Tom Brady: Do the New England Patriots Need to Think About Life After #12?

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Tom Brady: Do the New England Patriots Need to Think About Life After #12?
Elsa/Getty Images

Forgive me Bill Belichick, for I have sinned.

I have pictured an NFL devoid of Tom Brady, and it may be a little scary. 

Oh I guess whether it’s scary or not probably relates directly to your zip code, but I know someday number 12 is going to go hang’em up and I know that I’m not the only guy thinking about that, am I Bill? 

I don’t think we’re supposed to talk about it out loud, certainly not in mixed company.  These deep dark thoughts are meant to be suppressed.  Denial is king in the sports world, so why not keep this all bottled up out of reach of the most tenacious therapist? 

I can’t. 

I have to talk about it.

Tom Brady is getting old. Damn.

For those of you who have been following along, I have been in the midst of a position by position review of the current Patriot roster, and how it may look entering 2011.  Last night I began working on the Quarterback chapter and suddenly it jumped out at me, Tom Brady is going to be 34 years old this season. 

Hey listen this is not going to be a “the sky is falling” piece.  Brady is coming off arguably his finest NFL season and seems to be firing on all cylinders, but the truth is, 34 is not young by NFL player standards.  And Father Time has a tricky way of sneaking up on people.

Copyright Paul Brassard 2011

Larry Bird’s back got old and swiftly robbed us of his magic.  Yaz got old.  Bobby Orr got old in a hurry.  Marvin Hagler got old in one night. 

Come to think of it, I’m getting old(er) and I probably should be paying more attention to that. 

Oh I know it’s probably more than a little foolish after an MVP season to be talking about this, but I guess what I’m thinking is this is the time to really appreciate what’s going on here.  Brady has had a remarkable career, but unless he morphs into Brett Favre and hangs around until 2020, most of his heyday is probably in the rear view mirror.    

This little reality check can actually be a good thing.  Tough to really appreciate something if you don’t take a step back and look at the big picture—and the big picture here is the Pats had a lottery pick back in 2000, it’s just happened to be the 199th overall. 

There’s a pretty good chance lightning won’t strike again for sometime, so enjoy the show while it’s still in primetime. 

There are a lot of reasons that Brady may be gone sooner than later. 

The human body is really not designed for football and bones and ligaments don’t discriminate when it comes to the caliber of player they usurp.  Sometimes it’s the long painful accumulation (the Namath) that get’s the best of the hero.  Sometimes it’s excruciatingly sudden (the Theismann). 

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Brady himself hasn’t been exempt from injury. 

2008 was the lost season. 

2009 ended with balls fluttering out of his hands in the playoffs after what was in all likelihood a shoulder injury.

Even 2010 saw Brady require surgery on his foot following the season.

These things tend to have a cumulative effect.  Only time will tell when Brady has reached the point in his career where the toll on the body begins to hamper his play.

Injuries alone aren’t the only way a career can come to an end.  Sometimes the fire just burns out.  It’s fairly rare, often athletes have to be pried from their uniforms kicking and screaming, but occasionally something else just comes along and that’s it, it’s all over.  How many people saw Barry Sanders or Jim Brown retiring the way they did? 

Brady has plenty of potential distractions/options available to him. 

I would expect upon his retirement just about every door will be open for Number 12 from acting, broadcasting, politics, you name it.  Just about anything short of Dancing with the Stars will probably be there for TB’s approval. 

That’s assuming he needs anything to keep him busy In the first place. 

It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that he could come to the conclusion that puttering around the house, especially a house that could at any time spontaneously erupt into your very own Victoria’s Secret show,  isn’t the worst fate for a thirty something year old man. 

Elsa/Getty Images

In fact, compared to getting your vital organs crushed by 325lb linemen, that actually has a certain upside now doesn’t it?

Of course there is another option that could happen in NE as well.  That would include a scenario where Brady doesn’t actually retire, he just leaves. 

Whether it be motivated by the player or the club these types of scenarios take place in sports all the time and they rarely seem plausible before they actually happen.

Brady’s boyhood idol Joe Montana was the NFL’s MVP in 1990.  Three years later he was a Kansas City Chief.  Injury and some unusually stiff competition in the form of Steve Young led to a Montana/Walsh breakup that no one could have dreamed possible back in the 80’s. 

Tell me, did you really see Brett Favre in a Jet uniform?

Boston hasn’t been exempt from this phenomenon.  Back in 2004 the Red Sox broke an 86-year World Series drought behind a band of lovable “idiots.”  Who would have forecast Johnny Damon not just leaving, but leaving for Steinbrenner-ville?

Could Brady and the Krafts have a similar break-up? 

Well I can’t say it’s out of the realm of possibility.  Someday we may look back on TB putting his name front and center on the current NFLPA’s lawsuit and realize that was the opening moments of the final act.  You never know.

In conclusion, I don’t know how much longer TB will be at the controls in New England but I do know this, his replacement is already playing football someplace now.  I don’t know if he’s in college, or high school, or an NFL contemporary, but I doubt he’s still in Pop Warner. 

So if you’re a New England fan enjoy the rest of the show, this is the golden age of quarterbacking in New England.

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