Sixteen years ago, the New England Patriots finished in last place with a 5-11 record. The following season, a 24-year-old backup quarterback and former 6th-round draft pick helped guide the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in franchise history (pictured below). After making his NFL starting debut on September 30, 2001, Tom Brady has never looked back.
Now 39 years old, Brady has the chance to bring a fifth championship trophy home to New England. No quarterback has ever won five Super Bowls before (Brady, Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are each tied for the most with four). Brady already owns the record for Super Bowl appearances by a quarterback, with six.
Earlier this season, Brady passed Peyton Manning (200) and Brett Favre (199) for the most all-time victories by a QB, now at 205 and counting. His 14-2 Patriots just captured the AFC East division title for a record eighth straight year, but their streak is actually much more impressive than that. Since Brady first took over the starting job in 2001, New England has had the best record in the division every season (tiebreakers kept the Patriots from being awarded division championships in 2002 and 2008).
Over the past 16 years, New England has averaged slightly more that 12 victories per regular season (12.25 to be exact). To put that in perspective, six NFL franchises have never had a single 12-win season in that time.
Including the playoffs, Brady has a career record of 205-61. His .771 winning percentage is easily the best ever for QBs who’ve played more than one full season in the league. Brady has won 144 more games than he’s lost–only four other quarterbacks have ever won 144 games, total (Manning, Favre, John Elway and Dan Marino).
Additionally, Brady has never had a year where he threw at least 15 interceptions. For comparison, Manning did it nine times, Marino 10 and Favre 14.
While fans of Manning, Favre and Montana might argue who the best quarterback of all time is, there’s no question that Brady is better at his age than anyone has ever been before. Montana retired at age 38. Favre played till he was 41, but in his age-39 season he led the league with 22 interceptions. Manning retired last year at 39, and while his team won the Super Bowl his injury-plagued season featured just nine touchdown passes and 17 INTs.
And 39-year-old Brady?
Brady’s 28:2 TD-INT ratio is the best in NFL history. Patriots only threw 2 INTs all year as a team setting a new NFL record. Previous was 5
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) January 1, 2017
Physically, Brady looks more fit now than when he entered the NFL. He was sacked on only 3.4 percent of his pass attempts this season, third best in the league and the second lowest percentage of his career. Any Patriots fan can tell you that Brady’s mobility appears better at 39 than it was at 29, or even 24, for that matter.
How does he do it?
“Tom Brady says he can only work as hard—or perform as well—as his ability to recover. And he considers sleep the best way to recover, exactly why he strives for eight to 10 hours of uninterrupted zzz’s every night. ‘We push our bodies so hard and our bodies need time to rejuvenate,’ says Brady. ‘It is something I have been doing for a long time and is really important.’”
“Well it’s got to be a priority. I think sleep is so important because I break my body down so much with my sport. It’s the only place to get the recovery that I need. After the kids go to bed I’m right behind them and, whenever they wake up, is usually when I wake up. I’m hopefully asleep by 9 o’clock. During the season, I’d say even earlier, usually 8:30 p.m.”
These aren’t new habits for Brady either. From Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop in 2014:
“Let’s start here: Brady is a quarterback whose daily schedule, both in and out of season, is mapped clearly into his 40s. Every day of it, micromanaged. Treatment. Workouts. Food. Recovery. Practice. Rest. And those schedules aren’t just for this week, this month, this season. They’re for three years.”
Brady has said on multiple occasions that he’d like to play until he is 45. As each season passes with him continuing to perform at an elite level, that looks more and more like an actual possibility.