Thomas Edward Patrick Brady can do whatever he wants to when it comes to deciding his future in the National Football league. At this point, one would think there’s nothing left to accomplish. A Super Bowl win like the one he garnered a month ago is usually the curtain call for legendary players (see: John Elway, Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning).
Brady says he wants to play until he’s 45, and I’m sure nearly every quarterback in the league wants to play until they’re 45, it just isn’t a reality for most. When the season begins, Brady will be in his age 40 season, almost uncharted territory for a quarterback.
Favre had a season for the ages at 40, but at age 41 his skills declined and he retired at the end of that season. Warren Moon made the Pro Bowl at age 41, albeit with a pedestrian stat-line on a 7-7 team. That season would be the swan song of his career.
Consider those quarterbacks the exception rather than the rule. Brady will likely come out in 2017 trying to prove that he and father time still aren’t on speaking terms. I doubt anyone would be surprised if he has another 4,000-yard, 30-plus touchdowns season and a playoff berth.
But Brady isn’t only a fierce competitor, he’s also a very smart businessman. He knows the statistics on “old” quarterbacks. He knows the punishment a body takes over a 16-game season (something he didn’t have to endure in 2016 thanks to Roger Goodell). He’s seemingly found the fountain of youth, but the serum is in short supply.
New England has put the word out that Brady’s backup Jimmy Garoppolo is (supposedly) staying put in 2017 after speculation has been rampant for over a year now on whether or not he would be moved for draft-pick compensation. Some believe this could be a ploy by the Patriots to up the ante in a bidding war for the Northern Illinois alums’ services.
But what if it isn’t?
Bill Belichick is a smart man too, and it’s been written that he wants to coach beyond the Brady years, seemingly to prove he doesn’t need the Michigan man behind center to win. Do you think he could win with Jacoby Brissett calling the plays? Probably 10-games without a second thought. But a Super Bowl? No chance. And that’s no disrespect to Brissett.
If ever there was a player who fits the mold of an heir apparent to Tom Brady, he’s wearing number 10 for the Patriots right now. Would New England really trade that away for a draft pick they’d spend on a player who could be anything but a sure thing? Maybe, if they truly do believe Brady can play until 45.
However, with age comes deterioration of the body. For some it takes a few more years than others, but it always comes. Brady can’t play forever, as much as he wants to. And the Patriots can’t run the risk of being left without a franchise quarterback when he takes his final bow.
The Patriots will continue to listen to every offer that is put on the table for Garoppolo, but none will quite be enough. No quarterback available to the Patriots is worth putting time into, and no quarterback on the open market interests Belichick. He’s a defensive mastermind, but even he knows you need a quarterback to bail out the defense and win some games.
Brady is that quarterback now, and until he decides he doesn’t want to be. Jimmy Garoppolo will be the next man up in an organization renowned for just that mentality. The Patriots, as usual, know something we don’t know.