Tom Brady isn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon. The 37-year-old superstar quarterback let everyone know it after winning his fourth career Super Bowl and third career Super Bowl MVP Award, both record-tying accomplishments.
“I’ve got a lot of football left,’’ Brady said during a press conference after the Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX when asked to assess his legacy.
A day later, Brady again addressed his future and again insisted he wasn’t even thinking about retirement being on the horizon. On the contrary, he made clear how dedicated he was to ensuring he could continue playing for as long as he wanted.
“I don’t want it to end anytime soon,’’ Brady told reporters the morning after the game when addressing his future. “A lot of decisions I make in my life are about how to sustain it.’’
Brady’s desire to extend his already historic career for as long as possible has led his father, also named Tom, to fear that relations with the Patriots could ultimately end on a sour note.
“It will end badly,’’ Brady’s father told Mark Leibovich of The New York Times when asked about the possibility. “It does end badly. And I know that because I know what Tommy wants to do. He wants to play till he’s 70. … It’s a cold business. And for as much as you want it to be familial, it isn’t.’’
The quote from the elder Brady appeared in a profile titled “Tom Brady Can’t Stop’’ that detailed lengths that the quarterback goes to in order to maintain peak performance. Under the watchful eye of best friend and body coach Alex Guerrero, Brady adheres to a fitness and health regime that is built around “staying physically fit, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound.’’
But even a diet filled with protein shakes, blueberries, and kale can only sustain Brady’s level of performance so long. At some point, the team will likely be faced with a choice between him and a younger signal caller. Since winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history following the 2001 season, the Patriots have a history of being unsentimental when dealing with aging, veteran players. Former Patriots standouts Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Logan Mankins are among those who can attest to that.
Will Brady be any different? Should he be?
Having restructured his contract twice in recent seasons, Brady seems to be sensitive to the financial factors when it comes to team decisions. But how will he feel about restricting his role on the team? Earlier this season, he made it clear that he would prefer to finish his playing days in New England, but did not rule out a change of scenery when asked about the conclusion of his career.
“There’s nowhere I’d rather play, I know that,’’ Brady said during a weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan morning show in September. “I love playing for this team and I love representing this team and hopefully I can do that for as long as I can. When I suck, I’ll retire.’’
Giving Brady hope that he can continue his career into his 40s are quarterbacks ranging from Earl Morrall and George Blanda to Warren Moon and Brett Favre. Moon played until age 44. Before being relegated to a backup role in his final two seasons, he threw 76 total touchdown passes against 47 interceptions in a four-season stretch at ages 39-42. Favre, who famously couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be retired, played until age 41. During the season that he celebrated his 40th birthday, Favre threw 33 touchdown passes and just 7 interceptions. Those numbers came with him playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 after a lone season under center with the New York Jets. After his rookie campaign with the Atlanta Falcons, Favre spent 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
Brady’s next season with the Patriots will be his 16th. How many more does he have left? How many of those will be played in a Patriots uniform?
No one ever pictured Favre ending his career with a team other than the Packers, but the team eventually, fruitfully moved on to Aaron Rodgers. There was a time when fans couldn’t imagine Joe Montana ever suiting up for any team but the 49ers. But Steve Young took over in San Francisco and Montana finished his career in Kansas City. In recent years, Peyton Manning hurt his neck and the Colts released him to draft and rebuild around Andrew Luck. No one is irreplaceable in the NFL.
“I don’t plan on sucking for a long time. So hopefully that leads me to being here and there’s no place I’d rather be,’’ Brady also told WEEI in that same September interview. “Hopefully I can continue to play at a really high level for a long period of time.’’
How long can Brady maintain his MVP level of play? And if and when he can’t, how long will the Patriots wait to replace him?