Plenty of franchise quarterbacks have said they plan to keep playing until they turn 40, and beyond. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently applied a more open-ended expiration date to his career.
“I think I proved with the calf injury that I can play from the pocket effectively,” Rodgers recently told Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But I’m going to keep playing the way I play as long as I can.”
The key words in that answer are “the way I play.” The way he plays is with a high degree of mobility. So when the mobility goes, will Rodgers settle for being a pocket passer exclusively? The second sentence of the answer suggests that maybe he won’t. The first sentence suggests that maybe he will.
And that continues to be the broader question for all aging quarterbacks. Before Father Time wins the race, he’ll establish a healthy lead. So which quarterbacks will be content to keep playing when they’re not playing as well as they used to? Which will accept eventually being backups?
A very good living can be made by being serving as an understudy to a starter, as Matthew Hasselbeck has done in the latter stages of his career. But if Hasselbeck had won Super Bowl XL or otherwise become a clear-cut, short-list franchise quarterback, would he have settled for that?
Moving forward, the question is whether Rodgers or Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger would be willing to keep playing beyond the point where they’re playing as well as they are now — and whether they’d ever be willing to keep playing even if they won’t be actually playing.