Maybe Tom Brady Could Play to 45 Years Old, but Should He?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJuly 5, 2018

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) walks during a break in an NFL football minicamp practice, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Hey, Tom Brady, I hope you received and enjoyed my birthday card last year. At the time, it was hard to believe you were 40 years old but just six months removed from winning Super Bowl MVP. Now here we are on the verge of your 41st birthday, and you're coming off an MVP campaign that once again ended with your New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. 

It's clear you're not going anywhere. You continue to state that the goal is to play until you're about 45. But to be honest, Tom, that doesn't seem particularly smart, nor does it seem fair to your family. 

In September, you'll become the third quarterback in NFL history to enter a season as a starter at the age of 41. The first two were Warren Moon and Brett Favre, both of whom struggled as 41-year-olds and were never regular starters after that. 

Maybe you're simply trying to prove one more time that you can defy precedents. Maybe your final act is to become the first successful 41-year-old quarterback in the history of professional football. But what's left after that? Why 45? Is dominating at 41 not enough? 

If you start all 16 Patriots games this season, you will have started more career games than any quarterback in NFL history except Favre, who became a starter at a younger age. That's a lot of football at an advanced age, and football is an inherently dangerous sport. The longer you play, the higher the risk. That isn't up for debate. 

Thus far in your 18-year career, you've been extremely lucky. Your 2008 season was ruined by a Week 1 knee injury, you were reportedly bothered by a foot injury in 2010, calf and ankle injuries cost you practice time but no regular-season snaps in 2014 and you required stitches on your throwing hand prior to last season's AFC Championship Game. Incredibly, you've never been listed as "doubtful" on an injury report, and the Patriots have never reported that you've suffered a concussion.  

But that's literally unbelievable, and your wife let the cat out of that bag last year. 

"He had a concussion last year. He has concussions pretty much every—I mean, we don't talk about it. He does have concussions," Gisele Bundchen said on CBS This Morning last May, according to ESPN.com. "I don't really think it's a healthy thing for a body to go through that kind of aggression all the time. That could not be healthy for you." 

She's right, and now you're preparing for a season in which you won't have stalwart left tackle Nate Solder protecting your blind side. Your supporting cast isn't what it once was, so why press your luck when you've already accomplished so much? You're already widely considered the most accomplished player in the history of American football, with five Super Bowl rings, three MVPs and 13 Pro Bowls on your ledger. 

Tom, the reality is you're tempting fate.

The sport wasn't as kind to Troy Aikman, who suffered the 10th documented concussion of his career on his final play as a pro in 2000. Same with Steve Young, whose career ended abruptly when he suffered his seventh concussion as a result of a brutal hit that knocked him out cold in 1999.

Favre wonders if he has CTE as a result of the many concussions he suffered. Former longtime quarterback Brad Johnson has spent much of his retirement crippled by pain. Not long after his 15-year playing career came to an end, Super Bowl champion quarterback Jim McMahon was diagnosed with early onset dementiaJoe Montana, who, according to USA Today's Nancy Armour, retired in part to spend more time with his family, is now plagued by pain in his elbow, knee, hands and back, as well as nerve damage in one of his eyes that doctors say stems from head trauma. 

The tragic stories go on and on and on.

We don't know what the future holds for you, Tom, but it appears you have an opportunity to escape this brutal game in one piece. Considering you've already made more money than you could ever spend and you've already won more games and titles than any other quarterback likely ever will, wouldn't it only be fair to seize that opportunity as soon as possible? Wouldn't that be best for you, Gisele and your three school-age children, who you recently admitted "are getting the short end of the stick" in your life? 

Your wife also remarked that she hopes the two of you will be able to "do a lot of fun things when we're like 100." But every snap you take decreases your odds of living that long while increasing your chances of encountering potentially debilitating health problems long before you and Gisele become centenarians. 

You stated earlier this offseason that your family will "play a big part" in your decision to retire. But Gisele has pushed you to step away on multiple occasions, and in one case you responded by saying, "Too bad, babe."

Ideally, you won't force any of your loved ones to beg. Because common sense says if you're retiring for their sake, it should happen long before your 45th birthday. 


Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.