After the clock hit zero and his last heave into the end zone fell harmlessly to the ground, Tom Brady had to deal with the reality that his team had yet again lost a Super Bowl to the New York Giants. In his fifth trip to the biggest game in a NFL season, he could not capture his fourth Lombardi Trophy.
Along with that, Brady must also now come to terms with the fact that he may never get to another Super Bowl.
In fact, it is likely that he won’t.
Born on Aug. 3, 1977, Brady will turn 35 before the start of next season. In the 46 years the Super Bowl has been played, only nine times has a team had a starting quarterback 35 years pf age or older.
There is no doubt that that Brady can sustain his unmatched will and motivation to succeed.
However, at some point in the fairly near future he will not be able to do the things that allowed him to have success. From a physical standpoint, his body is going to break down.
Years of being pressured, sacked and otherwise hit will eventually take their toll on the three-time Super Bowl champion. This is a certainty that is proved on a yearly basis in the NFL.
Unlike most any other sport where it is possible to sustain a career into a player’s late 30’s and early 40’s, football does not allow it. The physical demands and strains on one’s muscles, bones and ligaments are too much.
Regardless of how hard one tries to stop it, a body’s time clock refuses to stop.
Given what Brady has accomplished in his career though, some could argue that if there was ever a man capable of going to a Super Bowl despite his age, it would be him.
After all, Bill Belichick is still going to be around and his meticulous planning and game preparation certainly will not cease. Also, it is more than likely Belichick will surround Brady with players he believes will make the team successful.
However, in today’s game where parity rules the NFL, there is no guarantee that it will lead to another Super Bowl appearance. For instance, it took four seasons for the Patriots to return after 2008. Prior to that, their last appearance was in 2005.
The lesson to be learned is that getting to a Super Bowl is not easy, especially in consecutive years. If they keep to their recent pattern, which would an amazing accomplishment by itself, the Patriots would get back to the Super Bowl when Tom Brady is either 37 or 38 years old.
In the history of the NFL only three quarterbacks have started a Super Bowl at age 37, while John Elway is the only man to have done it at 38. No quarterback, though, has ever played in a Super Bowl after his 39th birthday.
Therefore, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing for Brady.
Not only is his age an obstacle to another Super Bowl appearance, but his team is going to continue to play in a consistently difficult conference and division.
In the AFC East, despite an inconsistent performance in 2011, the New York Jets have a talented roster that is capable of contending. Additionally, the Buffalo Bills showed at the beginning of this year that they are not too far away from competing for a playoff spot. Plus, with a new coaching staff in place and other player changes/acquisitions to follow, the Miami Dolphins could become a formidable division opponent as well.
Still, New England could remain the class of their division. If they do so they will continue to be met in the playoffs by perennial championship contenders such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. In addition, they will have to make it past younger, surprising teams that bring unique challenges.
Not only this, but Brady and the Patriots will continue to have a target on their back. Brady, in particular, will remain the player that defenses focus on shutting down. He and his team have earned this honor.
They will always get the best performance their opponent can throw at them because they have become the measuring stick through which all other franchises gauge themselves. Teams believe that if they are able to defeat New England, they are capable of contending for a Super Bowl.
Brady and the Patriots have embraced this as the situation ever since they captured their first championship together in 2002. In fact, they probably would like it no other way.
Unfortunately, that makes it all the more difficult for them to get to the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady will enter the Hall of Fame and will always be mentioned as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. However, because of his age and the obstacles other NFL teams present, Super Bowl XLVI was his last Super Bowl appearance.