2 years ago
On Aug. 3, Tom Brady turns 40. New England’s quarterback doesn’t take this lightly—as we’ve addressed before, he monitors every aspect of his physical well-being. If there’s a man with a healthier diet on this planet, we’d like to meet him. (We’re not certain we’d actually like to eat with that person, though—that sounds like a pretty grim meal.) And if you’re concerned about it being a farewell tour, fear not: Brady has stated he intends to play until he’s 45.
Obviously, this is unusual for the NFL. You may not appreciate just how unusual though, which is why we’re taking a look at star NFL quarterbacks at 40.
The Retired: Joe Montana (38), Troy Aikman (34), Joe Namath (34), Otto Graham (34), Steve Young (38), Dan Marino (38), and many, many others. Quite simply, most of the game’s greats were long gone by the big 4-0. Brady picked a good time to stick around, because he’s played in an era when the NFL has consistently made rules to protect and generally assist quarterbacks. (Among them: Since 2002, rules have specifically protected QBs from helmet-to-helmet and low hits, as well as expanding the time when they’re defined as “defenseless players.”)
Brady’s contemporary, Peyton Manning, took advantage of these changes to play until 39, winning a Super Bowl with Denver in his final game. It still should be noted that the Broncos often won despite him. Including playoffs, in his final year Manning started 12 games, during which he threw 11 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Here are some of the men who managed to make it to 40.
Johnny Unitas: You probably don’t remember Johnny Unitas playing for the Chargers. Johnny U. doubtless would have preferred it that way too. The legendary Colt made it to 40 with San Diego, going 1-3 in his final season in 1974, with three touchdowns and seven picks.
Brett Favre: At 40, Brett Favre beat time. The Vikings went 12-4 with the Packer icon as he threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl and even won a playoff game. At 41, time got payback in a big way. Favre went 5-8 as a starter, throwing 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in his final season.
George Blanda: This is George Blanda on the verge of turning 44. No, this does not look like a man at an age he should still be playing pro football. Which makes it all the more remarkable he stuck around another four seasons, finally retiring in 1975 at age 48. After 40, Blanda reached a Pro Bowl, went undefeated as a starter at QB, and reached the Hall of Fame.
Which would all be very promising for Brady, except Blanda stuck around primarily as a kicker. (Indeed, he received a total of one start at QB after 40.) Blanda threw for 1,764 yards and 17 touchdowns the season he turned 39. He never threw for more than 522 yards or six TDs in the nine seasons that followed.
Of course, Tom Terrific has a knack for beating the odds, as the sixth round pick is about to play in his seventh Super Bowl. In four years, no one should be surprised if he reveals the secret exercise regimen that will let him last until 50.
—Sean Cunningham for RealClearLife