No quarterback in the NFL is older than the New England Patriots' Tom Brady. While he has not yet shown any signs of slowing down and is coming off an MVP season and historic Super Bowl performance, the future Hall of Famer will be 41 years old once the 2018 regular season gets kicked off. Brady is therefore entering near-unchartered territory when it comes to quarterbacking in the NFL.
Only four times in league history did a passer aged 41 or older attempt more than 200 passes in a season: Warren Moon did it in 1997 and 1998, when he threw 528 and 258, respectively. Vinny Testaverde attempted 495 passes in 2004 while Brett Favre threw the football 358 times in 2010. For comparison, Brady never attempted fewer than 413 passes in a season as the starter and averages 549 throws over his 16 starting seasons.
Furthermore, none of the three quarterbacks listed above was able to appear in all 16 of his team's regular season contests. All in all, the future for New England is one of uncertainty. Of course, Brady – unlike any quarterback before him – has always been able to defy the odds and achieve peak performance when others failed to do so (look no further than Peyton Manning's last two years in the league).
Still, the team is aware of his age and what it entails – just ask Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who spoke about New England selecting a quarterback earlier this week: “I’m going to put my fan hat on, and obviously at some point we have to,” Kraft said, when asked if picking a quarterback in the draft can be seen as a high priority for the franchise right now (via ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss).
“Not just that,” the 76-year old continued, “but think what happened in the ‘08 season when in the first quarter against Kansas City, Tom goes out. How many people would have said that Matt Cassel would have led us to an 11-5 season? I put my faith and confidence in Bill [Belichick]. He knows his responsibilities. Anything can happen, even if Tom comes in tip-top shape.”
Even with Brady on top of his game, the Patriots have not shied away from investing capital in a quarterback throughout the years: In 2014, the team selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round; in 2008, 2011 and 2016, it used third-round picks to bring Kevin O'Connell, Ryan Mallett and Jacoby Brissett on board. All this shows that New England is well aware of the fragility of the most important position on the field.
”Part of why the networks pay us the funding they do,” Kraft said at the owners meetings this week. “and the reason this is the best entertainment product in America, is you don’t know – one play can change a whole season. One play with one person. To do a good job managing an NFL franchise, we’ve always said understanding quality depth management, that’s our business.”
With the end nearing for the greatest quarterback to ever step on the gridiron, New England has to have some urgency when it comes to managing the depth at the quarterback position.