Tom Brady: How Long Will It Last?

As the Tom Brady saga with the NFL continues, Patriots fans have been all in on supporting the Patriots star quarterback.  Regardless of whether or not Brady’s suspension is upheld, he will be on the field in October which is usually around the time the Patriots begin their run of dominance in a typical NFL season.  This shouldn’t change this year as the AFC East, once again, is a below average division and there is no real threat for anyone to win the division title over the Patriots.  Brady will likely have another good season and will lead the Patriots to the playoffs once again.  Having said all of that, as Deflategate has continued, there has been such overwhelming support for Brady that he has almost gotten to an untouchable status.  Fans are talking about him as the long term QB as if he’s 28 years old.

At the beginning of the 2014 season, Patriots fans started to discuss the future of the team without Brady.  This was after a 2-2 start and a terrible game against Kansas City where Brady threw for one touchdown and two interceptions.  He was pulled from the game for Jimmy Garoppolo as the game got out of hand.  It was at this point, more than any other, that fans started to wonder how much longer it would last.  There was never any question that he would remain the quarterback throughout last season. He proved be an elite quarterback in the NFL once again.  He completed 64.1% of his passes, threw for 4,109 yards, and had 33 touchdown passes.  His 97.4 QB Rating ranked 5th in the NFL.  What he did during the playoff run spoke for itself.  Brady led the Patriots to their 4th Super Bowl and proved that he could still play at an elite level.  It was nothing short of an amazing accomplishment for a 37 year old quarterback.

Since the end of last season, we’ve heard a lot of talk about Brady playing into his 40’s.  Brady will be 38 entering this season and he may very well play more than two more seasons.  The question is not how long he can play, it’s how long he can play well.  On Thursday Night’s local broadcast of the Patriots-Packers preseason game, it was suggested that age is not a factor for Tom Brady and that he keeps getting better.  Really?  It’s not very common to hear that an athlete who is 38 years old is getting better.  If anyone deserves this praise, it’s Brady after his performance last year.  However, time is not on Brady’s side, folks.  At some point in the next few years, this is going to come to an end.  It probably won’t be this year and it may not be next year, but to suggest that Brady is going to play at an elite level into his 40’s is more of a dream than a realistic expectation.  When it comes to end for an NFL quarterback, it usually happens pretty quickly.

Prior to the 2014 season, Brady had three consecutive seasons where his completion percentage and QB rating declined.  This is by no means a knock against Brady.  It’s simply pointing out that the natural progression of aging was catching up with him as it would for any player.  It happened to Joe Montana.  It happened to Michael Jordan.  It happened to Wayne Gretzky.  It will happen to Peyton Manning.  And yes, it will happen to Tom Brady.  Last year, Brady rebounded and had his best season since 2011.  This is a great sign heading into this year.  However, do you really think Brady will be playing at this level when he’s 40 years old?  If the answer is yes, let’s take a look at quarterbacks over 40 in the history of the NFL.

Since 1980, there have been six quarterbacks who played past the age of 40.  Here are the best seasons after 40 for each of those quarterbacks.


Player Team Age Season Record Comp. % TD INT
Brett Favre Vikings 41 2010 5-8 60.6 11 19
Mark Brunell Jets 41 2011 0-0 33.3 0 0
Doug Flutie Chargers 41 2003 2-3 54.5 9 4
Vinny Testaverde Cowboys 41 2004 5-10 60.0 17 20
Warren Moon Seahawks 41 1997 7-7 59.3 25 16
Steve DeBerg Falcons 44 1998 0-1 50.3 3 1

These are some pretty awful numbers!  If you were going to pick the top one it would be Warren Moon’s season in 1997.  Those number are at least respectable.  However, if you looked at his other seasons after 40, it would not be pretty.  Here are a few overall observations.

There has been no quarterback since 1980 who has played a full 16 game season after age 40.

– There have only been three quarterbacks who started more than five games in a season after age 40 since 1980.

– No quarterback in the history of the NFL has ever won a playoff game after age 40.

Those are the facts, folks!  Again, this isn’t to suggest that it’s going to come to and end this year or even next year.  He may very well play until he’s 40.  However, history shows that quarterbacks in their 40’s do not perform well.  If you take all of the numbers out and think about it logically there’s a good reason why.  Players are more prone to injury as they get older and when you’re constantly getting hit by some of the biggest and fastest athletes in the world, it takes a toll on the body.  In addition, naturally, the human body cannot do the things it once did at age 40.

OK, so I’m already ready for Patriots Nation responses to this.  Brady is different!  No QB is like Tom and he can do anything!  Us against the world!  OK, I’ll stop there.  The point here is that regardless of how well Brady played last year, the end is near for him.  He’s not going to be playing at an elite level at age 41 if he is still playing at the time.  What we should be hoping for realistically is two more solid and healthy seasons.  Brady has been very durable in his mid-30’s.  Can he continue it?  Regardless of the ruling on Brady’s suspension, the Patriots will be preparing for games without him.  They will be looking closely to see if Jimmy G. is the next guy.  They need to find out in the next year or two.

Perhaps Brady could be Jimmy G.’s backup three years from now?  

The player Tom Brady is most compared to is Joe Montana.  I recall watching Montana’s last two years.  He was on the Kansas City Chiefs.  He showed some spurts where he was back to the old Joe in the late 80’s.  He would have a great game and follow it up with a bad one.  He just couldn’t sustain it over the full season.  His body wouldn’t allow him to.  He didn’t make it to 40.  He left the game in one piece.

Tom Brady is arguably one of the top two quarterbacks of all time.  He’s had an outstanding career and has led the Patriots to four championships.  The reality is that it’s not going to last forever.  He’s not going to keep getting better.  Age, indeed, is a factor for Tom Brady as it is with every player.  It could end at any time.  It could be this year.

We’re watching one of the best athletes in the history of Boston sports.  Enjoy it.  Don’t take it for granted…

On to court on Wednesday…






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