Let me preface this article by saying that I by no means think that Tom Brady should retire now.
Tom Brady is 34 years old. As a pocket passer, Brady will be useful as long as he stays healthy and he can throw a well-timed pass. Thinking logically along those lines and assuming his offensive line does him some favors, we can expect Tom Brady to be a highly productive quarterback for at least another four or five years.
Brady is probably the biggest steal in NFL draft history. Drafted in the 6th round, as the 199th overall pick, he was never expected to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL. He has wowed football fans across the country ever since the 2001 season in which (along with Drew Bledsoe) he lead the Patriots to their first ever Super Bowl win.
His career passing stats are intimidating to say the least. He has completed 3,397 passes for 5,321 attempts (63.8 percent). He has thrown 300 scoring passes, while only giving up 115 interceptions. His passing yardage is just under 40,000 at 39,979. These stats combine to give Brady a 96.4 quarterback rating.
Brady is showing no signs of stopping. In 2002, his first full season starting, he passed for 3,764 yards. Conversely, in 2011 he passed for 5,235 yards. He is one of only a handful of players to pass for over 5,000 yards in a season.
Clearly it isn't time to take Tom Brady out back and shoot him just yet. He is still performing at the very pinnacle of what it is possible for an NFL quarterback to do. The question remains: How many years does Tom Brady have left? The biggest career ender for an NFL player is obviously injury. In the past, Brady has suffered foot, knee and shoulder injuries. None of these kept him from much playing time and he recovered from each.
Will Tom Brady quit when he is no longer an effective quarterback, or becomes plagued by injuries?
Overall, Brady is in good health and excellent physical form.
When will age and injury become factors?
Age has not started to become a factor either–yet. When will injury become a factor? For the most part age and injury tend to walk hand in hand. One oftentimes seems to make the other worse. Brett Favre has drawn quite a bit of flack from the media and football fans for being indecisive about his retirement. He battled injuries and advancing age throughout his short stint with the Minnesota Vikings from 2009-2010.
The injury-marred 2010 season left Favre and many fans disillusioned about the quarterback's career at that point in his life. His desire to play was at odds with his inability to stay healthy. Ultimately, Favre's career was ended by a concussion during the Viking's December 20, 2010 meeting with the Chicago Bears. The 42 year old officially filed retirement papers with the NFL on January 17, 2011.
The question we are left with is, why didn't Brett Favre quit while he was ahead? His glory days with the Green Bay Packers endeared him to football fans across the nation. His desire to continue playing is admirable and understandable, but it left a bad taste in the mouth's of fans.
The final question is: Will Tom Brady quit while he is ahead? Right now we have a rosy picture of him. We will continue to have a rosy picture of him as long as he can throw touchdown passes for the New England Patriots. When he can no longer do this, or he begins to suffer injuries which affect his long-term health, he should leave with dignity and let his adoring fans remember him as what he is: a fantastic quarterback who helped bring the franchise to glory.