New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, winning MVP and making it all the way to the Super Bowl. However, he’ll be 41 at the start of next season, and the Patriots will almost certainly invest a draft pick in his replacement. New England has done this countless times before, with Brady always beating out the younger competition. With the quarterback now entering his 19th NFL season, it’s only natural to wonder how long Brady can keep playing. However, all evidence point says that Tom Brady is nowhere near the end of the road.
Why Tom Brady’s Career Is Far From Ending Anytime Soon
Looking at His Peers
There’s a common perception that elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre keep producing at an advanced age until their body gives out and their production drastically slows. In other words, they fall off a cliff.
While there’s some truth to the drastic decline in production, there’s usually warning signs before it happens. In Manning’s case, his physical limitations were on display long before his level of play dropped in mid-2014.
Manning never truly recovered all his arm strength after his 2011 neck surgery. For his entire tenure with the Denver Broncos, he relied solely on his intelligence and pre-snap reads to sustain success. It worked, as Manning’s number from 2012 to early 2014 rivaled any quarterback in the league. However, he didn’t have the arm power that he used to, something he acknowledged prior to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Manning’s body kept declining, and eventually, his mind couldn’t make up for his exhausted physical state. Manning labored to the end of 2014 and had a terrible 2015. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50, but his 9:17 touchdown to interception ratio showed Manning didn’t have it anymore.
How Brady Fits In
Manning fell off his statistical cliff at age 38, and Brady just won MVP at age 40. Frankly, the Patriots are in uncharted territory here. Manning’s lengthy career comes the closest to what Brady’s done, but nobody has ever sustained this level of success for this long.
Even Favre, the ironman famous for his lengthy career and games played streak, ended his career at age 40. Outside of maybe New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (two years younger than Brady, but still going strong), nobody has been able to sustain their performance as long as Brady.
The statistics are still there, but what type of player is Brady? Is he like Manning from 2000-2011, where he uses his mind and body to dominate opponents? Or is he more like 2012-2014 Manning, where his body is starting to falter, but his brain kept him ahead of the competition.
When analyzing the film, it’s clear that Brady’s body is as strong as it ever was. While Manning’s later years featured reduced arm strength and lesser accuracy downfield, those characteristics have only improved for Brady.
Take a look at Brady’s game-winning touchdown pass in Week Three against the Houston Texans. Brady released the ball while getting hit, relying solely on arm strength to push the ball 35 yards down the sideline to Brandin Cooks. The pass still reached Cooks in time, arriving at its target just before safety Corey Moore could break up the pass. This wasn’t an easy pass by any means, but 40-year old Brady was still capable of executing the difficult play.
Brady’s arm strength and deep ball accuracy didn’t wear down as the season went on, either. In Super Bowl LII, Brady completed 28 passes for 505 yards, an average of just over 18 yards per completion. These weren’t dump-off screen passes either. With Cooks sidelined for most of the game, Brady constantly pushed the ball deep downfield to Chris Hogan, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Amendola.
Why Brady Stays So Dominant
How is it possible that Brady is able to outperform his peers this dramatically? He was always the best quarterback in the league (or at least in the top three) ever since becoming a starter, but he’s arguably better now than he was ten years ago. The answer to that lies in his work ethic.
Brady has always been hungry for glory, and still carries a chip on his shoulder. That much has always been evident, and was brought to the public eye in NFL Networks “The Brady Six.” Nobody works harder than Brady, but quarterbacks like Manning have worked just as hard. Both players devoted everything they had to football, yet Brady still remains while Manning is two years into retirement.
The reason for this is that Brady’s work regiment has been engineered and designed to maximize and sustain peak performance. Through the TB12 Method, Brady has reimagined what it requires to keep the body operating efficiently, and that’s why his body is able to survive 18 seasons in the NFL. All respect to Manning, but Brady probably hasn’t stepped foot in a Papa Johns within the last ten years.
How Long Can Brady Stay Dominant
Tom Brady’s career is on uncharted territory, but based on everything we know, there’s no reason to think his play will drop off any time soon. His stats from 2015-2017 rival any three-year stretch from his career and his body is in the best shape of his life.
However, while his workout plan can slow down the effects of time, it can’t outright prevent them. Brady won’t play until he’s 50, but he won’t retire after 2018, either. New England probably has three to five years before Brady hangs them up for good and football loses its greatest star. In the meantime, the Patriots can select a mid-level quarterback prospect like Kyle Lauletta to groom, knowing he won’t play for a few years.