Living Legends

Jared Wickerham

This Sunday is not another normal Sunday. This is a match-up of two teams led by men who are doing what men should not be able to do.

One is 36. The other is 37. By all accounts and injuries, neither should still be playing football.

One had spinal surgery. The other shredded his ACL. Yet both came back from the brink to push themselves and their teams to new heights.

One had elite talent on the offense. One had elite talent on the defense. Both have had story book careers, and when necessary, showed that they can squeeze the talent out of whatever supporting cast they're given and walk away with victories.

One is in his 12th season as a starter. One is in his 15th.

Welcome to Brady and Manning, episode 14.

What everyone needs to come to terms with is the fact that these two quarterbacks are not human. They're just not. They're accomplishing feats of human strength at speeds we can't even fathom and they're damn good at doing it.

They're both over 35 and on pace for over 4000 yards- each for the second time since breaking that age barrier. Here's the list of quarterbacks who have broken 4000 yards multiple times while over the age of 35:

Warren Moon (3)

Brett Favre (2)

That is the list. That's it. After this season, there'll likely be two more names on that list, all four of whom are locks as first ballot hall of famers (Moon is already in).

And it's not just that they're great for this era; they're great in any era. Pro Football Reference compares every quarterback's production to the league average production so you can roughly evaluate a quarterback's production from one era to another.

Looking at quarterbacks over the age of 33 who have a passer rating one standard deviation over the league average, you'll find an elite group of company. Find those who have multiple seasons that qualify and you're left with some of the greatest players of all time.

Rk Player From To Tm #
1 Fran Tarkenton* 1973 1976 MIN 4
2 Roger Staubach* 1976 1979 DAL 4
3 Craig Morton 1977 1981 DEN 3
4 Joe Theismann 1982 1983 WAS 2
5 Phil Simms 1987 1993 NYG 3
6 Warren Moon* 1989 1995 2TM 4
7 Joe Montana* 1989 1990 SFO 2
8 John Elway* 1993 1998 DEN 3
9 Steve Young* 1994 1998 SFO 5
10 Dan Marino* 1994 1996 MIA 3
11 Vinny Testaverde 1996 1998 2TM 2
12 Rich Gannon 2000 2002 OAK 3
13 Trent Green 2003 2004 KAN 2
14 Brett Favre 2004 2007 GNB 2
15 Peyton Manning 2009 2012 2TM 2
16 Tom Brady 2010 2012 NWE 3

The players with stars are in the hall of fame. The rest?

Craig Morton took the Broncos to two Super Bowls before the team had the good fortune to draft some schlub named "John Elway."

Joe Theismann was named first team All Pro, won a Super Bowl, and brought the Redskins to another one.

Phil Simms spent his whole career with the Giants and he managed to win a Super Bowl with Bill Belichick, and led the team to another post-season before getting hurt (and the Giants won the Super Bowl that year as well).

Vinny Testaverde is one of the more underrated quarterbacks of all time and managed to retire ranked in the top 10 of pretty much every career stat for a quarterback, from pass attempts, completes, yards, touchdowns, interceptions and sacks (whoops), game winning drives, and fourth quarter comebacks.

Rich Gannon is a two time first team All Pro and has a Super Bowl loss under his belt.

Trent Green is an odd exceptions where he wasn't a starter until he was 28, and wasn't given his own franchise to quarterback until he was 31 and in Kansas City. Those Chiefs had some of the most potent offenses of the 00s.

Favre is a Hall of Fame lock.

And this is the company that Manning and Brady belong with and deserve to be associated with. Hall of famers and GOATs. Manning's on course to get his third qualifying season under his belt, and he had the misfortune of losing his 35th year to injury. Brady has a lot of work to do, as he currently sits in the middle of the pack, but a historically strong finish that pushes his passer rating from 83.6 to 101.2 (projected) would qualify him for another season. (If Brady can match his last two games of 70% completion, he'll have to throw for 16+ TDs and <3 INTs, as well as 2250+ yards. Don't hold your breath).

What we're seeing are two players who should be beyond the twilight of their careers and they're still producing at the top of the league. There is definitely youth waiting in the wings, with Russell Wilson trending towards the top of the league with his production, but Wilson remains the only player under the age of 30 in the top six of the league's passer rating (followed by Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton).

Manning's been playing loose. Brady's getting warmed up. This upcoming Sunday won't be about Brady vs Manning. It'll be about two living legends who are still showing the league how to get it done in a way that's never been done before.

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