How long can Tom Brady keep going?


During his conference call with the South Florida media yesterday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made what was a little bit of a stunning comment.

“I’m still a young man, so as long as I’m still effective, I want to play for a long time,” Brady said. “I’d like to think that I’m not at halftime yet.”

So he’s 33 now, and in Year 11, which would mean he’d want to play 22 years. That would make his final NFL season in 2021. Impossible? Maybe. But who would’ve thought back in 2000 that Brett Favre would still be playing now?

Whether Brady was really serious or not, history says that he’ll be on the clock when his freshly signed contract extension expires, following the 2014 season. He’ll be 37 then, and about to turn 38, and as a study I did for my Sunday NFL Notes a few weeks back showed (scroll down after clicking), that’s right where Hall of Fame quarterbacks of recent vintage have called it quits. Here’s a excerpt from that piece on the longevity of the very best quarterbacks …

Brady’s new contract will expire approximately five months shy of his 38th birthday, and that puts him in the age bracket where many quarterbacks have hung ’em up. Eight quarterbacks who retired in the last 25 years have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Warren Moon retired at 44; Dan Marino, John Elway, Steve Young, and Joe Montana retired at 38; Dan Fouts and Jim Kelly called it quits at 36; and a concussion-addled Troy Aikman hung ’em up at 34. Brady and (Peyton) Manning might walk away in the most common age range of 36-38, but there’s a strong feeling they won’t necessarily have to.

Favre has proved — or at least proved last year — that a quarterback can well go into his 40s. And as part of the above work, I spoke with another signal-caller who excelled at an advanced age.

Rich Gannon, who was actually originally drafted by the Patriots, won AP NFL MVP honors at the ripe old age of 37, and his four Pro Bowls came at 34, 35, 36 and 37. In fact, during our phone conversation a few weeks back, Gannon was insistent that he could well physically go out there now, at 45 years old, and play the position.

What it boiled down to with him was the grind and commitment that the game demands of its field generals, and that’s often what pushes quarterbacks away.

But as far as the physical ability to do it? Gannon has no doubt it’s in Brady, and Manning as well.


“The first thing is footwork, that ability to get away from the line of scrimmage,’” Gannon said. “If you look at Peyton and Tom and put them in the 40-yard dash, no one’s going to be too excited. But put them in a confined pocket, and watch them step up, slide, and throw from an awkward position and see how efficient they are.

“There’s a reason. How many times does Brady get hit because he doesn’t see the corner blitz coming? Never happens, because he’s smart. He’s a master of that domain with his understanding of that scheme, the protection, what the defensive coordinator is doing, the situation, down-and-distance, all of it.

“If Tom Brady tells you he’ll probably play another 10 years, I’d bet there’s truth to it.”

Again, we’ll see. But barring major injuries, it’s really not out of the realm of possibility to think he could play into his 40s. Whether he’ll want to keep going at that age may wind up being the real question.

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