The Patriots had a succession plan ready for Tom Brady as early as 2014. They selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he was seemingly Bill Belichick’s quarterback of the future. After all, Brady was 37 in 2014, so he wouldn’t be playing for too much longer, right?
Not quite. Brady is still playing in the NFL seven seasons later. He is currently in the midst of his 22nd NFL season at the age of 44. That means he has spent half of his life playing in the league. And so far, he has shown no signs of slowing down.
Brady is off to a fast start in 2021. He has thrown for 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns in three games this season and is on pace for high-water marks in passing yardage and passing touchdowns. His air yards per attempt of 8.5 is his best mark since 2015.
Brady will have a starting job as long as he continues to play like that. The only question is about how much longer he will want to play. Brady has spoken about retirement in the past, but he has also discussed playing into his late 40s — and perhaps to 50.
When will Tom Brady retire? Here’s what the Buccaneers’ quarterback has said about his future and when he could face a difficult decision about calling it quits.
When will Tom Brady retire?
Brady doesn’t have any sort of hard-line date in mind for his retirement. He acknowledged that he’s taking the decision on a year-by-year basis at this point during his career.
“I’ll just have to evaluate all that when it comes,” Brady said, per USA TODAY Sports. “It’s a physical sport; anything could happen. So I’m going to go out there this year and give everything I’ve got like I’ve done every other year, and then take it from there.”
Brady said in a June interview with Jim Gray that his goal was originally to play through his age-45 season, which would come in 2022. He plans to live up to that commitment, but beyond? That remains uncertain.
“I felt for a long time, I could play until I was 45 years old,” Brady said. “I think I committed to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to play till I’m 45.’ And this year I’ll be 44, which naturally takes me to the next year. I’ve got a two-year contract. We’ll see what happens beyond that.”
So, barring an injury or a bad regression of Brady’s skillset, expect him to be on a field until at least 2022. But even that timeline could be premature, as Brady has indicated that he believes he can play until 50. It’s just a matter of whether he will.
Could Tom Brady play until he’s 50?
Most recently, Brady seemed to indicate that playing until 50 would be a challenge for him. He wouldn’t rule it out completely, but he did acknowledge that he always had a different retirement age in mind.
“50? That’s a long time. Even for me, that’s a long time,” Brady told USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein. “I’ve always said 45 was the age that I wanted to reach and that was my goal. This year I’ll be 44, so next year I’ll be 45. I got a two-year contract.
“I’m going to be able to obviously play this year and God forbid anything happens but play next year and then see what happens after that. If I still want to keep playing, I might be able to do that. And if that’s enough, then that would be enough.”
However, in an episode of the Bucs’ YouTube show “Tommy and Gronky,” Brady said that he probably could do it.
“I don’t find it so difficult,” Brady said of playing at age 44. “Plus in Florida, it’s kind of a retiree state so I feel like I can play and then just glide into retirement. I think I can [play until I’m 50]. I think it’s a yes.”
As Brady detailed later in the week, the keyword in his statement was “could.”
“Well, I think Gronk asked if I thought I could,” Brady said of playing until he’s 50, per NESN. “Whether I think I can or I will are two different things. So, I think from my body standpoint and how I’ve been able to take care of myself over the years can put me in a position to do that, and you never know what can happen as I keep moving forward. I know I’m having a lot of fun playing. And again, at my age, I’ve agreed to play next year, as well, but beyond that, it’ll just take it year by year.”
“I’ve put myself in a good position to I think even this year compete really hard and play well,” he added. “I’m gonna try to do the same next year, and beyond that, we’ll see. But I’m gonna keep tightening up my routine a little bit more and more each year.”
So, while Brady isn’t ruling out playing until he’s 50, it doesn’t sound like he’s banking on it either.
What Bill Belichick, Bucs GM Jason Licht think about Brady’s future
Jason Licht was one of the first to express confidence that Brady could play until he turns 50.
“I told him if he wants to play til he’s 50 and he’s still playing and he feels like he can still play, then he [can] play until he’s 50,” Licht said of Tom Brady in May.
Bill Belichick is a believer in Brady as well. He noted Brady’s hard work and self-care routines as two key factors that could allow him to play longer than any other player in NFL history.
“Nothing Tom does surprises me,” Belichick said, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “He’s a great player, works hard, takes care of himself. He’s talked about playing until 50. If anybody can do it, he probably can.
“Tom’s had an unbelievable career. There’s not enough superlatives and adjectives to compliment him on everything that he’s achieved and continues to achieve. It’s unbelievably impressive.”
Like Brady, neither would guarantee the quarterback would play until he’s 50, but they at least believe in him. So, if Brady wants to keep playing, he may have a chance to do it. It’s just a matter of whether he wants to keep playing beyond his current two-year contract.
But for now, the question about Brady’s retirement is still unanswered. We all know it’s coming at some point, but as long as he keeps playing well, he’ll have the option to push it further into the future.