Patriots

Tom Brady’s Method For Silencing Successor Talk: Play as Well at Age 37 as He Ever Has

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In embarrassing retrospect, Tom Brady’s resume — meaning his 15-season NFL legacy, not that cushy college-jock one posted on Facebook — should have reminded us that while revenge and redemption weren’t necessarily required, they were likely.

When the Patriots found themselves at .500 a month into the season, the chatter of Brady’s decline — a small amount of which was justified given his age (37) and that the master of accuracy’s completion percentage (60.5) in 2013 was his lowest in a decade — grew to decibel levels that could not be justified.

Man, did he ever shut us up. Coming off the hard-earned bye week, Brady and the Patriots will look to pick up where they left off, which was roughly at a Yup-This-Team-Can-Win-The-Super-Bowl level. They’ve won five straight, of course, the most recent victory coming in the form of a thumping of the presumed favorite Broncos.

During this emboldening stretch, Brady has put together one of the best five-game runs of his decorated career, throwing 18 touchdown passes against just one interception.

He may have had a streak of games in which he’s played even better — it’s very easy to lose an hour staring at the early 2007 game logs. But few in history have played as well as he is right now, including his past self.

But for all of the recent numbers that remind us that racing to declare Brady on the decline is a fine way to reveal yourself as a pigskin nincompoop, it’s not a statistic that confirms and reconfirms his greatness. It’s a duration, and within that, a transition.

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When you watch Brady playing at a level matched at any length among peers only by Peyton Manning and very few others, this strikes me as remarkable: The Colts are now three seasons into succeeding Manning with their next franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, while Brady is in the middle of shutting down any talk about a Patriots’ succession plan.

I suppose there should be some envy in how serendipitous the Colts were in having a truly lousy season — Manning was injured, of course — in the season before Luck entered the draft.

While there have been relatively recent instances of great, or even greater, quarterbacks succeeding superstar QBs — Steve Young for Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers for Brett Favre, hell, even Brady for Drew Bledsoe, who is 10th all-time in passing yards — it’s rarely worked as seamlessly as Luck for Manning.

The Patriots should be so fortunate when the time comes for Brady to move on. I do believe that player is already on the roster, that Jimmy Garoppolo is the guy. And it’s going to be very intriguing to see what he can do when he takes over in, oh, September 2021.

Yeah, we’ve shelved the successor talk and that way-too-premature debate around here for a while.

As the Patriots prepare to take on these surging, something-to-prove Colts, who may or may not be ready for prime-time (I’m guessing the latter), it’s all right to set aside a couple of other debates as well.

At the moment, the discussion isn’t about Brady or Manning, or whether either man can play at a high level into his mid-40s as he desires.

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It’s also not about whether young Andrew Luck will pass these elder quarterbacking icons over the next few seasons — not to mention arguably the best of the current lot, prime-of-his-career Aaron Rodgers — and emerge as the NFL’s marquee QB.

Oh, sure, measuring Brady against Colts quarterbacks past and present is tempting and obvious.

But if he keeps playing this way, the debate supersedes positional designations and instead becomes a semi-parochial discussion about which of the Brothers in Lombardis.

Forget Brady vs. Manning, or even the newish Brady vs. Luck.

I want to know which marvel fades first, presuming they ever fade at all:

Tom Brady. Or Adam Vinatieri.

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