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Taking A Closer Look At The Tom Brady/Nolan Ryan Comparison

Hall of famer Nolan Ryan pitched a record 27 seasons (New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers) in the majors. The eight-time all-star also threw the last of his seven no-hitters when he was 44-years-old. So when former Red Sox pitcher Tom House said New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady can play until he is 43 years old, that might have raised a few eyebrows.

House, now a throwing guru, spoke to the Providence Journal last week about the similarities between Ryan and Brady.

“It’s doable,” said House. “And if I haven’t been through it with a superstar like Nolan, I wouldn’t be as confident as I am that Tom can do the same thing. Of the athletes that I’m working with, he’s right up there with ones that I can project to be efficient and effective into his mid-40s.”

House, who began working with Brady in 2012 after the death of his longtime quarterback guru Tom Martinez, thinks Brady can defy the odds.

“We know that if the athlete is willing to pay his dues — willing to do what he needs to do — he can delay the aging process, not forever, but he can slow it down. I think Tom is going to be one of those,” House said. “I’ll put him in the same neighborhood as Nolan Ryan with his commitment to pushing that aging process back.

As much confidence House and other Patriot fans might have in Brady playing well into his 40s, history says it is doubtful it can be done at a high level.

The best season from a quarterback that was 40 or older was from Brett Favre in 2009. Minnesota Vikings quarterback threw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also had a completion percentage of 68.4 and a quarterback rating of 107.2 all while leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship.

The next season at age 41, Favre arguably had the worst season of his career. He threw 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and was unable to duplicate the success of the 2009 season.

At age 41, Vinny Testaverde started 16 games for the Dallas Cowboys and threw for 3,532 yards, 17 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. While Testaverde didn’t have one of the worst seasons in NFL history, no one would say he was among the best quarterbacks in the NFL at that stage of his career.

Doug Flutie played into his 40s as well, but mostly in a backup role. If Brady was to play into his 40s, it would be as a starter and not a backup.

I’m certainly not comparing the skills of Testaverde or Flutie to Brady, but I’m just saying it is very difficult to play in the NFL in your 40s at a high level. Sure Brady could still play in his 40s if he wanted to be an average player such as Testaverde or Doug Flute, but would anyone want to see that?

While I think Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but the argument can be made that he’s declined a bit. During the first quarter of the Patriots’ loss to the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship Game, Julian Edelman beat his defender and was wide open down the left sideline. Brady missed Edelman by about five yards. If that was 10 years ago, Brady wouldn’t missed that same throw.

Last season Brady had the worst season statically since his rookie year. Despite him throwing 25 touchdowns, he had a 60.5 completion percentage.  Brady also completed just 57.6 percent of his passes under pressure in 2013, which was 28th in the NFL.

While Ryan was able to pitch until he was 46-years-old, he was never a consistently dominate pitcher after the age of 40. He had to change his game from a pitcher that would blow his fastball past batters to more of a location pitcher.

Baseball is a much different sport than football. There have been a number of MLB players that have been all-star players in their 40s. With the demands of the NFL game, the list is much shorter and the odds are much more difficult.

Brady will turn 37 on Aug. 3. After head coach Bill Belichick drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, questions about Brady’s age and play will only continue to grow louder. I’m not doubting Brady desire to want to play until his 40s. I’m questioning if he can still be that Super Bowl contending quarterback that we have all grown accustomed to seeing.


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