Tom Brady’s Expiration Date Is Getting Personal

We're learning to accept our star quarterback’s mortality.

Tom Brady

photograph by ap images/Damian Strohmeyer

Tom Brady is not immortal. Fans may have had this heretical thought more than a few times recently, beginning with Brady’s missed season in 2008 on through the Patriots’ ignominious exits in the past two conference championship games and the 2012 Super Bowl (sorry—it was a bad throw to Welker). But lately, I feel like there’s something we fans are going to have to start grappling with.

Consider the recent argument in an article posted by a Pro Football Focus writer, Sam Monson, that Brady is no longer a top-five NFL quarterback. Citing the fact that Brady’s completion percentage has dropped consistently over the past four years, Monson declared that our star quarterback is finally buckling under pressure. Granted, all such lists have the stink of troll-baiting about them (and we Bostonians are an overly sensitive lot when it comes to perceived slights of our heroes), but he may have a point.

Whether or not you buy the downward-trending argument, there’s one stat you can’t game: Brady’s age. It’s something I’ve been acutely aware of myself this year, because, like Brady, I recently turned 37. Which may be why talking to my father the other day about the whole Brady thing felt oddly personal: “Can you believe there are people already trying to push Brady out?” he asked. “He’s only 37.” We’d been discussing my father’s recent and unexpected diagnosis of a serious disease, and yet, after going over the details—what to expect, his course of treatment, and so on—our thoughts drifted, as they often do when we talk on the phone, to Brady.

Brady’s not done yet, my father and I agreed (perhaps too eagerly). But criticisms with a kernel of truth sting the most. That the Patriots drafted Eastern Illinois standout Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round has gotten all of us thinking. About the circle of life in sports, but also about Brady’s mortality, and by extension our own, and so on. The team hadn’t spent such a high draft pick on a quarterback in a long time. Another nail in the Brady coffin: Garoppolo isn’t just a talented prospect, he’s also exceptionally handsome. Hey, that’s Brady’s beat, pal. Back off.

Truth is, the prospect of Brady’s expiration date hit me hardest this past spring, when I saw a shot of him standing on his Back Bay roof deck watching helplessly as the Boston Fire Department battled a blaze that would end up taking the lives of two firefighters. There he is—framed by an engine ladder, bundled up in a coat and hat, his arms wrapped around his body. If you look closely, you get the feeling that he’s contemplating something much bigger than football. Maybe this superhero is getting ready to join us mere mortals once again.