Will Tom Brady Regress in 2017?

Photo Credit: USA TODAY

With Tom Brady hitting his fourth decade on this earth and playing by far the most demanding position in the National Football League, we take a look at his numbers and if they will decline like most 40-year-old quarterbacks who were under center.

Brady looked just as good last season as he did when he was in his early thirties.The New England Patriots quarterback missed the first four games of the 2016 season due to suspension only to come back and throw for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns with just two interceptions, setting a NFL single-season record for touchdown to interceptions ratio. Brady also helped lead the team to his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the most epic comeback in Super Bowl history  and was named MVP for the fourth time. Brady had one of his best years manning the offense but how long can he continue this path of destruction that he leaves behind in every stadium he enters?

To compare to others who have fallen off the cliff, we can look at none other than Brady’s arch nemesis Peyton Manning.  He threw for 5,467 yards, 55 touchdowns and scored the most points in NFL history in 2013. The next year Manning  had 39 touchdowns with 15 interceptions and 4,700 yards. His last year in 2015, he dropped off drastically.  

Some pundits believe that Brady will decline this year and that it won’t be pretty. However, Brady will set himself from the pack in this endeavor. Brady has become the master of the art of taking care of his body.  Fellow top echelon quarterback Russel Wilson, among others, are asking Brady for advice on his dietary schedule and workout regimen. Even Rob Gronkowski is following part of Brady’s lifestyle.

I do believe that Brady will have a couple more years at the top of the game. However, Brady is beginning to approach uncharted territory. The NFL’s history with quarterbacks in their 40s isn’t pretty. Typically, there isn’t a gradual decline with older quarterbacks. The decline occurs rapidly, as was the case with Brett Favre. However, the proof is in the pudding.

Brady has been exceptional in the pre-season games to date. Since 2000, seven quarterbacks have thrown a pass over the age of 40 in the NFL: Favre, Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde, Matt Hasselbeck, Doug Flutie, Mark Brunell and Brad Johnson. Of that group, only Moon (1997, age 41) and Favre (2009, age 40) have earned Pro Bowl selections after crossing into their fourth decade.

Except for 2008, when he was injured, Brady has thrown for at least 2,800 yards every season as a starter. Only three quarterbacks 40 or older in NFL history have hit that number:  Moon (1997) of the Seahawks in 1997, Vinny (Testaverde, 2004), and Favre (2009). Even those ageless stars hit the wall. Testaverde and Moon hung around for three more years without ever excelling again. Favre was tremendous at 40, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and leading Minnesota to a 12-4 record. But he had a terrible season at 41 and retired

Brady has always relied heavily on short passes, but advanced statistics show that his rate of longer throws is holding steady. Brady threw the ball 15 yards or more 83 times last year, about the same rate as 2007, as he played just 12 regular season games last season.

Brady continues to be more efficient than the average quarterback when he does go deeper. He had a completion rate of 52 percent on those 15-yard-plus passes, up from 47 percent in 2007. NFL quarterbacks as a group completed those same type of passes 42 percent of the time. Brady was picked off on such passes eight times at age 30, but only once last year. This season his targets will include  Danny Amendola (31) Brandin Cooks (23) and Rob Gronkowski (28). Brady will probably be picked off more than twice this season, and the team may have a Super Bowl hangover. But after the sterling success of last season, it seems pretty safe to pencil him in for a few good outings.

Beyond 2019, based on history, things look a little murkier.

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