Tom Brady is the youngest 42-year-old in NFL history.
The “G.O.A.T.” celebrated another birthday on Saturday, is fresh off of winning a record sixth Super Bowl ring, and is just 548 days removed from capturing his third NFL MVP award. Barring injury, he is once again expected to be a top five quarterback in the league this coming season – which will be his 20th year as a member of the Patriots.
What Brady did last year at 41, and what he is expected to do this season at age 42 is without question unprecedented in both NFL and North American pro sports history.
There have been some “oldies but goodies” in pro football annals (George Blanda played until he was 48, Warren Moon played until he was 44, Doug Flutie played until he was 43, Jerry Rice played until he was 42 and Brett Favre played until he was 41), but all of them saw severe drop-offs in their play late in their careers and many of them enjoyed their NFL golden years in a back-up role.
None of them were still leading teams to Super Bowl titles at an advanced age, and none of them were contending for MVPs year-in and year-out.
Perhaps the top and most recent comparison here is Favre, who won a Super Bowl early in his career and knocked on the doorstep again in his final years. In 2010, Favre led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game, but he crapped the bed in a memorable overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints – throwing a pair of interceptions and finishing that game with a brutal 70.0 passer rating.
Different position, but all-time great Jerry Rice was still an elite receiver late in his career. At ages 38 and 39, Rice put up back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Oakland Raiders. Even the impeccably fit Rice, however, met his match with Father Time when he hit the age of 40. He saw his yardage total fall to 869 yards in 2003 and he finished with a career worst two touchdowns in 16 games played that year. In his final season of 2004 at age 42, his yardage total was cut in half.
Brady, meanwhile, in the past few years has shown few signs of a looming drop-off. His yardage total in 2018 was down slightly from his MVP season of 2017 (4,577 to 4,355) but then again it was better than the stats he put up in 2014, 2013, 2010 and 2006 when he was a younger man.
Number 12 also threw 11 interceptions last season – up from eight in 2017 and up from just seven in 2015. But when you consider that in the early portion of his Patriots career he was racking up seasons with 12, 13, and 14 INTs per year- it’s far from alarming.
One chink in the armor, if you’re looking for one, is that Brady seemed worn out at times in the AFC title game against the Chiefs and in the Super Bowl win over the Rams. Despite the otherworldly finish to the game in KC, Brady did not have a magnificent overall game as he threw more interceptions than he did TD passes (2 to 1) and he finished with a blah 77.1 passer rating.
Against the Rams he was even more lackluster as he did not throw a TD pass and was picked off in the game. He finished that one with a Favre-esque 71.4 passer rating as the Patriots scored just 13 points and the game MVP trophy went to Julian Edelman.
But those are just nits to pick.
The good money still says that Brady, at 42-years of age, will have the Pats right back in the thick of the NFL title picture this fall and winter. His MVP-winning days are probably behind him at this point, but with Brady you can – of course – never say never.