By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady has made the news once or twice this offseason. Whether it was for skipping voluntary OTAs, or pleading the fifth to Jim Gray, or partying in Monaco, or wearing a jacket that looked like an embroidered pillow, you probably have caught wind of what the QB has been up to in the wake of February’s Super Bowl loss to the Eagles.
Through it all, Brady remains a professional football player, even though that aspect of his life hasn’t always been the main focus of the coverage surrounding him in recent months. But this week, Brady was back on the football field, doing what he’s done for nearly 20 years in Foxboro.
With that, despite any potentially lingering issues between Brady and Bill Belichick, he and the Patriots appear to be moving forward as much as possible. And it’s in that endeavor that Brady is entering some truly uncharted territory as a soon-to-be-41-year-old quarterback.
That’s not necessarily new for Brady. When he endeavored to play that quarterback position at the highest level at age 40, the odds were not on his side. Really, through the history of the NFL, the only quarterback who found success at that age was Brett Favre. If Brady did indeed set out to outperform Favre’s age 40 season, he arguably accomplished the feat.
Tom Brady in 2017 (regular season and postseason combined)
5,709 yards, 7.93 Y/A
103.87 passer rating
Brett Favre in 2009 (regular season and postseason combined)
4,746 yards, 7.90 Y/A
106.12 passer rating
Favre owns the edge in completion percentage and passer rating, but Brady owns the rest and also earned NFL MVP honors and put forth a historic performance in the Super Bowl, albeit in a losing effort.
But that’s in the past, and it’s known. It’s also over. Now, Brady will turn 41 years old in August, and when the season begins in September, he will look to become the first quarterback to ever have a great NFL season at that age.
The list of men who even tried is not long. But here is a collection of the outputs of those who did make the attempt at age 41.
Brett Favre, 2010
2,509 yards, 7.0 Y/A
69.9 passer rating
Warren Moon, 1997
3,678 yards, 7.0 Y/A
83.7 passer rating
Vinny Testaverde, 2004
3,532 yards, 7.1 Y/A
76.4 passer rating
Doug Flutie, 2003
1,097 yards, 6.6 Y/A
82.8 passer rating
George Blanda, 1968
522 yards, 10.7 Y/A
120.1 passer rating
Earl Morrall, 1975
82.8 passer rating
Mark Brunell, 2011
That’s it. That’s everybody who tried to play quarterback in the NFL at age 41. Every NFL quarterback who was either 41 years old or playing in a season during which he turned 41 years old combined to throw 71 touchdowns and 63 interceptions. As starting quarterbacks, they led their teams to a combined record of 21-28.
Clearly, it’s not exactly an extensive history of success. Favre fell apart after his MVP-type season at age 40, throwing 12 more interceptions in three fewer games. His season — and career — came to an abrupt end when his head hit the turf on a Monday night game on a frigid December night in Minneapolis. Favre had taken the Vikings from a 12-4 record and an NFC Chamionship Game appearance in 2009 to a 5-8 record in his 12 starts in 2010.
Prior to the season-ending concussion, Favre had missed a start for the first time in 297 games after suffering a sprained shoulder.
Moon — who played until he was 44 years old — was somewhat accomplished in his age 41 season. He ranked fifth in the NFL in both touchdown passes and passing yards, and he earned a spot on the Pro Bowl roster. He also pulled off three fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives. Yet his 16 interceptions were tied for third-most in the league, and he wasn’t in the top 10 in passer rating. He was good, not great, for the 8-8 Seahawks.
Testaverde — who also lasted in the NFL through age 44 — was downright dreadful in his age 41 season. He led the league with 20 interceptions and ranked tied for 19th in touchdowns. He had the 26th-best passer rating in the league for the 6-10 Cowboys, his one and only season with Dallas.
The few remaining 41-year-old quarterbacks didn’t play much at all, certainly not anywhere close to the level that will be expected of Brady in 2018. Without a championship-caliber backup quarterback on the roster (not many NFL teams have such a luxury), the Patriots clearly have all their eggs in the Brady basket if they hope to return to the Super Bowl.
For that to work out for the Patriots, they’ll not only need Brady to maintain a remarkable level of good fortune with regard to his health. They’ll also need him to do something that really nobody else has ever done before in the history of the sport.
At this point, everybody knows that if anybody can pull it off, it would be Brady. But just as it was last season and the year before that, the tomes of sports history will not be on his side.