When coach Bruce Arians spoke to Brady by phone from Arians’ home last Wednesday evening, he came away with the impression that the legendary quarterback intends—as he has said in the past—to play till he’s 45 years old. Brady will turn 45 a month before opening day 2022, which means that Brady may be thinking of three more years, not two.
It should surprise no one that he is not looking at his two-year deal with the Bucs as his victory lap around the NFL. To replace Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay chose the sugar-rush deal with Brady over a more secure long-haul signing of the 27-year-old Teddy Bridgewater for two reasons: The team believes Brady has a couple of Super Bowl-contending seasons left, and GM Jason Licht and Arians believe there are pieces in place in Tampa to help him win his seventh championship. They also think Brady’s never-ending search for perfection—as a player and in his personal and physical lives—will live on in his teammates at One Buc Place after Brady leaves.
Regardless of all the good signs, no quarterback in history, playing every down, has excelled well into his forties. Brett Favre was a Pro Bowler at 40, Warren Moon a Pro Bowler at 41; both crashed the next season. Drew Brees seems primed to play well this year at 41. Brady will take the field for the Bucs—assuming there is an NFL season—at 43. Being great at 43 has never been done by an NFL quarterback. But the game has never seen a player this well-preserved at this age. Brady’s passer rating in his twenties: 88.4. Brady’s passer rating in his forties: 96.0. Though this is a gamble for Brady, and for the Bucs, those inside the organization are comfortable staking their reputations on it.
When Brady finally talked to the Buc braintrust on Wednesday—Licht first, then Arians, in a call that lasted longer than an hour—the strongest impression he left with them had a Belichickian tone. However long he stays in Tampa Bay—two years, three years or more—Brady wants to help the organization push one common goal. “The standard,” he called it. Brady wants to help Arians reinforce his standard of excellence in Tampa. At times during the call, it almost felt like Brady was recruiting them, not the other way around.