Tom Brady was the MVP of the NFL last year and threw for 500 yards in the Super Bowl. Even with these things happening just last year, there are those, namely Rob Parker, who think that Brady is about to fall off a cliff. Now, it seems ridiculous to even consider based on his performance last year. But, the point of the cliff is that you don’t see it coming, so I figured instead of dismissing these people for the raving lunatics they obviously are, we could take a look at some history to see if we get some insight into what Brady might look like this season.
The first thing to point out is that Brady will be joining a pretty exclusive club. Only 7 NFL QB’s have ever played a game at 41 or older. They are: Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde, Doug Flutie, Brett Favre, Steve Deberg, Earl Morall, and Mark Brunell. Now, Testaverde, Morall, and Brunell were all backups, so we can throw out their performance from that year, as they didn’t play. Steve Deberg left the game at 39 and decided to come back as a backup at 44, so he wasn’t even in the NFL when he was 41. It’s a weird story, but totally not the point of this article, so let’s just move on.
Let’s start with the guy who started out as a backup, Doug Flutie. In 2003, he started as the backup for Drew Brees in San Diego. With Brees and the Chargers struggling at 1-7, Flutie was inserted as the starter. He went 2-3 as a starter, but was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week one week, and became the first player over the age of 41 to rush for 2 TDs in a game. His passing stats may not have been amazing, but even in his best year in the NFL, he never put up crazy passing stats. He ended up being cut by the Chargers, and was the backup QB for the Patriots the next few years.
Next is Warren Moon, who went from Minnesota to Seattle in his 41 season, in 1997. He had gotten hurt at the beginning of 96, and when he ended up replacing injured Brad Johnson, he had a decent season, but nothing to write home about. In 1997, at 41, he played well enough to make the Pro Bowl and be MVP of the Pro Bowl. His numbers were pretty good, 3,600 yards, 25 TDs, and 16 INTs. He played only 10 games the next year and then signed with the Chiefs as a backup.
Last is Brett Favre, who Parker compared to Brady in his argument. His numbers that year were 4200 yards, 33 TDs, and 7 INTs. He was solid, but here’s what you should keep in mind, he had the highest completion percentage of his career that year, the 4th most TDs of his career, the least INTs of his career by a wide margin, and the highest QB rating of his career. In fact, it was the only year of his career where he had a rating over 100, and the only year he threw for less than 13 INTs. It was not a normal year for him, and, statistically, arguably the best year of his career. That offseason, he said he was going to retire, again, and then was convinced to come out of retirement, again. He just didn’t have it the next year. He threw for 2500 yards with only 11 TDs and 19 INTs. One could argue that 2009 should’ve been the last year of his career, and he would’ve gone out on top. That obviously didn’t happen, but I think at that even Favre knew he didn’t have enough left in the tank to come back for 2010.
Let’s compare Favre’s 40 year old season with Brady’s. The numbers look similar, Brady threw for 4500 yards, 32 TDs, and 8 INTs, but it’s not the numbers it’s where they rank in his career. It was the 6th most yards he’d thrown for, the 7th most TDs he’d thrown for, the 7th time he had been under 10 INTs, and his rating was over 100, but it was the 6th time in his career he had done that. The point is, it was just another solid year by Brady. It wasn’t the best statistical year of his career like it was for Favre. It was a notice to the rest of the league that he was here to stay, and not slowing down any time soon.
So will Brady fall of the cliff this year? It doesn’t seem likely. He looked sharp in the first half of the game on Thursday, and seems poised to be one of the best QBs in the league again this year. Next year is when we enter uncharted territory. No QB has ever been competent past the age of 41, so next year will hold more questions than this year. However, something tells me that, given Brady’s maniacal diet and work ethic, that he won’t be arriving at a cliff anytime soon. My only hope is that he retires before he hits one, just so all the idiots like Parker and Mike Felger are never allowed to celebrate “being right” after having the same take for 10 years.
Pat is the host of the Weekend Warrior Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @wtplane
Photo: Boston Herald