By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In the grand scheme of life, 44 is not all that old. In tackle football years, though, it is ancient.
Nevertheless, when Tom Brady hits the practice field on Tuesday, he’ll be doing so as a 44-year-old active NFL quarterback.
That is ridiculous.
Truly and utterly ridiculous.
To be fair, some men have tried to play quarterback in the NFL at that age, just as some men have tried to play at 43, and 42. It largely has not worked out well for them.
Let’s run through the list, shall we?
In 1998, Steve DeBerg came out of a four-year retirement to play for the Falcons at age 44. He played in eight games, but started just one. He completed 30 of his 59 passes for 369 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
Vinny Testaverde gave it a go for his age 44 season. He turned 44 in November of the 2007 season, a year after he backed up Brady in New England. Testaverde actually started six games for the Panthers in ’07, going 2-4. He completed 54.7 percent of his passes for 952 yards, at just 5.5 yards per attempt. He threw five touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer rating was 65.8. It all was not very good.
Technically speaking, Testaverde was even worse than that after his 44th birthday on Nov. 13. After turning 44, he had a 53.4 percent completion rate, four touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 62.1 passer rating.
Warren Moon played for the Chiefs in 2000, celebrating his 44th birthday midseason in November. The Hall of Famer started one game at 44 years old, completing 12 of his 31 passes for 130 yards with no touchdowns and one interception while taking five sacks. Prior to his 44th birthday that season, he went 3-for-3 for 78 yards and a touchdown after entering late in a blowout victory over the Rams.
Hall of Famer George Blanda, of course, played in the NFL through his age 48 season. Yet he had mostly given up his quarterbacking duties by age 40, instead serving mostly as a kicker for his later years. He did throw 58 passes in his age 44 season, completing 55.5 percent of them for 378 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions for a 58.6 passer rating.
— John Breech (@johnbreech) January 10, 2021
Put it all together, and the 44-year-old quartet of Blanda, Moon, Testaverde and DeBerg posted these combined stats for their full age 44 seasons:
BLANDA, MOON, TESTAVERDE, DEBERG
1,907 yards, 5.9 Y/A
13 TDs, 14 INTs
66.2 passer rating
Brady has, of course, not yet played a snap at age 44. He won’t do that until Sept. 9, when he trots onto the field against the Dallas Cowboys not long after the Buccaneers unveil their banner for winning Super Bowl LV in February. In a sport like football, nothing is ever guaranteed. But provided he’s healthy and that surgically repaired knee is strong, Brady should be able to once again outperform the combined stats of every person who’s ever even attempted to play quarterback at his age.
As you surely know, he did that last year:
Best I can gather: Prior to 2020, only eight NFL games had ever been started by a quarterback aged 43 or older. Teams with the old QBs owned a 2-6 record.
QBs aged 43+ had combined to throw 22 TDs and 20 INTs in NFL history.
Brady threw 50 TDs, 15 INTs, 15-5 record.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) July 19, 2021
Really, where almost all other quarterbacks have faded out and/or retired, Brady has gotten better. Outside of Brett Favre’s 2009 season, which compared decently to Brady’s 2017 season, Brady has authored the best season in history for his age for six years running.
(Looking ahead to 2022, which very much appears to be Brady’s final season, the list of age 45 quarterbacks includes only Blanda and his 15 passes in 1972. If he starts a game next year, he’ll be in truly uncharted territory.)
So at this point, there’s no reason to doubt Brady. Based on last year’s stats, he can beat the combined completions of all 44-year-olds and pass their yardage total by the end of October. He threw his 14th touchdown of the year in Week 6 last year, and will likely better that pace in 2021, given his continuity and chemistry in the offense.
Barring an unexpected and rapid visit to the famed cliff that has been looming for five years, Brady is set to continue rewriting football history and redefining what’s possible for quarterbacks of a certain age. It’s completely and utterly ridiculous that we’re all still talking about Tom Brady, NFL Starting Quarterback, Reigning Super Bowl MVP in the year 2021. We can’t even fully process how incomprehensible it all is.
But we can watch. And for as long as he keeps playing, we’ll continue watching.
Brady used to say, “When I suck, I’ll retire.” A whole lot of people have been waiting a whole lot of time for that day to come. It just hasn’t happened yet. And despite the entire history of the sport lacking any sort of comparable figure, there’s little reason to doubt that Brady will just keep it going again at age 44.