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When great players in any sport hit a certain age, questions about retirement becomes a constant part of the story.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be asked about it every year until he finally steps aside, but here’s the difference with his career: He has shown no desire to retire, and even at 39 he looks like he’s nowhere close to the end.
“I’d like to play until my mid-forties,” Brady said, according to The MMQB’s Peter King. “Then I’ll make a decision. If I’m still feeling like I’m feeling today, who knows? Now those things can always change. You do need long-term goals too. I know next year is not going to be my last year.”
Mid-40s? If you’re wondering if the Patriots should trade Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason or hold onto him as Brady’s possible replacement, that should answer your question.
Last season, Brady set an NFL record with a 28-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In Super Bowl LI, he attempted a Super Bowl-record 62 passes and set another Super Bowl record with 466 yards in an amazing Patriots comeback. By watching him you’d think Brady was 29 years old, not 39.
You may have heard this already, but the history of 40-year-old quarterbacks being effective is incredibly slim. Only two 40-year-old quarterbacks, with a minimum of nine starts in a season, have posted a passer rating of even 80 (Brett Favre in 2009 and Warren Moon in 1997). Brady turns 40 on Aug. 3. There are very rarely any soft landings for aging quarterbacks; the end can come quite suddenly.
Brady still has motivation, though he has ended any real debate about who is the greatest quarterback ever. He’s a little more than 10,000 yards behind Peyton Manning’s record, so three good seasons should get him there (though, Drew Brees is more than 4,000 yards ahead of Brady and also showing no signs of aging). Brady is also 83 touchdowns from tying Manning’s career record (though, Brady is nine TDs behind Brees, who needs to get more love in the all-time rankings). And it seems like Brady wants to play football forever. He told King that he enjoys playing and still enjoys the preparation, and after 17 seasons he can diagnose any defense and knows how to beat it. In the next few years we’ll hear a ton about Brady’s maniacal diet habits. He still looks like the best quarterback in football. So maybe he’s just the alien who can have multiple good seasons in his 40s, even though no other quarterback has done so in the 97-year history of the NFL.
It will be a fascinating story. Either Brady has many good years left, which would be unprecedented at his age, or he’s closer to the end than anyone can possibly realize. And if he does play until his mid-40s? Good luck ever breaking the records he’ll set.
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