At one point in his career, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s standard response to the question of how long he plans to keep playing was “10 more years.” As he drifted into the window that made another decade impractical, the “10 more years” mantra ended.
And now it’s back.
Asked by the New York media on a Wednesday conference call how long he thinks he can keep playing, Brady dusted off his widely-forgotten phrase.
“I’d like to play a long time, yeah, a long time,” Brady said. “There’s a lot that goes into playing well. I’ve played with a lot of great teammates. But I want to play for a long time, maybe 10 more years. I think that’s probably what my goal is.”
The natural and obviously follow up: You’re serious about that?
“Well, it’s not always up to me,” Brady said. “That’s what my goals are, so that’s just what I’m hoping. And it will take a lot to achieve that. Obviously a team has to want you, but I think that’s . . . you know, I love playing this sport. I love making a commitment to my teammates and my coaches, and hopefully I can do it for a long time.”
On the “a team has to want you” front, the first question is whether his team wants him. At a time when first-year coach Gary Kubiak is tolerating quackers-and-floaters from quarterback Peyton Manning, a man with whom Kubiak has no prior relationship, it’s hard to imagine Patriots coach Bill Belichick enduring that kind of performance from his starting quarterback, no matter what they’ve accomplished together over the last 15 years.
Father Time eventually is going to win his race with Tom Brady; Father Time remains unbeaten. At some point between now and 50, Brady will no longer be able to play. It could go slowly, like it did for Brett Favre. It could go quickly, like it seems to be for Manning, who only two years ago threw 55 touchdown passes and generated nearly 5,500 yards.
Along the way, whether it’s with the Patriots or someone else, Brady has to decide whether he’s willing to keep playing if he can no longer play like he used to play. At some point, Brady has to decide whether he’s willing to keep playing even if he’s no longer the one on the field playing.
Before any of that, he has to decide whether he’d be willing to play for a team other than the Patriots. Although that specific questions wasn’t asked on Wednesday, the answer was implied within his statement that “a team” (not just my current team) has to want you.