We’ll see when Tom Brady’s career is actually over, but his name will be part of the conversation in the NFL for decades to come. There’s plenty of room to debate about the greatest of all time, and there’s plenty of time to have that debate, but there’s no question at all that Brady leaves the game as No. 1 all time — in all of the categories where he spent the past 20 years rewriting the record book.
Let’s take a look at some of Brady’s records, and which ones are likely to stand for the longest.
Brady set this record this season, beating his previous career high by 83 — so it was about more than just the expansion to a 17-game season. Justin Herbert was second in the league this year at 443, followed by Patrick Mahomes at 436 and Derek Carr at 428. This record could fall as soon as next season.
Brady edged past Drew Brees (7,142) this season. Next on the list behind them is Brett Favre at 6,300. But the game is changing. Justin Herbert has 839 completions in two seasons, Kyler Murray has 1,057 in three, Josh Allen has 1,245 in four, and Mahomes is at 1,550 after five. It will take a long career to catch Brady here, but the evolution of football puts this record in reach. It’s a similar story for Brady’s record of 11,317 pass attempts, a mark that’s in reach for Matt Ryan if the Falcons quarterback plays into his 40s.
It’s Brady, then Brees at 80,358, then way down to 71,940 for third place on the list, Peyton Manning. Even at his current incredible rate, it would take Patrick Mahomes having a 20-year career to reach Brady. Baker Mayfield and Allen, if they have 20-year careers, pace out to a little more than 70,000. The best chance at this among active players might belong to Justin Herbert, at 9,350 yards through his first two seasons. Brady is about 25,000 yards ahead of Ryan, the next active QB on this list. It’s going to be his record for a while.
Brett Favre, Manning, and Brees are the only other members of the 500 club, with Aaron Rodgers 51 away from that. Brady is the only quarterback to throw for 600 touchdowns, and one of only 13 to reach 300, although Russell Wilson is only eight away from becoming No. 14 in that club. This is a record that only a few active quarterbacks can even dream of challenging. Mahomes is at 151, Herbert at 69, and Joe Burrow has thrown 47 touchdowns in 26 career games. You can see how they might get there, but it will take a ton of work to do it.
Maybe this is why Brady might retire. He finally set the record for Pro Bowl selections this season, breaking a tie that he’d been in with Merlin Olsen, Bruce Matthews, Manning, and Tony Gonzalez. It’s incredibly difficult to be that good for that long, but you have to at least consider Mahomes a candidate to get to 16, right? Mahomes has made four Pro Bowls in as many years as a starter. To pass Brady, he’ll have to be a Pro Bowler every year until he’s 38. It’s possible, for sure, but a very difficult feat.
Only one other player has appeared in as many as 30 playoff games: Adam Vinatieri at 32. The addition of a playoff game this season meant that Mahomes, who would’ve had a bye in past years with Kansas City at 12-5, played on wild card weekend. That factor puts this record in closer reach than it would’ve appeared not long ago, but it’s still ridiculous and requires not just getting to the playoff party every year, but making deep runs.
Brady has played in 18 percent of all Super Bowls, all the more incredible considering he wasn’t in the first 35. He’s won more Super Bowls than anyone else has played in, with second place on the appearances list shared by former Broncos and Bills defensive lineman Mike Lodish and former Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Only four other players have won multiple Super Bowl MVPs. Joe Montana has three, while Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr won two apiece — as did Eli Manning, for his two victories over Brady. Expanding the playoffs, and requiring more playoff wins to get to the Super Bowl, only makes these records harder to approach. That may happen eventually, but don’t count on living to see anyone but Brady hold these.
Records are made to be broken — except this one, because it’s impossible to throw a touchdown pass any longer than 99 yards in the NFL. Brady did it in 2011, connecting with Wes Welker during a 38-24 win at Miami. He shares this record with Favre, Frank Filchock, Gus Frerotte, Jeff Garcia, Otto Graham, Trent Green, Stan Humphries, George Izo, Ron Jaworski, Sonny Jurgensen, Eli Manning, Jim Plunkett, and Karl Sweetan. The only way this record falls is if Canada successfully invades the United States and imposes CFL rules.