Quarterbacks playing better than ever — and longer

by Gary Shelton on October 15, 2020

in general

Brady isn't ready for the rocking chair./@Buccaneers

Thursday, 4 a.m.

When he was 34 years old, with accomplishments behind him, Otto Graham hung them up. Tom Brady, at 43, is still going.

At 34, Joe Namath's knees had had enough. At almost 42, Drew Brees hasn't slowed down a lot.

At 30, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith had had enough. At almost 37, Aaron Rodgers is playing like he's just getting started.

And on and on it goes, and on and on they go. Quarterbacks are playing longer, and they're setting records, and no one is rushing to the broadcasters' booth.

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Throughout the history of the game, quarterbacks didn't have long past their 35th birthday to make hay. Even with the great ones, most of them were done long before their 40th birthday.

Peyton Manning left at 39. Joe Montana was 38. John Elway at 38. Michael Vick at 35 . Troy Aikman at 34. Terry Bradshaw at 35. Jim Kelley at 36.

So what is it? It it because of the players, or because of the game, or because of advanced training methods. Is it, perhaps, because of all of it.

Certainly, the new rules have helped quarterbacks stay healthier longer. Most of the rules tweaks have been done so with protection of the quarterback in mind. A quarterback can throw the ball away when outside the pocket. He can slide himself down. Offensive linemen can do more with their hands. Defensive backs are limited as to how much contact they can make. Rushers can't tee-off as easily.

That helps.

It also helps that training has become a science.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "Barring major injury, I think these guys can play until they’re 45, as long as their arm holds up. With sports science and all the stuff that these guys are doing to stay in shape and keeping their arms strong, I don’t see – unless their legs go – why they couldn’t play until they’re 45.

They know how to get the ball out of their hands. When you are eight, nine [or] 10 years in, you’re not holding that thing very long anyway. For those guys, they know how to get it out [and] get it up. As long as they’re still accurate and their legs are healthy, that’s what you’re looking for.”

One thing that helps quarterbacks is the influx of good receivers. And, no, Arians doesn't buy that the Bucs lead the league in drops.

“I don’t know who makes up these stats.," Arians said. "I don’t see us dropping the ball that much. We had a game where we did, but I don’t put any stock in it. Our guys can catch, and we don’t say (anything) about it.”

The Bucs are home on Sunday to face the Green Bay Packers at 4:25 p.m.

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