(NECN) — August is a month without a federal holiday, but a certain birthday today is reason enough to celebrate across New England.
Still active, still driven by the very doubt which caused him to fall to the 199th pick of his draft, five-time Super Bowl champion Thomas Edward Patrick Brady turns 40 today.
Brady is entering his 18th season with the Patriots, his sixth straight as the team’s oldest player. Think about that. Tom Brady has been the resident greybeard of the Patriots for a third of his career.
Several of his teammates from his rookie season are now well over 50. Three players, including Patriots Hall of Famer Bruce Armstrong, began their careers in the 1980s.
And yet some players involved with Brady’s humble beginnings aren’t much older than him at all; Rod Rutledge, who caught the very first pass of Brady’s career in a 34-9 blowout loss to the Detroit Lions in 2000, doesn’t turn 42 for nine more days. He last took a snap in the NFL in 2002.
The mercurial Terry Glenn, who caught the first of Brady’s 456 touchdown passes in 2001, just turned 43 in July. He hasn’t played in the league in a decade.
Longtime Patriots long snapper Lonie Paxton, a teammate of Brady’s from 2000-2008, signed a one-day contract to retire with New England earlier this week. He won’t be 40 until March.
Most of Brady’s contemporaries in the conversation of “Greatest Quarterback of All-Time” will never have had the chance to do what he will, beginning on Sept. 7: play an NFL season at 40 years old. Joe Montana, John Elway and Dan Marino last played at 38. Peyton Manning walked away at 39.
Brett Favre hung around until he was 41, his final season memorable for all the wrong reasons, but he did turn in one of his finest seasons just a year prior at age 40 with the Minnesota Vikings. Favre became the first and only quarterback in NFL history to start all 16 games under center while attempting 100 passes or more at age 40 in 2009, per Pro Football Reference.
Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Vinny Testaverde – the latter two Brady backups once upon a time – played into their mid-40s. Moon is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, but let’s be honest: none of those guys belong in the same sentence as TB12.
The uncharted waters Brady finds himself in at this point in his career only adds chapters to his lore. Virtually nothing he does from here on out could impact his career in a negative way; everything he does at 40 and beyond will only be seen as an accomplishment with the degree of difficulty ramped up higher than ever before.
Milestones remain for Brady. He’s currently fourth on the NFL’s all-time list for both passing yards (61,582) and passing touchdowns (456). For what it’s worth, Drew Brees, still rolling for the New Orleans Saints, ranks third in each category. That’ll be a combined 127,693 yards and 921 touchdowns at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome when the Pats play the Saints in week two in September.
Peyton Manning currently leads each list in passing yards (71,940) and touchdowns (539). Brady needs to average 3,453 yards and 28 touchdown passes over the next three seasons to topple Manning; should he, that will end any and all “But Peyton had the better numbers!” argument.
What truly separates Brady from Manning, Brees, and pretty much every other quarterback, is his playoff pedigree. Brady has started 34 career playoff games (25-9), over two full regular seasons worth. Brees has only played in 11. Manning is just a game above .500 in the postseason (14-13), with the most losses in playoff history.
Brady has said on numerous occasions he’d like to play until he’s 45. That number seems to stretch out as it inches closer, now claiming he isn’t ruling out playing until he’s 50.
For someone who’s already just about ended any debate on his stature in the pantheon of quarterbacks at 40, who knows which walls of greatness Brady could transcend by 50.
That road can be crossed during training camp in 2027. Until then, happy birthday, Tom.