By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
There has been a lot of rabble-rousing by the Boston sports media accusing the Patriots management team and coaching staff of being unappreciative of the dwindling window for a Tom Brady-led duck boat parade. The authoritative press’s logic runs something like this:
- Most players do not last much past their mid 30’s.
- Tom Brady is 34 years old and therefore only has 3 or 4 years left in the tank
- The Patriots Brass keeps trading down in the draft or even worse trading up into the following year’s draft.
- The front office traded Richard Seymour for a draft pick 2 years down the line.
- New England’s suits don’t seem to be sacrificing long-term viability for short-term bursts, by overpaying for hot free agents prospects, or keeping developmental projects like Price and Marcus Cannon.
- Brady does not have Michael Vick’s scrambling ability, or Brett Favre’s cannon or even Peyton Manning’s precision. Tom Brady’s spiral isn’t always very tight. However, his talent lies in his ability to read defenses and his intense workout effort. Tedy Bruschi said after Brady’s 517-yard game “The tough part was practice during the week. All he had to do was come out here and execute. He demands that from his teammates during the week in practice. I’ve seen him be fiery on the field, yes, but I’ve seen him even more competitive in practice situations. That’s when he does his work, during the week, off the field, all of the film work, then he gets out here, just lets it flow. The work is done. End result: 517.” Everyone always says that Brady’s favorite receiver is the open one, but few people ever mention the reason why he can always find that elusive chink in the opposing defense’s armor. It’s because he is so well prepared that he recognizes coverages better than anyone else in the game. This type of talent and film room study habit does not wither with age.
- Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl as a facilitator. He was a glorified Trent Dilfer. He just had an uncanny ability to instrument game winning drives. However, he still accomplished it by throwing screens to J.R. Redmond and the like. Since then, he has morphed into a high-octane offensive machine; producing a record-breaking 50 TD season, and a season in which he had 9-to-1 TD/Interception ratio that earned him the first ever unanimous MVP award last year. So even if his skills diminish with age, he can always revert back to his game management days and rely on a powerful defense to keep the games close, ala 2001.
- His 2 best seasons came at age 30 and 33 respectively. His much ballyhooed 2010 MVP award’s was earned despite loosing his over the top threat (Randy Moss) having 2 undrafted running backs (Law Firm/Woodhead), 2 rookie tight ends (Hernandez/Gronkowski), a diminutive wide receiver only 9 months removed from a torn ACL (Welker), and an aged mid-season acquisition (Branch). Not exactly an all-star lineup for what was arguably the greatest season by a quarterback of all time.
- The league now protects its quarterbacks a lot more than in years past, which limits the wear and tear on the star players.
- Medical advancement has been miraculous even in the last 10 years. Welker was able to come back for ACL surgery without missing a regular season game. Strasburg can still throw 100 miles per hour after Tommy John surgery. In all sports, players are able to stay on the field longer and still be effective. Kobe Bryant averaged over 25 points per game in his 15th NBA season. Wakefield won his 200th game at 45 years of age! Sure those are cherry picked facts but it still, but there is nothing in Tom Brady’s skill set that would make one believe that he couldn’t play until his mid 40’s.
So while Tom Brady might be getting longer in the tooth, he still has a lot more years left to play. His skills are more mental and preparatory in nature and the league will protect him from late hits, hits to the head, and hits below the waist. Brett Favre famously threw for 4200 yards, 33 TD’s and only 7 picks at age 40, and he was a reckless gunslinger whose bad habits got him into trouble in the playoffs. So while Brady’s skills will deteriorate, that by no means that he can’t helm a Super Bowl winning team. It just seems silly to talk about a man’s decline when he clearly better at age 34 then he was at age 24 or 28, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
As long as the Patriots keep building for the future and create another defensive juggernaut that can match the Patriots’ offensive firepower, there is no reason why Tom Brady cannot lead to more championships. Obviously, the team and the coaching staff could slink off into mediocrity, Tom could suffer another serious injury or just plain hang it up. There are no guarantees in sports, and that’s what makes it so exciting, but there is nothing inherent about Tom Brady’s age that will preclude him from winning a championship long after he has grey stubble.