The Patriots’ decision to use a second-round pick not on a player who will make the team better now but on a quarterback who may not take a snap that matters during his time with the team has brought into focus the question of how long starter Tom Brady will play, in New England or elsewhere.
Owner Robert Kraft recently said he hopes to keep Brady around for the rest of his career, but as time passes more and more league observers wonder whether Brady is destined to join a line of franchise quarterbacks who finished their Hall of Fame careers with another team. From Peyton Manning to Brett Favre to Joe Montana to Joe Namath to John Unitas, the player wanted to play longer than the team with which he became a star wanted him around.
As Tom Curran of CSNNE.com mentioned on Monday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, Brady plans to play until he’s 43. His personal quarterback coach, Tom House, believes Brady can pull it off.
“We know that if the athlete is willing to pay his dues — willing to do what he needs to do — he can delay the aging process, not forever, but he can slow it down,” House told Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. “I think Tom is going to be one of those. I’ll put him in the same neighborhood as Nolan Ryan with his commitment to pushing that aging process back.”
House knows, because he worked with Ryan in the 1990s, as Ryan’s career lingered deep into his 40s.
“[I]t’s not just mechanics,” House said, “it’s functional strength. It’s mental/emotional. It’s nutrition. It’s all the things that are required of an elite athlete. They just have to work harder and smarter about it than they did getting to the top of their career.”
In the offseason, House and Brady talk weekly. House will attend the team’s OTAs this week in Foxboro.
It’s not popular to contend that Brady isn’t as good as he used to be, dating back to the supposed drop by Wes Welker in Super Bowl XLVI. Some (including me) contend that, if the ball had been delivered between the numbers, Brady would have a fourth Super Bowl ring right now.
And in the 2013 AFC title game, the Broncos opted to stop the run and to force Brady to win the game with his arm. He couldn’t, committing more than one overthrow while trying to take advantage of Denver’s decision to take away former New England tailback LeGarrette Blount.
That doesn’t mean Brady is washed up, or that he can’t play until 43 or beyond. At some point, however, he’ll be busting his busting his butt and counting his carbs and doing all the little things to simply be ordinary. It’s hard to imagine a guy who has been so much more than that decide to keep working that hard so he can simply occupy a spot in the middle of the pack.