As the late President John F. Kennedy said, “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” Another famous phrase is “Time waits for no man.”
Time can be a friend, or an enemy, depending on what one does in life. For professional athletes, particularly NFL players, however, time is a deadly enemy, as their careers on the average last about 3 years, especially running backs. Reasons for this are careers cut short by injuries, and the player getting cut by teams and not being able to catch on to another team.
That being said, there are plenty of players that play in the NFL for more than three years, namely quarterbacks. However, even those guys can wind up out of the league, even if they were very high draft picks. I mean, what happened to Akili Smith? Where is Tim Couch? We all know about Ryan Leaf. On the flip side, we have guys like Vinny Testeverde who played 17 seasons. I mean, he played forever it seems. Warren Moon years ago played over 20 years. So , we have the extremes as far as how long these great athletes play in the NFL. However, eventually, time, the one thing they could not outlast, caught up with them.
[adinserter block=”2″]Even today, time seems to be catching up with the players at the quarterback position of today. Take former Eagle first round draft pick of 1999 , Donavan McNabb. When he was in his prime, he could run, and he lead the Eagles to 6 NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl appearance. However, he suffered catastrophic injuries along the way (torn ACL, broken ankle, etc), and his mobility was reduced greatly. Last year, he was traded to NFC East rival, the Redskins, and even though there was the drama with the Shanahans, it was becoming obvious that McNabb’s performance on the field was not getting the job done. When he and the Redskins parted ways, McNabb signed with the Minnesota Vikings where he had weapons such as RB Adrian Peterson, WR, Percy Harvin, and a fairly decent defense led by Jared Allen. Well, in his first regular season game, he threw for an alarming 39 yards. He eventually was benched for the rookie Ponder, and was released. What was alarming was the sharp decline in McNabb’s skills. His age, 34 is another thing going against him as well.
Another powerhouse at the quarterback position who is facing “Father time”, and health problems is Indianapolis Colts’ superstar quarterback Peyton Manning. Peyton’s greatness in NFL history has been discussed on ESPN plenty, so in a nutshell: 4 X NFL MVP, 1X SB winner, 1X SB MVP and one of the best ever. Manning is 35 years old, and has been inactive for the Colts’ disastrous 1-13 season due to his undergoing a one level neck fusion surgery. This was the third neck surgery he has had in the past 19 months. Word has it is that he is progressing well, and is throwing, but there are a lot of questions to be answered. There are questions as to whether he can be the “Peyton” that people expect. There are a lot of questions as to how the Colts will handle the draft (the Andrew Luck should the Colts be the #1 pick), Peyton’s contract, and status on the team. Hopefully, he will be able to play again. It is sad to see such a great quarterback’s future in the balance like this.
This all leads to the subject of my blog: Thomas Edward Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots. Most NFL fans know his story, being the 199th pick of the 2000 draft, coming out of Michigan, and getting the starting job in 2001 after Jets defender Mo Lewis waylaid into Drew Bledsoe, and the rest is history. Brady, the winner of 3 Super Bowls, 2X NFL MVP, one of them unanimously (the only winner to do so), is STILL producing at a high level, and again is leading the Patriots into the post season at the age of 34. I am in such awe of Brady that I have decided to write about how he should be appreciated while he is still playing
As I have said, age affects all athletes, and so does injury. Tom Brady is no different. In the AFC Championship game against the Steelers in the 2001/02 season he injured his ankle and ironically Drew Bledsoe finished the game, but Brady played in and won the Super Bowl. In 2008, he had his MCL, and ACL blown up and was gone that season. In 2009, while playing on the repaired knee, he suffered broken ribs, and a finger on his throwing hand. In 2010, he played on a foot with a stress fracture, and had off season surgery. In 2011, for a few weeks he has elbow tendonitis. However, and this is one area I want to hit on, he kept fighting. I really appreciate Tom’s fighting through whatever adversity he faces. He pretty much has been “fighting” throughout his career, even at Michigan where Drew Henson was the star quarterback. Off course, in his draft combine, scouts weren’t all that impressed. Mel Kiper said about Brady: “Can’t throw a tight spiral.” (Source: “The Brady 6” by ESPN) The fact he was passed over until the sixth round is STILL a motivator for him is a reason I find him amazing.
Lots of fans of other teams make fun of him when he says that he doesn’t get over losses, and got on his case when he and Offensive Coordinator O’Brien got into on the sideline. That was just Tom being competitive, and caring about winning. Honestly, I wish a lot of other NFL players actually cared about their work on the field. I am glad he still has the desire and love for the game. Does he make a lot of money? Sure. However, he really enjoys the competition out there, and it doesn’t look like a job to him.
Brady gets a very unfair reputation from fans, particularly from other teams, and some in the media of not being tough, or being “Hollywood,” and calling him “the Golden Boy”, etc, because he married super model, Gisele Bundchen. Well, just because Tom is not built like former WWE wrestler Hulk Hogan does not make him soft, and what his wife and children have to do with it, I have no idea. Every quarterback gets hit. Every one. I have seen Brady take huge hits, and pop back up. Just because he doesn’t sell the hit like a pro wrestler would , doesn’t mean he is a softie. Anyone playing any position in the NFL, or in any sport, I would say is tough. A quarterback would have to be tough to take those hits by Linebackers like Clay Matthews, or Defensive Ends like Dwight Freeney. I honestly don’t think Brady’s toughness is emphasized enough by the announcers.
What is really amazing, and the most important thing about Tom Brady is that he is still putting on great gridiron performances on the field, and still have good to outstanding seasons after he turned the dreaded age for an athlete, 30, on August 3, 2007. Starting with that 2007 season, Brady had an amazing career year. He threw a record setting 50 touchdowns. His completion rating was 68.9% (source: NFL.com). He led the 2007 Patriots to an undefeated REGULAR season, and thanks to the Kansas City Chiefs, the only team to do so in a 16 game season (second one to do it since 1972 Dolphins). Unfortunately, a 19-0 season wasn’t to be thanks in part to the NY Giants’ excellent pass rush, and Brady’s high ankle sprain, and a couple of lucky bounces going the Giants’ way, but Brady still had an amazing year in 2007. He won his first NFL MVP with 49 of 50 votes. One voter voted for Bret Farve.
When Tom Brady returned from his 2008 year-ending knee injury in 2009, he still had a 65% completion rate, and he had pretty decent stats, but it was discovered he had cracked ribs, and I believe there was a finger injury to his throwing hand. However, as I said, he is a fighter, and lead the team to the playoffs, where unfortunately, they lost at home. However, one highlight of that season was a home game against the Titans which miraculously was allowed to be shown in its entirety considering the score which was a home game on October 18, 2009 where it was SNOWING heavily, and the Patriots just shellacked the Titans 59-0. That was not a typo. This was an alright year for Tom who had to work through the knee issues, and things. It was just great to have him back on the field considering the seriousness of the injury, which could have ended his career.
His 2010 season may been one of his best, if not THE best year of his career. He had incredible accuracy. He threw 36 touchdowns, and only 4 INTs. all season. He threw over 300 passes without an interception. Brady was just amazing. His passer rating was 111. I know the 2007 year is the career year, but just watching him play last year was fantastic. His efficiency at running the offense was a sight to see . Seeing him destroy defenses, and picking them apart was exciting. Brady led the Patriots to a 14-2 season and a #1 first round bye, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but unfortunately lost in the Divisional Round. The fact that he was doing this on a injured foot (stress fracture) that he would go on to have surgery on makes his year even more amazing. Brady deservedly won the NFL MVP and got all 50 votes…the ONLY winner of the NFL MVP to do so.
This year, it looks like Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is having the MVP type of year, despite that loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (congrats again to Romeo Crennel). In addition, the media also seems to be in love with Saints quarterback Drew Brees as an MVP candidate, as he is on pace to break Dan Marino’s passing yards record. I mean, on Monday Night Football this coming Monday, Brees who is about 310 yards or so away, may be able to do it then. However, Tom Brady, with his 4,593 yards in 14 games is not that far off of Drew Brees’ pace either. Even Aaron Rodgers is in range as well.
Nonetheless, even though I think Rodgers is going to wind up with the award, amongst many others, well deserved, I might add, Tom is still having an excellent year. I admit even though he started hot out of the gates, he did cool down a bit in the middle of the year. I chalk some of it to the elbow tendonitis he had (hence the black armband on his right arm during the games against the Steelers, Giants, and the Jets away game. Height of pain was the Giants game), and a couple of teams, namely the Bills, and the Steelers playing the Patriots as if it were their personal Super Bowl. Recently, Tom had a very good game against the Denver Broncos, and showed everyone how a Pro Bowl quarterback operates. Before that, despite some of the miscues, he had a pretty good game against the Redskins. Well, he is now , once again is leading the team to the playoffs, and with that Denver win, the Patriots won their 9th AFC East Title.
All these seasons, and accomplishments I am discussing happened after Brady turned 30. He is now 34 and STILL competing at a high level. I realize that a lot of fans don’t like him for various reasons (being fans in rival teams, jealousy). I totally understand. I am NOT telling readers they HAVE to like Brady. I am just saying that his work should be appreciated, especially at 34. As I said about Peyton Manning, no one knows really if he will be able to play at a high level .
[adinserter block=”1″]As an NFL fan, I hope he can return to that level. I am not a Colts fan, but I appreciated Peyton’s work. In fact, I have seen both Brady and Peyton play in person. I saw Brady play against the Bengals October 2, 2007 on Monday Night Football. Patriots won 38-13. Great game, but it was even greater was seeing Brady in person operate that offense. Wow. I also was in attendance at that infamous “4 and 2” game on Sunday Night Football in November of 2009 between the Colts and the Patriots. Yeah, the Colts won, but to watch Peyton and Brady in person was a sight to see. Considering what is going on, I am glad I went.
My final point is that Tom Brady is a very special talent. It is a wonderful thing to see him still performing. Enjoy him and appreciate him while he is still able to give us great quarterback play because once his career is over, it is over.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead