Opinion: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Fact: Tom Brady will be 43 years old when he begins his 21st season later this year as a new member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He will join an exclusive club of 43-and-older QBs to play in the NFL.
Hall of Famer Warren Moon played in a total of three games in two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs after his 43rd birthday. He barely got on the field, completing just 16 passes in his two seasons with the Chiefs. Former Chiefs quarterback Steve DeBerg was 44 when he returned to the NFL after four seasons in retirement, this time suiting up for the Atlanta “Dirty Bird” Falcons, a team that would eventually lose in Super Bowl XXXIII to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. When DeBerg was forced to start for an injured Chris Chandler against the Jets and a “young” Testaverde, he became the oldest QB to start an NFL game. He threw for 117 yards and a pick.
Seeing a pattern here?
Brady actually saw a couple of these old timers up close.
Doug Flutie was his backup in 2005, taking snaps for Brady at the end of games. In the five games where Flutie saw action, he had a QBR of 56.3. In a late-season game against the New York Jets, Flutie took the field opposite Vinny Testarverde who was 42 at the time. Flutie retired after that season. Who’d the Pats bring in to replace him? Testaverde. In the 2006 season, as a 43-year-old, Testaverde completed just two passes in three games. He retired after the following season, starting six games for the Panthers, where he threw six INTs to five TDs.
So although this is an exclusive club, it’s not distinguished.
Brady will become the fifth 43-year-old quarterback to play in the league. And, as you can see, the other four before him probably should have gone to the crib and waited on their AARP benefits.
Brady also joins an organization that has failed to win a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl in 2003, and have only been to the wild card round twice. During this period, Brady has won five of his six Super Bowls and took home three of his four Super Bowl MVPs. During his introductory press conference on Tuesday, however, Brady tried to downplay his role as franchise savior.
“The expectation for me is to come in and do what I feel is right for the organization and that is to be a great team player — great offenses are not about one player, great offenses are about every guy being on the same page and playing with confidence and anticipation,” Brady stated.
Trent Dilfer was perhaps the first QB regularly referred to as a “game manager” had his best game-managing years as a Buc. Brady can’t be Dilfer. Whether he knows it or is willing to admit it, Tampa Bay’s offensive success is going to be almost solely reliant on what will be a 43-year-old right arm by the start of the season.
Contrary to what Brady says about his teammates’ contributions, the quarterback is the catalyst for the entire offense. Their talent is what allows all the other players to shine. If they are ineffective the offensive is ineffective. Period.
The quarterback has been the most important player on the roster since the Pee-Wee league and that rule doesn’t stop now for Brady.
Bringing this Buccaneers team back to the promised land will arguably be the toughest task of his career at a moment where his decline is lurking around the corner.
While he is the greatest to ever do it, father time is always undefeated. There will be a limited number of games that Brady will still be “Brady.”
The point for Brady is simple: history isn’t in his favor and time isn’t on his side.