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How would Tom Brady compare with other QBs if this was the end?

The Bucs quarterback could go down as one of those rare players still at the top of his game when he walks away.
If this season was the end, Tom Brady certainly had one of the finest finishes of any star quarterback in NFL history.
If this season was the end, Tom Brady certainly had one of the finest finishes of any star quarterback in NFL history. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jan. 24

TAMPA — Some quarterbacks have left with parades and confetti in their hair. For others, retirement did not come until it became painfully obvious that the game had passed them by.

So how will Tom Brady walk away?

That’s still to be determined. The Bucs quarterback did not want to entertain questions about whether Sunday’s 30-27 loss to the Rams in the playoffs was the final game of his extraordinary career.

But if this is to be Brady’s final season it will go down as one of the finest farewells ever by a quarterback. Using the NFL Network’s list of the greatest quarterbacks in history, here is how Brady’s final season might stack up against the best of the best.

Sammy Baugh, age 38

Sammy Baugh
Sammy Baugh [ HENRY BURROUGHS | Associated Press (1952) ]

The NFL’s all-time leading passer when he retired in 1952, Baugh did not go out with the kind of glory he deserved. He hurt his hand in the season’s fifth game and was replaced in the Washington lineup by Eddie LeBaron. Even after Baugh was healthy enough to play, he did not start another game.

Tom Brady, age 44

Tom Brady
Tom Brady [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Where do you start? He led the NFL and set a career high with 5,316 passing yards. He started every game for the fifth consecutive season and took the Bucs to the No. 2 seed with a 13-4 record. Brady threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns in a playoff victory against the Eagles, then added another 329 yards in the 30-27 loss to the Rams on Sunday night.

John Elway, age 38

John Elway
John Elway [ DOUG MILLS | Associated Press (1999) ]

After hopelessly chasing an NFL title year after year, the Broncos quarterback went out in style. Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls in impressive fashion. Elway went 10-2 as a starter in his final season and finished fifth in the league in passer rating. He threw for 336 yards in his final game, a 34-19 victory against the Falcons in the Super Bowl.

Brett Favre, age 41

Brett Favre
Brett Favre [ PAUL SANCYA | Associated Press (2010) ]
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Perfect example of a quarterback sticking around one season too many. Favre took the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in 2009 but played horribly in 2010. He went down with a shoulder injury later in the season and tried to come back too soon and suffered a concussion in his final game. He finished with 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions for the year.

Otto Graham, age 34

Otto Graham
Otto Graham [ Associated Press (1955) ]

His career probably parallels Brady as much as anybody. Graham won four AAFC championships and three NFL titles with the Browns, including his final season in 1955. Graham was first in the NFL in passer rating and third in touchdown passes while going 9-2-1 in his final season.

Dan Marino, age 38

Dan Marino
Dan Marino [ TONY GUTIERREZ | Associated Press (1999) ]

He was still chasing a Super Bowl victory until the very end. Marino had the worst season of his career statistically, finishing 30th in passer rating at 67.4. Yet he still got the Dolphins into the playoffs and won in the first round before throwing two interceptions and getting crushed 62-7 by the Jaguars in his final game.

Joe Montana, age 38

Joe Montana
Joe Montana [ ORLIN WAGNER | Associated Press (1994) ]

People forget that Montana had some success with the Chiefs when he left San Francisco. Despite missing two games, he was in the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards and passer rating in his final season and took the Chiefs to a 9-5 record and a playoff berth in 1994. Kansas City lost 27-17 to the Dolphins in the first round of the playoffs.

Peyton Manning, age 39

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning [ MATT YORK | Associated Press (2016) ]

His skills had eroded and his statistics were among the worst of his career, but Manning still managed to leave in glory. He fought off injuries to post a 7-2 record with the Broncos in 2015, then allowed the Denver defense to carry the team to a 24-10 Super Bowl victory against the Panthers. Manning was 13-of-23 for 141 yards in that final game.

Johnny Unitas, age 40

John Unitas
John Unitas [ Associated Press (1973) ]

A sad end for one of football’s greatest careers. Unitas was already on the downhill slope his final two seasons in Baltimore before going to San Diego in 1973. He won only one of four starts with the Chargers and threw seven interceptions along with three touchdowns. Unitas did finish his career as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, but Fran Tarkenton eclipsed that record three years later. Tarkenton, by the way, led the league in passing yards in his final season at age 38.

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