Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Drew Brees is the starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, but for how much longer?
According to him, a lot longer. Last Friday, the eight-time Pro Bowler said he could play until he's 45-years-old. Tom Brady, who turns 37 in a few days, has expressed a similar desire to play into his 40s.
It's an admirable goal, but, is it possible? Certainly. Several quarterbacks have played past the age of 40 including; George Blanda, Mark Brunell, Brett Favre, Doug Flutie, Warren Moon and Vinny Testaverde. Blanda was almost 50 when he finally called it quits.
Of course, most of these examples require asterisks. Blanda, for example, actually stopped playing quarterback at age 39, serving as Oakland's place-kicker for his final nine seasons. Can you imagine Drew Brees lining up for a 50-yard field goal? The NFL was an odd place in the 1970s.
Comparing Brees to Flutie and Testaverde wouldn't be fair either. Flutie was a career backup, only getting a chance to start for three of his 12 NFL seasons. He retired having attempted just 2,151 NFL passes, more than 4,000 fewer than Brees. Testaverde, though successful in spurts, only threw for 4,000 yards once in his 21 years of service. Brees has reached that threshold eight times in 13 seasons.
Flutie and Testaverde were remarkable players in their own way, but were never on the same level as Brees or Brady, nor did they have anywhere close to the same workload. Brees has fired off at least 600 passes in six of his last seven seasons. Joe Montana never came close to doing that. Even Dan Marino, a gunslinger if there ever was one, only accomplished that feat three times.
Throwing 600 passes a year sounds like a great way to blow out your arm, but surprisingly this has become the new standard in the NFL. Brees was one of six players to hurl the pigskin 600-plus times in 2013. When Montana was at his apex in 1989, the league leader, Dan Majkowski, finished with 599 attempts.
One reason Brees, who has only missed one game due to injury in his last ten seasons, has stayed sharp is because he hardly ever runs the football. Neither does Brady. The two combined for 70 yards on 67 rushing attempts last season. While improvisers like Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III are known for their daring maneuvers, Brady and Brees rarely look to do anything other than pass. That's why both have been successful at an age when most players have already hung up their cleats.
Perhaps the injury risk associated with scrambling is overblown. Despite Vick's well-known penchant for putting himself in harm's way, he's still playing and should have a chance to overtake Geno Smith as the Jets' starter this season. Before Nick Foles took over midway through last season, Vick's quarterback rating (86.4) was the highest its been since 2010.
Vick's success proves that longevity comes in all shapes and sizes. A tall frame and good instincts don't guarantee a long-lasting career. Though in Peyton Manning's case, having those qualities definitely doesn't hurt. At age 38, he's coming off the best season of his career (NFL record 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards).
What all of these quarterbacks have is heart. And when you think of grit and determination, who is the first player you think of? Brett Favre, of course. Like Manning, his best season came near the end of his career (career-high 107.2 quarterback rating at age 40).
If more quarterbacks play into their 40s, it could change the way we approach fantasy. We usually key in on younger players in dynasty formats, but if Brees truly believes he has ten years left, who are we to question him?
The collateral damage of quarterbacks having longer careers is that backups like Ryan Mallett in New England and Brock Osweiler in Denver may never see the light of day. Who knows what these players could have produced if Brady and Manning weren't standing in their way.
Unfortunately for aging quarterbacks, father time has a habit of showing up quickly and unannounced. Favre followed up his miraculous 2009 season with a dismal 2010 campaign. The 69.9 quarterback rating he posted was his worst as a professional. Marino experienced a similar fall from grace during his final year with the Dolphins (67.4 quarterback rating, 55.3 completion percentage in 11 games).
Brees' career will end sooner or later and so will Brady's. Just don't expect them to go quietly.