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QBs for the ages: How does Tom Brady compare to Y.A. Tittle?

A weekly feature charting Brady in his mid-40s versus the final three seasons of history’s greatest quarterbacks.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass while being pressured during Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass while being pressured during Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Oct. 3|Updated Oct. 3

Yes, Tom Brady is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards. And touchdowns. And almost every other passing statistic. But what is remarkable — what sets him apart from most athletes in most sports — is that he is still playing at age 45 and still performing at an elite level.

To put that in perspective, we’ve come up with a list of history’s greatest quarterbacks as a comparison. Each week, we’ll look at the final three seasons of a different quarterback versus what Brady has done with the Bucs in, presumably, his final three seasons.

It’s not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, because there are differences in eras and most quarterbacks are retired long before 45. But it does give you an idea of how rare it is to see a player still dominating while holding off middle age.

Brady vs. Tittle

The Cleveland Browns' Bill Glass (80) rushes towards New York Giants' quarterback Y.A. Tittle after he threw a pass during a 1963 game in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns' Bill Glass (80) rushes towards New York Giants' quarterback Y.A. Tittle after he threw a pass during a 1963 game in Cleveland. [ ANONYMOUS | AP ]

The set-up: In the conversation of history’s greatest quarterbacks, Y.A. Tittle is often forgotten. And maybe he doesn’t compare to a Johnny Unitas or a Joe Montana, but when he retired in 1964, Tittle was the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He took the Giants to the NFL title game in three successive seasons from 1961-63.

The end: In some ways, Tittle was the Brady of his time. In an era when 35 was considered old for a quarterback, Tittle was just hitting his stride. He won back-to-back MVP awards at ages 36 and 37 and set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season (36) when he was 37. The Giants tumbled in the standings in 1964, and Tittle lost his starting job in November, retiring a couple of months later.

Tittle

New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle works out at Yankee Stadium in New York in this 1961 photo.
New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle works out at Yankee Stadium in New York in this 1961 photo. [ JOHN LINDSAY | AP ]

Years: 1962-64

Ages: 36-38

Completed 568 of 1,023 passes with 79 touchdowns and 56 interceptions for 8,167 yards and a 84.5 passer rating. Was 24-12-2 as a starter.

Brady

Brady in Week 4: The numbers are there, but the results are not. This is the first time Brady has started a season 2-2 since 2018 in New England. With most of his receivers back in the lineup, Brady had his best passing game of the season against the Chiefs — he threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns — but a fumble on a sack in the second quarter robbed the Bucs of any chance at momentum.

Years: 2020-22

Ages: 43-45

Has completed 992 of 1,484 passes with 89 touchdowns and 25 interceptions for 11,007 yards and a 101.6 passer rating. Is 26-11 as a starter.

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