Tom Brady is doing things never seen before at an age when most NFL players have already hung up their cleats, and now it looks like he is nowhere near retirement.
Brady is 38 years old, but through five games this year, he is already having a historically great season. Statistically, it’s one of the best he’s ever had, and the single best ever by a quarterback 38 or older.
Here are Brady’s numbers this year (via Pro Football Reference): 70% of passes completed (139-197); 1,699 yards (339 per game); he is on pace to throw 45 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, with a passer rating of 118.4.
For quarterbacks who have started at least five games in a season at age 38 or older, Brady has the highest passer rating by over 10 points, and he’s not that far off pace to throw for 5,500 yards in a season. If he did this, he’d be the first quarterback ever to reach such a milestone.
He is also having arguably his best season ever. He is on pace to reach career-highs in yards, yards per attempt, completion percentage, and quarterback rating, while throwing a career-low interceptions.
And he’s doing all this at 38 years old.
It’s no surprise, then, that Brady told the New York media on Wednesday that he may play football for ten more years.
“I’d like to play a long time, yeah, a long time,” Brady said. “There’s a lot that goes into playing well. I’ve played with a lot of great teammates. But I want to play for a long time, maybe 10 more years. I think that’s probably what my goal is.”
Of course, the thought of Brady playing until he’s 48 seems unlikely, as age sneaks up on every athlete — just ask Peyton Manning. And Brady acknowledged that there are more factors to his career longevity than just himself.
“Well, it’s not always up to me,” Brady said. “That’s what my goals are, so that’s just what I’m hoping. And it will take a lot to achieve that. Obviously a team has to want you, but I think that’s . . . you know, I love playing this sport. I love making a commitment to my teammates and my coaches, and hopefully I can do it for a long time.”
But as Bill Simmons noted last week on his podcast, it’s not entirely implausible to think that Brady could play well into his 40s. Said Simmons:
These new rules … I really think he could play until he’s 45. He doesn’t get hit! You don’t get hit, you’re not allowed to hit anyone in the knees, the wide receivers can just get open — all he does is go to the line, sees what the [defence] is going to do, and is like, ‘alright, they’re doing this so I’m gonna throw here.’ He can do that for seven more years.
If you’ve watched Brady this season, you know what Simmons is talking about. Brady really is almost untouchable: his o-line is solid (though the loss of Nate Solder is worrisome), and he gets rid of the ball so quickly that defences rarely have a chance to actually get to him.
As Pro Football Talk noted, Brady has frequently tossed around the “ten more years” line to the media at all different points in his career, so it’s possible this is just more of the same meaningless athlete-at-a-press-conference speak.
But if we are to take Brady on his word, the subsequent question becomes whether the Patriots will want Brady as their quarterback well into his 40s. It’s certainly possible that Brady will be physically capable to play until he’s, say, 44 or 45, but his performance will inevitably begin to drop off at some point. Remember Brett Favre, who played until he was 45 but was let go by the Packers as they opted to focus on their future (and having Aaron Rodgers waiting in tow was certainly a luxury).
If this were to happen to Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots would have to look long and hard about moving to a younger quarterback. After all, the Patriot Way has always been about the Next Man Up — so wouldn’t this apply to Brady, too?
For right now, anyway, this doesn’t seem really to matter. Brady is having a year for the ages, and the Patriots keep winning.
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