How Many More Elite Years Can Patriots Fans Expect from Tom Brady?

James DiMaioCorrespondent INovember 19, 2012

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots smiles during the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium November 18, 2007 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

You’d never guess it by looking at his numbers, but Tom Brady is 35 years old. While he is still playing his best football atop the league in nearly every passing statistic, Patriots fans can’t help but wonder how many more elite years No. 12 has left in him.

According to Brady, he has a lot of years left (per Peter King of

My wife [Gisele Bundchen] said to me, 'When I met you [in 2006], you said you wanted to play 10 more years. How come that number never goes down?' It's that I love the game. I love the game. I'm going to play until they tell me they don't want me anymore.

While it may seem crazy at first to think that Brady could play until he’s 45, it’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

Quarterback George Blanda played until he was 48, while others like Brett Favre, Steve DeBerg and Doug Flutie have come close as well, playing until they were 41, 44 and 43, respectively.

So, it can be done, but there is an ocean of difference between playing for another 10 years and playing at an elite level for another 10 years.

If Brady’s performance is any indication, there is absolutely no sign of Brady slowing down.

In fact, the numbers suggest that like a fine wine, Brady has actually gotten better with age, with both of his league MVP awards (2007, 2010) coming after his 30th birthday.

Brady’s not the only quarterback who played at an elite level into his 30s.

Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, for example, played his best football in his late 30s, winning Super Bowl XXXII at the age of 37 and Super Bowl XXXIII at the age of 38.

With Brady playing in an era in which many rules are heavily enforced to protect the health of the quarterback, there’s no reason he can’t play at an elite level for as long as—or longer than—Elway, who played through the 80s and 90s, when demolishing quarterbacks was still allowed.

Additionally, Brady’s longevity could be further preserved with the emergence of their newly dominant running game (ranked fifth in rushing yards) that he can lean on in the coming seasons as well as fantastic protection from his offensive line (ranked third in sacks allowed).

When asked about how long Brady could play for, Wes Welker lauded his quarterback's dedication to football (per Field Yates of ESPNBoston), saying:

In every decision he makes and everything he does – from what he eats, to what he drinks, to what his traveling schedule is – everything is centered around football. Everything … Every decision he makes is literally towards being a better football player.

Between his raw determination, continuous improvement and the rules being on his side, Brady playing at an elite level for the next five years not only seems possible, it seems likely.