New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is doing the media rounds in recent weeks as he was named the cover athlete of Madden 2018 heading into his age-40 NFL season. Brady is closer to the end of his career than to the start, but he’s playing some of the best football in his career.
When does Brady see his career ending?
"I always said my mid-40s," Brady said about his eventual retirement in an interview with ESPN, "and naturally that means around 45. If I get there and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue."
“If you said 50, then you can say 60, too, then 70,” Brady added about extending his career. “I think 45 is a pretty good number for right now. I know the effort it takes to be 40. ... My love for the sport will never go away. I don't think at 45 it will go away.”
Brady doesn’t shut the door at playing deep into his 40s, but he knows he has to reassess how he feels with each passing year. Brady is under contract for the next three years, through the 2019 season, and will be 43 years old for any contract in 2020.
No quarterback has had a successful season beyond the age of 41 and the Patriots will want to take the future of Brady slowly, ensuring the franchise is protected from a salary cap perspective and from a competition standpoint if Brady’s performance falls off- and Brady knows that any decline could signify the end of his tenure in New England, especially with Jimmy Garoppolo waiting in the on-deck circle.
"When you're a member of a team sport, the best guy plays," Brady said. "So I always want to make sure I'm the best guy, and I give our team a great chance to win. But if you're ever not [the best guy], part of being a great teammate is letting the other guy do that, as well. Competition is what has always driven me. I've never been one that was hand selected, to be this particular player. ... In high school, college, professionally, I think the greater the competition, the more that it really allows me to dig deep and bring the best out of me."
Perhaps Garoppolo’s presence has allowed Brady to dip into the fountain of youth, but even Brady acknowledges that if Garoppolo gives the Patriots a better chance to win, then Brady will need to look for a new job or settle in as the team’s back-up.
And if Brady is ever relegated to back-up duty (or when Brady realizes that he “sucks”) then the future Hall of Famer knows that would be a sign to consider retirement.
“At some point, everybody moves on,” Brady said. “Some people don't do it on their terms. I feel I want it to be on my terms. I've got to make appropriate choices on how to do that, how to put myself in the best position to reach my long-term goals.”
Brady watched his idol Joe Montana finish out his career in Kansas City and his contemporary Peyton Manning end up in Denver. While Brady understands the business of football and that he might still be able to compete, it doesn’t seem like Brady wants to be a weight on his team; he wants to play because he deserves to play.
But Brady’s long-term goals (I’m not sure how much longer a near-40-year-old’s goals can be in a young man’s sport) include winning a sixth Super Bowl, becoming the first player to reach that milestone, and perhaps involves off-the-field planning with his family.
“Hopefully [Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen] never says, ‘Look, this has to be it,’” Brady said. “My wife and my kids, [football is] a big investment of their time and energy, too."
“She wants me to [play into Brady’s mid-40s], too,” Brady added. “She also wants me to take good care of myself and still have my energy. My kids have grown up faster than I thought.”
“He’s playing football. It’s a contact sport and a very aggressive sport. But he knows I will always support him. And I want him to be happy,” Bundchen told CBS This Morning. “And if that makes him happy, and he loves to do that, then I’m always gonna support him like I always have. So I want him to be happy and fulfilled.”
Before the end of the 2017 season, Brady’s kids will be 10, 8, and 5 years of age. Part of retiring on his own terms involves avoiding serious injury that could prevent him from being as involved of a parent as Brady would like- and if he plays into his late 40s, then all of his kids could be teenagers in a blink of an eye.
There is no date set for Brady’s retirement. He has a history of restructuring his contract and adding a few years with two years remaining in order to spread out his cap hit and he’ll be due for a new contract extension after the 2017 season to reduce his $14 million base salary.
Brady is doing everything in his power to earn that new contract and overcome Jimmy Garoppolo’s undeniable upside. He’s not ready to hang up his cleats. He still has his long-term goals to achieve.