the age of 24 due to a spinal cord injury.

Clark's agent confirmed the decision with the risk of paralysis if he continued to play, having suffered the injury in a training camp.

The 2020 fourth-round pick was injured on August 3 in Jets training and was motionless for several minutes.

At the time, the Jets labelled the injury a spinal cord contusion and said he would make a full recovery but Clark missed the entire 2021 NFL season and has now opted to retire.

"Based on the advice of Dr. Andrew Hecht, a prominent orthopedic surgeon at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, Cameron will not be able to continue to play football for the New York Jets," Clark's agent Alan Herman told ESPN.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh told ESPN: "A great young man, with a bright future, I am thankful for Cameron's peace in making his decision, however bittersweet it may be.

"He made it to the league because of his talent, hard work and attitude and I have every confidence that they will all continue to serve him as he transitions to the next step."

Brian Flores believes the NFL is at a "fork in the road" with its hiring practices after the former Miami Dolphins head coach filed a class action lawsuit against the league.

Flores alleged in the suit that the NFL is rife with racism and has a "disingenuous commitment to social equity".

He is suing the league along with teams at whose hands he claims he experienced racism, naming the Dolphins along with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos as defendants, together with "John Doe Teams 1 through 29".

Amid the allegations made by Flores is that he inadvertently learned he had failed to get the Giants head coach job last week before his interview, which the lawsuit claims was "a sham" that "humiliated" him. 

The NFL has a 'Rooney Rule' in place. It requires all teams seeking a new head coach "to interview at least one or more diverse candidates".

The suit also alleged that Flores "was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule" by the Broncos in 2019 and was never intended to be "a legitimate candidate".

In addition, it claims Flores was offered $100,000 for every Dolphins loss in 2019 by owner Stephen Ross, who was said to be angered by the team's competitiveness compromising their draft position. Miami fired Flores at the end of the 2021 season despite the team finishing with a winning record in successive seasons.

The NFL said Flores' claims "are without merit", saying it would put up a defence. The three teams named by Flores also rejected his allegations.

Speaking alongside his attorneys on CBS Mornings, Flores said: "I love coaching, I'm gifted to coach and I want to coach. This is bigger than coaching, this is much bigger than coaching.

"We filed the lawsuit so that we could create some change. I think we're at a fork in the road right now, we're either going to keep it the way it is, or we're going to go in another direction and actually make some real change where we're actually changing the hearts and minds of those who make decisions to hire head coaches, executives, et cetera."

Asked about the claims he made against the Dolphins and owner Ross, Flores replied: "This game's done a lot for me. I didn't grow up with a lot, this game changed my life.

"To attack the integrity of the game, that's what I felt was happening in that instance and I wouldn't stand for it.

"I think it hurt my standing within the organisation and ultimately was why I was let go."

The suit contains screen grabs of an alleged text message conversation between New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Flores, in which Belichick congratulates Flores on what he believes is an impending appointment, only to realise he was messaging the wrong person, having intended to contact Brian Daboll, who got the Giants job.

During the text exchange, Flores questioned whether Belichick had messaged the correct person, with the Patriots coach having indicated he had inside knowledge on who would land the job. According to the lawsuit's contents, Belichick at this point realised his error and apologised to Flores, who worked for him for 10 years with the Patriots.

"It was a range of emotions, humiliation, disbelief, anger," Flores said of that episode. 

"I have worked so hard to get where I am in football to become a head coach. Put 18 years in this league, and it was, to go on what was going to be a, what felt like and was a sham interview, I was hurt.

"The Rooney Rule is intended to give minorities an opportunity to sit down in front of ownership, but I think what it's turned into is an instance where guys are checking the box.

"I've been on some interviews in the past where I've had that feeling. There's always no way to know for sure, but you know. I know I'm not alone."

The NFL on Wednesday published its response to the suit, which read: ​"The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organisations.

"Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."

A spokesman for the Giants, Pat Hanlon, was quoted by the New York Times on Tuesday as saying the team was "confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll", adding that Flores was "in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour".

The Broncos have described the various claims against the franchise as "blatantly false" and "baseless and disparaging claims".

Several allegations are made in the suit about Flores' time with the Dolphins, which came to an end only last month.

The Dolphins responded by saying they "vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organisation".

Tom Brady's retirement will not be a relief to his NFL rivals, who enjoyed the challenge of going against him, according to former team-mate Eric Rowe.

Brady announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing down the curtain on a 22-season career that saw him win an unprecedented seven Super Bowl titles, winning six with the New England Patriots and a seventh during his first of two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He won two of those alongside Miami Dolphins safety Rowe, who spent three seasons with the Patriots.

Given Brady's two decades of dominance, it may be assumed his opponents will be glad to see the back of a player who has consistently been a thorn in the side of rival teams trying to lift the Lombardi Trophy.

However, Rowe sees it differently, believing most welcomed the opportunity to face Brady.

"People want to go against him. They want, you know, obviously, we're all competitive, like, so when you get a chance to go against like, the best you want to," Rowe told Stats Perform. 

"It's kind of like, comparing your skills of you know, how good you really are, compared to him, you know?

"Every year everyone's like, 'Man, if I can get interception off Tom Brady. Whoa, like, that's, you know, it's like our pinnacle of your career.' So, you know, that is gone.

"It's kind of like, man, I want a chance to go against him, you know."

Asked if Rowe and the Dolphins did anything differently when going against Brady, he replied: "It was definitely in our head safety-wise. Having a disguise trying to hide our coverage from them.

"It was definitely a emphasis of the week of hiding the coverage. Don't just give it to him, because if you give it to him, he's gonna pick you apart."

Washington's NFL franchise finally has its new nickname, the Commanders.

Having played the last two seasons under the guise of the Washington Football Team, the name change was confirmed on Wednesday.

Washington abandoned their old moniker, widely viewed as racially insensitive to Native Americans, in July 2020.

That followed significant pressure in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent widespread protests, the name change coming about after a group of 87 investment firms and shareholders signed three separate letters to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo threatening to end relationships with the team unless the old name was dropped.

FedEx, which sponsors the team's stadium, requested that action be taken by the franchise, and a review began the following day that ended with the decision to drop the name and seek a new one.

That name was announced on social media with a video featuring stars Chase Young and Terry McLaurin along with franchise legend Joe Theismann, who led Washington to a first Super Bowl title in the 1982 season.

"As an organisation, we are excited to rally and rise together as one under our new identity while paying homage to our local roots and what it means to represent the nation's capital," said co-owner and co-CEO Dan Snyder.

"As we kick-off our 90th season, it is important for our organisation and fans to pay tribute to our past traditions, history, legacy and the greats that came before us.

"We continue to honor and represent the burgundy and gold while forging a pathway to a new era in Washington.

"Today may mark the first day for the Washington Commanders, but we are and always will be Washington."

Tom Brady has been confirmed as one of the nominees for Sportsman of the Year at the 2022 Laureus World Sports Awards, less than 24 hours after announcing his retirement from the NFL.

The seven-time Super Bowl winner is nominated along with tennis star Novak Djokovic, Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge, swimmer Caeleb Dressel and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, the only man on the list who was also nominated for last year's award, which was won by Rafael Nadal.

Ash Barty, who recently won the Australian Open in front of a raucous home crowd, is among the nominees for Sportswoman of the Year, along with sprinters Allyson Felix and Elaine Thompson-Herah, swimmers Katie Ledecky and Emma McKeon, and Ballon d'Or and FIFA Best award winner Alexia Putellas.

Last year's award was won by tennis star Naomi Osaka.

Tennis is also represented well in the nominees for Breakthrough of the Year, with US Open champions Daniil Medvedev and Emma Raducanu making the shortlist, along with javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, footballer Pedri, swimmer Ariarne Titmus and triple jumper Yulimar Rojas.

The Team of the Year award will be contested by three football teams in the Argentina and Italy men's national sides and Barcelona Women, as well as NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Gymnast Simone Biles has been nominated for Comeback of the Year, while para-cyclist Dame Sarah Storey is on the shortlist for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.

The nominees were selected by a panel of 1300 sports journalists, and the winners will be announced in April following a vote by the 71 Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy.

Full list of nominees

Sportsman of the Year: Tom Brady (American football), Novak Djokovic (tennis), Caeleb Dressel (swimming), Eliud Kipchoge (athletics), Robert Lewandowski (football), Max Verstappen (motor racing)

Sportswoman of the Year: Ash Barty (tennis), Allyson Felix, (athletics), Katie Ledecky (swimming), Emma McKeon (swimming), Alexia Putellas (football), Elaine Thompson-Herah (athletics)

Breakthrough of the Year: Neeraj Chopra (athletics), Daniil Medvedev (tennis), Pedri (football), Emma Raducanu (tennis), Yulimar Rojas (athletics), Ariarne Titmus (swimming)

Team of the Year: Argentina men's national football team, Barcelona Women's football team, Italy men's national football team, Milwaukee Bucks (basketball)

Comeback of the Year: Simone Biles (gymnastics), Sky Brown (skateboarding), Mark Cavendish (cycling), Tom Daley (diving), Marc Marquez (motor cycling), Annemiek van Vleuten (cycling)

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Diede De Groot (wheelchair tennis), Marcel Hug (wheelchair athletics), Shingo Kunieda (wheelchair tennis), Jetze Plat (para cycling / para triathlon), Susana Rodríguez (para triathlon), Sarah Storey (para cycling)

World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Italo Ferreira (surfing), Alberto Gines (climbing), Yuto Horigome (skateboarding), Carissa Moore (surfing), Momiji Nishiya (skateboarding), Bethany Shriever (BMX)

Sport for Good Award: Ich will da rauf! (climbing), Juca Pe Cagna (multisport), Kick 4 Life (football), Lost Boyz Inc. (baseball), Monkey Magic (climbing)

Tom Brady deserves to be considered among sporting greats such as Michael Jordan, Rafael Nadal and LeBron James, according to his former New England Patriots team-mate Eric Rowe.

The quarterback announced his retirement on Tuesday after a 22-year career that saw him win an unprecedented seven Super Bowl titles, six with the Patriots and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rowe played alongside Brady at Gillette Stadium for three seasons between 2016 and 2019, and said the 44-year-old belongs in the conversation with the great sporting icons.

"Oh, man, he's right there," Rowe said in an exclusive interview with Stats Perform.

"You say Serena [Williams], Nadal, you could say Michael Jordan, you could say LeBron [James] you could say Kobe [Bryant], you're definitely saying Tom Brady. He's definitely in that little name bucket."

Rowe, now at the Miami Dolphins, was also asked what words come to mind when it comes to Brady, with the first unsurprisingly being "championships", with the safety clarifying: "because he's won so many in our era, at least in my era.

"Then I think just 'leadership'. One of the greatest players, he had a lot of, I wouldn't say heat, but people kind of question, 'he has been at the Patriots for some 20 odd years, and then he can't do it anywhere else'.

"He went to another team and brought them a championship. So that just shows how much leadership he has within himself."

Rowe also outlined what set Brady apart from the rest and what his legacy will mean for the NFL.

"Yeah, his legacy. Obviously, his name is going to live on forever. Just as players, you know who way back then, how their name still comes around today.

"And people, even kids [who] obviously didn't grow up watching them know who they are, so his name, 20, 30 years from now [people will say] 'oh, yeah, Tom Brady'.

"You know, still one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, so his legacy's gonna live on."

Brady retires with 243 QB wins, meaning an incredible margin to second-placed pair Peyton Manning and Brett Favre on 186.

In fact, Brady has 69 wins in the month of December alone. In terms of a single month, Favre is next, with 52 wins also in December.

Brady has the best record among QBs with at least 100 starts, his .769 again comfortably ahead of the next-best performance, Roger Staubach's .746.

The 2021 season was Brady's 19th different campaign with 3,000 passing yards – clear of Favre's 18 – and his fifth 4,000-yard season just since he turned 40.

Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Staubach and Steve Young combined for three seasons with 4,000 passing yards for their careers.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo expects to be traded and wants to join a contender.

The 30-year-old QB's future at the 49ers has been a hot topic of speculation following the side's 20-17 NFC Championship Game defeat to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan declined to discuss Garoppolo's future in the aftermath of their playoffs exit, but it is widely expected Garoppolo will leave the 49ers this offseason with 2021 Draft third pick Trey Lance coming through.

Garoppolo, who has been with the 49ers since 2017, admitted he expects to leave the franchise this offseason.

"I was talking to [49ers general manager] John [Lynch] yesterday about finding the right destination and whatever the future holds, just doing it the right way," Garoppolo said during a Zoom news conference on Tuesday.

"I've got a long career ahead of me. I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the opportunities to come. I just want to go to a place where they want to win.

"That's really what I'm in this game for. I'm here to play football, win football games and as long as I've got that and good people around me, I think the rest will take care of itself."

Garoppolo reinforced his likely 49ers' exit when he signed off from the Zoom call by addressing the side's fans.

"It's been a hell of a ride," Garoppolo said. "I love you guys. See ya."

Garoppolo, who played with a torn ligament in his right thumb for the final five games of the 49ers season, threw 3,810 yards with a 68.3 per cent completing rate for 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season.

"As far as the whole trade situation, John has been very clear with it," Garoppolo said. "I think they're trying to do the best for me, I'm trying to do the best for them and we're working together.

"We haven't really made too much progress on it but I think things will start happening here pretty quickly."

On his thumb injury, Garoppolo added: "If I can avoid surgery, that's really what I'm hoping for but we'll see."

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has launched a class action lawsuit, alleging the NFL is rife with racism and has a "disingenuous commitment to social equity".

Flores is suing the league along with teams at whose hands he alleges he has personally experienced racism, naming the Dolphins along with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos as defendants, together with "John Doe Teams 1 through 29".

The suit, filed at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, demands a jury trial. The NFL said Flores' claims "are without merit", saying it would put up a defence. The three teams named by Flores also rejected his allegations.

Flores claims he inadvertently learned he had failed to get the Giants head coach job last week, even before his interview took place.

The suit contains screen grabs of an alleged text message conversation between New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Flores, in which Belichick congratulates Flores on what he believes is an impending appointment, only to realise he was messaging the wrong person, having intended to contact Brian Daboll, who got the Giants job.

During the text exchange, Flores questioned whether Belichick had messaged the correct person, with the Patriots coach having indicated he had inside knowledge on who would land the job. According to the lawsuit's contents, Belichick at this point realised his error and apologised to Flores, who worked for him for 10 years with the Patriots.

The NFL has a 'Rooney Rule' in place. It requires all teams seeking a new head coach "to interview at least one or more diverse candidates", and the lawsuit alleges on this occasion the Giants interview was "a sham" that "humiliated" Flores.

A spokesman for the Giants, Pat Hanlon, was quoted by the New York Times on Tuesday as saying the team was "confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll", adding that Flores was "in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour".

It is also alleged in the lawsuit that Flores "was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule" by the Broncos in 2019 and was never intended to be "a legitimate candidate", while also criticising the interview board.

The Broncos have described the various claims against the franchise as "blatantly false" and "baseless and disparaging claims".

A number of allegations are made in the suit about Flores' time with the Dolphins, which came to an end only last month.

The Dolphins responded by saying they "vehemently deny any allegations of racial discrimination and are proud of the diversity and inclusion throughout our organisation".

The class action alleges: "The NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of black head coaches, coordinators and general managers. Over the years, the NFL and its 32-member organisations have been given every chance to do the right thing.

"Rules have been implemented, promises made – but nothing has changed. In fact, the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL's disingenuous commitment to social equity."

It also contains a series of allegations that it points to as evidence the NFL as a whole has a racism problem when it comes to the hiring of black individuals, alleging it is "racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation".

In response, the NFL said: ​"The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organisations.

"Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit."

Roger Goodell's description of Tom Brady on Tuesday as merely "one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL" felt a little generous to the competition. 

In the period of claim and counter-claim between reports of his retirement on Saturday and confirmation on Tuesday, the verdict had been cast – not that it was ever in doubt. 

Among others, Patrick Mahomes, better placed than most to consider quality quarterback play, told ESPN: "His career is one of a kind. That's why he's the GOAT." 

There is no dispute, no debate: Brady is the greatest. 

The 44-year-old leads the way by most metrics, including the most important one, with an unprecedented seven Super Bowl championships. 

Yet the stunning nature of some of those successes mean the emotional argument in Brady's favour is as convincing as the statistical one. 

Unmoved by his NFL-record 84,520 passing yards? Try the Super Bowl LI comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. 

This career had it all, and most dissenting voices had long since disappeared by the time Brady arrived in Tampa in 2020 "as the greatest football player of all time", as Bruce Arians put it. He still had another title in him. 

But Brady has not just set the standard in the NFL for the past 22 years; his achievements are surely unmatched across the entire sporting world. 

BEATING THE BEST

Wrestling with past legacies is never easy for an elite sports star. Even as the best of their generation, comparisons will be drawn with those who have gone before. 

In the case of LeBron James in the NBA, Michael Jordan casts a long shadow. 

James may now widely be considered the second-greatest player in the history of the league, but the gap to the number one spot scarcely seems to be closing, even now with titles and Finals MVP recognition on three different teams – and his own Space Jam sequel. 

Elsewhere, Formula One's Lewis Hamilton has done what James could not with Jordan in matching Michael Schumacher's haul of titles. 

But when Hamilton closed in on a record-breaking eighth drivers' championship in 2021, rival Sebastian Vettel scoffed: "Even if Lewis wins, to me Michael is still the greatest. Lewis can win one more, two more, three more, five more championships, but it doesn't change anything for me." 

The combination of being unable to see two athletes side by side and having memories tinged with nostalgia makes life hard on the modern great. 

For Brady, Joe Montana was the closest thing to a Jordan or Schumacher figure at quarterback. 

Although Montana ranked sixth for all-time passing yards – Dan Marino, the 20th century's passing yards leader, never won a title – his four Super Bowls had matched Terry Bradshaw's benchmark and were still fresh enough in the memory in 2000, the last coming in the 1989 season. 

Yet that was a gap Brady was swiftly able to bridge. By August 2005, with three rings already in his collection, the headline of a GQ profile asked if the Patriots passer was "the best there ever was". 

At 27, 10 years younger than James and Hamilton are now, there appeared little doubt Brady would leave Marino behind. 

TOP OF HIS CLASS

Perhaps Brady benefited from the standard of the competition. His career overlapped with Brett Favre at the start, Mahomes at the end and met with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers somewhere around the middle, all of them forcing him to raise his game. 

But such depth of talent can so easily muddy the waters. 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have matched each other stride for stride, meaning there remains no consensus pick for football's 'GOAT'. Both merit the position, yet neither have dominated an era like Pele or Diego Maradona. 

In tennis, the tussle is even more intense. Until Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph on Sunday, three men were tied on a record 20 grand slam titles. 

Injuries to Roger Federer and coronavirus complications with Novak Djokovic may be enough to keep Nadal at the summit, but personal preference dictates the all-time rankings when the margins are so fine. 

Again, however, Brady came through. None of those modern-day rivals have won three Super Bowls, let alone matching Montana's four or Brady's staggering seven. 

Mahomes had appeared the most likely to challenge that mark in the years to come, but four seasons as a starter have now yielded one title. At the same point, Brady had three and that GQ headline. 

"To win that many Super Bowls and win that many games, it's hard," Mahomes said after losing Sunday's AFC Championship Game. "I understand that. The years that I've had, I've been close a lot.  

"I've only been there twice, and I've only won once. I understand it takes a special player ... for that to happen." 

In Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert, Mahomes will not have it easy going forward either – an exciting new generation guarding Brady's legacy, not that he could not have done it himself had he chosen to play on. 

Brady, in the regular season and playoffs, holds a 3-2 record against Mahomes, 4-0 against Allen and 1-0 against Herbert. He never faced Burrow, potentially the next Super Bowl-winning QB. 

Instead, the perennial winner departs not as a champion – he has been that enough times – but as undoubtedly the best player his sport has ever seen. A rare phenomenon indeed. 

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