TThis is not how quarterbacks are supposed to age. Frankly, this is not how human beings are supposed to age. Tom Brady, at 44, in his 22nd year in the NFL, is better now than he was five years ago. In fact, it’s better now than it was fifteen years ago.
There’s more speed on Brady’s fastball, and he’s more accurate on the field. In Tampa Bay, he’s playing with a precision that had faded during his later years with the New England Patriots.
Those last Patriots teams won with Brady, but these Tampa Bay Buccaneers are winning because of Brady. Over the course of two weeks, has thrown for 655 yards and nine touchdowns. With the NFL moving to a 17-game schedule, all traditional records are now up for grabs. Touchdown passes in a season, yards per pass in a season, you name it, are up for grabs.
The record for touchdowns in a season is 55, set by Peyton Manning in 2013 with the Denver Broncos. Brady already has nine. Average three touchdown passes per game going forward, and this season the Bucs’ schedule is not a glove, and the record is Brady’s.
What we’ve seen for two weeks is the idealized version of a partnership between Brady and his head coach, Bruce Arians. It took time for things to stabilize when Brady arrived in Tampa. The quarterback and his coach had to synthesize two contrasting styles. Brady, a timed quick-release passer, accepted the look-then-pull approach from Arians. After eight weeks of stuttering play to the start of last season, things fell into place. Since then, the Bucs have roasted everyone.
In the second half of last season, the Bucs’ offense was in full swing. Throw in the best running defense in the league and a hell of a passing career and it’s no wonder they won the Super Bowl.
Now, the defending champs are even better. They brought in the 22 starters from last season’s championship team and sprinkled some extra sugar on the margins.
The Bucs have had nine consecutive victories, scoring more than 30 points in each, an NFL record. The only close contenders for that record? The Patriots of 2007 and 2011, both reunited by, you guessed it, Tom Brady.
What Brady has done, and continues to do, is beyond impressive. Think about it: When Manning moved to Denver in the then-biggest free-agent acquisition in league history, the Broncos turned everything to the future member of the Hall of Fame. They installed their offense. The team learned its verbiage and its playbook, not the other way around. They even brought in Manning’s chosen center, even though Jeff Saturday was well and truly prepared.
Brady’s move to Tampa was a little different. On the staff side, Brady flexed all of his Tom Bleeping Brady muscle to push the Bucs out of retirement and sign Antonio Brown. The Bucs even delivered a all-access pass Alex Guerrero from Brady doctor who is not a doctor, and it was a source of friction in New England.
On the field, however, Brady accessed Arians and the Bucs’ coaching staff. He chose the Bucs so he could play catchers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate and one of the most talented offensive lines in the league. He chose the Bucs so he could push the ball vertically more often and try something new. He ran the Arians system risk-free and cookie-free, even as skeptics pointed to the team’s early struggles, with Brady on the wrong side of the 40s and having come off an offense built around getting the ball to receivers quickly than he he had helped create in New England. Neither the quarterback nor the coach was fazed.
The results speak for themselves.
During the two weeks of the new season, no one, not Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray or Aaron Rodgers, has come close to Brady. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he’s ranked 10th in the league in predicted passing yards, a measure of how far he’s trying to throw the ball on each dropback. That’s a good number; It’s wild for a 44-year-old man at an age where throwing a lot becomes difficult. It gets mind boggling when you consider he’s third in the league in average pitching time, averaging 2.4 seconds per dropback.
This isn’t Brady kicking the ball because he needs to, he’s kicking the ball fast because he wants to. Because he knows where he is going with the ball. Because he knows every play the opposing defense makes, because he has seen every defensive play in the book. It is best to move on now to wait.
By comparison, Mahomes, the most talented quarterback in the league, is pitching shorter on average than Brady and taking nearly half a second longer to hit those pitches.
Brady has never been a good running back (although his footwork is excellent), so he doesn’t have the Wilson-Mahomes-Rodgers luxury of moving around to spread plays and buy time until his receivers open. Have to solve it now. And he has, with impressive results: Against the Falcons, he completed passes to 10 different receivers en route to his five-touchdown day.
Brady, of course, isn’t doing this in isolation – you couldn’t ask for a better supporting cast to help a quarterback age gracefully. However, it doesn’t seem like Brady is getting old at all.
In one of the craziest events in sports history, Brady is now on track to throw more touchdown passes at 40 than at 20, a number he will likely hit in the eighth week of this season.
And Brady isn’t done yet. The touchdown record? A final MVP award? Consecutive Super Bowl titles? They don’t seem out of place. The quarterback has even started to poke fun at it. will play until 50, which has surely forced New York Jets fans to close the curtains and sit in dark contemplation.
Eventually the future will come. Eventually the decks will clear for Mahomes and Herbert, Jackson and Allen, to chase all the records, to compete for all the titles. But not yet. Tom Brady still has a lot to say.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism