Brady has beaten back time with Bucs

by Gary Shelton on December 31, 2020

in general

Brady is still essential at age 43 ./TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Thursday, 4 a.m.

He has not just been the Greatest of All Time. He has been the Greatest for a Long Time.

When you get down to it, that is the most remarkable part of Tom Brady's game. It's still going on. He's still good. He's still vital.

Here, near the end of his 43rd autumn, Brady is still an impact player for the Tampa Bay Bucs. With a game to go, he has won 10 games. He has thrown for 4,234 yards. He has thrown for 36 touchdowns. He has a rating of 101.0.

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And, yet, Brady has critics. Of course he does. And that may be the finest compliment of them all. He isn't too old to stop the groans.

" It’s amazing because when you’re out there watching him in practice, you’re like, ‘This guy looks like he’s 30, maybe 33 at most.’" Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "It’s just amazing watching him practice and the way he works so hard at taking care of himself. That’s not easy at 43, taking a few shots – hopefully not too many – and moving on. It’s really amazing to me. He really is a freak of nature in that regard.”

Check the records. Joe Montana, great quarterback, was finished at 38. Peyton Manning, great quarterback, was done at 39. Joe Namath was over at 34. Dan Marino was 38 when he retired.

And Brady is still throwing up 300-yard games (six this year).

Credit some of it to the care Brady takes with his body. Some of it is because of rule changes that lessen the pounding quarterbacks endure. Some it is because of his fierce competitiveness.

"I used to call Peyton a piranha, because you just couldn’t give him enough information," said Arians, who coached them both. "He had notebook after notebook. Tom, he’s the same way. He wants scouting reports on corners, linebackers from our pro scouts and every bit of information he can go into a ballgame with for his preparation. They both love taking guys aside. ‘Hey, let’s work on this route. This might be a little bit new – we might run it from a different formation. Let’s go practice it when the defense is practicing.’ They’re always moving [and] they’re always getting something done. They both have the ability to will themselves on their teammates and make them win. That’s a very, very rare thing.”

Check out the other quarterbacks who played at age 43.

George Blanda of the Raiders didn't start a game. He threw for 461 yards and had a rating of 32.9. He would stick around until the age of 48, but he never started a game past the age of 41.

Warren Moon was a backup as a 43-year-old, too. He threw three passes for Kansas City in 1999, completing one for 20 yards. He had a rating of 57.6. Another year as a backup, and he was gone.

Vinny Testaverde lasted long enough to erase his failures in Tampa Bay. As a 43-year-old in his next-to-last season, Testaverde completed two of three passes for 29 yards. He lasted another year as a backup and was gone.

Doug Flutie, wrapping up his career in New England in 2005, threw for 29 yards as a backup.

And that was it. A little bit of insurance was the best any could offer.

Brady is still responsible for his team's success.

Quarterbacks used to be older younger. In his last season, Manning threw for 2,249 yards. Montana threw for 3,283. Brett Favre, at 41, threw for 2,569. Namath threw for 608. Unitas for 471.

None of them still mattered as much as Brady matters, win or lose, to the Bucs.

"We have a walkthrough blitz period going on non-stop when the defense is going, and it’s just coaches walking through all the exotic blitzes," Arians said. "He is grabbing a guy – a running back – and go throw. ‘Hey ‘Ro’ (Ronald Jones II), let me throw you this ball. I want to get a feel for you on this route.’ It’s been going on for at least six weeks now and it’s really shown up.”

Of course, we all knew that Brady wouldn't be the long-term solution for the Bucs. But in his first season, he has the team in the playoffs.

He may not be getting better, but from the looks of things, he isn't get much older, either.

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