By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are on their bye week at the midway point of the season, which offers an opportunity to take stock of various items.
One area that’s warranted periodic updating this year has been Tom Brady’s quest to have the greatest season ever for a 40-year-old quarterback in NFL history. While that may not be a stated goal, he is coming off the greatest season for a 39-year-old quarterback, and it’s been easy to surmise from Brady’s obsessiveness about fitness and performance that he’s not setting out to just be an average quarterback. He’s setting out to be the best.
And in that quest, there is just one quarterback he has to beat: Brett Favre. When Favre was 40 in 2009, he managed to put together not only the greatest season ever by a 40-year-old quarterback but also the best season of his own career.
That year with the Vikings, Favre completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions, good for a 107.2 passer rating. The Vikings went 12-4.
In doing so, Favre broke the mold. Though some popular names — Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde, Doug Flutie, Len Dawson, Sonny Jurgensen — gave it a go at age 40, none found it to be all that easy. And none really succeeded.
But Favre did, thereby creating a new standard that’s held its ground as all-time great Peyton Manning’s career came to a close.
With Brady, Favre’s 2009 season is in jeopardy of losing its place as the gold standard. But for Brady to take the crown, he’ll need to keep up his current pace.
Here’s how the two stack up after their first eight games of their age 40 seasons:
Brett Favre, 2009
16 TDs, 3 INTs
106.0 passer rating
Tom Brady, 2017
2,541 yards, 8.2 Y/A
16 TDs , 2 INTs
106.5 passer rating
And here’s Favre’s final numbers stacked up against Brady’s projections:
Brett Favre, 2009
4,202 yards, 7.9 Y/A
33 TDs, 7 INTs
107.2 passer rating
Tom Brady, 2017 (*projected)
5,082 yards, 8.2 Y/A
32 TDs, 4 INTs
106.5 passer rating
As you can see, Brady will need a slight uptick in passing touchdowns to pass Favre, though Brady is well on his way to shattering Favre’s yardage total.
A point of note, too: Brady’s standing pretty high among his contemporaries. He leads the league in passing yards with 360 yards more than the second-best QB in that category. He’s tied for third in touchdowns, he’s second in passer rating and in touchdown-to-interception ratio.
In the pursuit of Favre, there are a number of factors to consider. Namely, Brady will be playing four games in December outdoors in the Northeast, with a pair of late-December home games as well as trips to Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Conditions for passing are sure to be sketchy in at least one of those games, if not all of them.
Another major factor is the health of Rob Gronkowski, who accounts for 20 percent of Brady’s passing yards and over 30 percent of Brady’s passing touchdowns on the year. Gronkowski’s already missed a game this year with a hamstring issue, but his health going forward will play a significant role in what Brady’s overall numbers look like at year’s end.
And there’s also the important note that Brady would be OK with throwing zero more interceptions for the rest of the regular season, so long as it ensured his age 40 season would not end the way Favre’s did. As you may or may not recall, Favre threw five touchdowns and one interception through the Vikings’ first 119:30 of postseason action, before he threw an interception deep in New Orleans territory to cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl. This is not Detroit, man — this the Super Bowl!
It was an unforgettable end to what was a historic season, though not for the reasons Favre would have preferred.
In Brady’s case, save for his Week 17 of 2007 quest to throw two touchdowns to Randy Moss, the quarterback has typically not been distracted by statistical achievements. And ultimately he’ll just want to win as many games as possible and try to win another Super Bowl.
But for spectators who are watching as the greatest quarterback in history takes his career to levels never before seen, keeping an eye on the statistical comparison with Favre adds a minor element worth monitoring in the season’s second half.