I know, I know, nobody wants to hear more about Tom Brady being good at football. But every year it seems we discuss the possibility of him reaching that proverbial QB ‘cliff’. Every QB before him has fallen prey to Father Time, but will Brady ever reach that point?
Brady has now reached his age 44 season and continues to defy the odds as a quarterback. Just last season, Brady led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory in his first season away from New England. This just doesn’t happen in the NFL. In the history of the NFL, only 11 QBs have played into their 40s (minimum 100 pass attempts). Using data collected from Football Outsiders NFL DVOA database, we can see Brady has been by far the most accomplished and successful beyond turning 40:
Despite all of this, Brady haters may have found some fuel in his 2019 season (age 42). The following player comparison helps to prove this:
2019 Player A: 61.4% Completion/24 TD/8 INT/53.7 QBR/2.4 DVOA
2019 Player B: 61.5% Completion/18 TD/4 INT/50.1 QBR/2.6 DVOA
Those players are generally comparable across those categories, and it would essentially be a coin flip as to who you would want starting a game for your team (although neither option is great). So here’s the crazy part: Player A is Tom Brady, and Player B is … Jacoby Brissett. It may just be me, but I generally put Brissett and Brady in very separate tiers. However, in 2019, Brady posted career lows in DVOA and QBR, and his lowest DYAR value since 2001, his first year spending time as a starter.
In the moment, it was easy to overlook these metrics as the Patriots still won their division, but it appeared Brady had finally reached that point in his career where he would begin to fall off the ‘cliff’.
And then Brady moved to Tampa Bay. It turns out warm weather and a talented receiving core gave Brady just what he needed to stop himself from sliding. In his first season in Tampa Bay he raised his QBR, DVOA, DYAR, and completion percentage significantly, resulting in a much more efficient season and a Super Bowl victory. He also became the only QB 40 or older to throw for 40 TDs in a single season. Looking at a couple of graphics helps to visualize the immediate change in production for Brady as a member of the Buccaneers.
In essence, Brady has revitalized his career (albeit after a very brief down period) at an older age than most quarterbacks can sustain any level of success. He continues to prove the doubters wrong and put up numbers we would expect from players 10, 15 or even 20 years younger than him. Who knows, perhaps the question isn’t when Brady will finally fall off the cliff, but if he ever will.