On August 3 Tom Brady will turn 40, an age at which NFL quarterbacks have rarely been able to keep playing. But if Brady plays in 2017 at anywhere close to the same level he played in 2016, he’ll be the best 40-year-old quarterback the league has ever seen.
So far, the list of quarterbacks who have entered a season at age 40 or older and played well that year consists of just one name: Warren Moon, who entered the 1997 season at age 40 (and turned 41 during the season), and that year he led the NFL with 245.2 passing yards per game and was chosen to the Pro Bowl.
Other than Moon, the list of quarterbacks entering a season at age 40 and older is a list of players who were past their primes. Brett Favre entered the 2009 season at age 39 and played well after his 40th birthday, but by 2010, the season he entered at age 40, he had fallen off a cliff. Doug Flutie and Vinny Testaverde were still in the league after turning 40, but they didn’t play particularly well. Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Sonny Jurgensen played at age 40, but they were backups.
If Brady can do anything close to what he did last year, when he threw 28 touchdown passes and two interceptions, it will be by far the best season of any quarterback who entered a season age 40 or older. And even if Brady takes a significant step backward, he’d almost certainly be the second-best 40-year-old quarterback behind Moon.
Brady is going to get old eventually, because everyone does. But he’s poised to be the best old quarterback ever.