There's a blueprint for franchises with older quarterbacks and how to manage their play in the twilight of their career. John Elway ceded control of the offense in favor of handing off to Terrell Davis, while Peyton Manning took the back seat to C.J. Anderson this year.
After Elway turned 34, the Broncos offense increased its percentage of running plays each consecutive season, from 38.8% to 50.1%- and it should be noted that this play calling percentage wasn't new for the Broncos, but there had never before been a trend or concerted effort to increase rushes.
Last season, the Broncos allowed Anderson to control the offense down the final stretch of the season, a move orchestrated by Elway himself.
Brett Favre saw his offenses (albeit across three different franchises) run the ball an increasing amount between his 36-year-old and 41-year-old seasons, rising from 37.9% to 44.9%.
It's just what happens as the quarterback ages and the teams want their arms on a pitch count. Maybe their arm strength isn't there, maybe you have Adrian Peterson on the roster; whatever the justification, old quarterbacks are on teams built to run the ball.
Unless, of course, you're Tom Brady.
Tom Brady is 37, well into the range where game plans should involve handing the ball off. Instead, we've seen passing plays called 59.2% of the time, for the third highest rate in the Brady era- behind 2002 (61.7% passing plays) and 2011 (59.5%). No other quarterback wins as often as Brady when putting the whole offense on their back.
It's no coincidence that the 2002 and 2011 offenses are the only two Patriots seasons to match the low rushing output of the 2014 offense. New England rushed the ball 438 times in 2011 and 2014, and a mere 395 times in 2002. The 3.94 yards per carry in 2014 are the lowest since the 3.44 in 2005.
Who knows how much longer the Patriots can rely on Brady's arm to champion the offense; he's certainly no longer apex Brady. But he remains the heart and soul of the franchise and he's certainly outstanding at controlling drives up and down the field.
The Patriots should look to shoring up their offensive line to ensure that the sub-par 3.94 yards per carry mark doesn't happen again; improving the line will have a positive effect on both the passing and rushing game. If the Patriots expect Brady to continue to carry the offense with his arm, investing to make sure he remains standing upright makes the most sense.