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QBs for the ages: How does Tom Brady compare to Drew Brees

A weekly feature charting Brady in his mid-40s versus the final three seasons of history’s greatest quarterbacks.
Published Dec. 6, 2022|Updated Dec. 6, 2022

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. Brees

Drew Brees holds the Lombardi Trophy after the Saints' 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44 in Miami.
Drew Brees holds the Lombardi Trophy after the Saints' 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44 in Miami. [ JULIE JACOBSON ]

The set-up: It could be argued Brees is Brady without all the hardware. While they both played in the Big 10 in the late 1990s, they met only once as starters and Brady’s Michigan team prevailed. Brees, however, was the far more accomplished passer by the time he left Purdue. They both took over as starters in the NFL in their second season, and by 2020 Brees had thrown for an NFL record 80,358 yards with 571 touchdowns. Brady, at that point, had 79,204 yards and 581 touchdowns. Brees was named to 13 Pro Bowls but never won an MVP award and only one Super Bowl. Brady, of course, has 15 Pro Bowls, seven Super Bowl victories and three MVPs.

The end: Brees struggled to stay healthy in his final two seasons in New Orleans but was still one of the best quarterbacks in the game. His passer rating after turning 40 was a remarkable 111.2. The Saints reached the playoffs in each of his final three seasons, but his shoulder was shot by 2020. His career ended, ironically, in a 30-20 playoff loss to Brady and the Bucs.

Brees

Drew Brees (9) throws a pass during a 2020 game against the Bucs in New Orleans.
Drew Brees (9) throws a pass during a 2020 game against the Bucs in New Orleans. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Years: 2018-20

Ages: 39-41

Completed 920 of 1,257 passes with 83 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for 9,913 yards and a 113.0 passer rating. Was 30-18 as a starter.

Brady

Tom Brady was 14-of-18 for 118 yards and two touchdown passes to rookie receivers on the final two drives.
Tom Brady was 14-of-18 for 118 yards and two touchdown passes to rookie receivers on the final two drives. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
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Brady in Week 13: Somehow, the legend grows. At age 45, Brady has one of the most remarkable comebacks of a 23-year career. His final numbers were not particularly impressive, but Brady orchestrated two touchdown drives in the final minutes to pull out a 17-16 victory against the Saints. Brady was 14-of-18 for 118 yards and two touchdown passes to rookie receivers on the final drives.

Years: 2020-22

Ages: 43-45

Has completed 1,233 of 1,853 passes with 99 touchdowns and 27 interceptions for 13,281 yards and a 99.1 passer rating. Is 30-15 as a starter.

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