One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time turned 40 on Thursday, but he is showing few signs, if any, of decline.
Ten seasons ago, Tom Brady and his Patriots put together their epic 16-0 regular season. The 30-year-old Brady had perhaps his best season. Ordinarily, quarterbacks, like all athletes, begin to steadily and sometimes rapidly decline in their 30s. But Brady is somehow just about as good as ever.
Last season was Brady’s best since 2007
Brady’s basic statistics at 30 and last season at 39 are similar. His completion percentages were 69 percent and 67 percent. His touchdown percentage declined to 7 percent from 9 percent, but his interception rate, an excellent 1.4 percent in 2007, was a mind-boggling 0.5 percent last year.
Putting it all together, his adjusted yards per attempt was 9.4 in 2007, and 9.3 in 2016. So much for aging.
And in one crucial way, Brady last season outdid his 30-year-old self. While the 16-0 team faltered in the Super Bowl, last year the Patriots won it all.
He’s not throwing more short passes
Brady has always relied heavily on short passes, but advanced statistics from Sportradar show that his rate of longer throws is holding steady. Brady threw the ball 15 yards or more 83 times last year, about the same rate as 2007, when factoring in his four game suspension.
And Brady continues to be more efficient than the average quarterback when he does go deeper. He had a completion rate of 52 percent on those 15-yard-plus passes, up from 47 percent in 2007. N.F.L. quarterbacks as a group completed them 42 percent of the time. Brady was picked off on such passes eight times at age 30, but only once last year.
The Patriots change, but Brady stays the same
As Brady goes on, the league and the Patriots have changed. None of the 14 players who caught a pass from him in 2007 played in the league last year, although Mike Vrabel, a linebacker who caught two passes for touchdowns, is defensive coordinator for the Texans. Brady’s top receiver was Randy Moss, who caught a career high 23 touchdowns.
This season Brady’s targets will include Julian Edelman, 31; Danny Amendola, 31; Brandin Cooks, 23; and Rob Gronkowski, 28.
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Brady was unheralded out of college and was drafted in the sixth round. It was, to say the least, a smart pick. Six quarterbacks were chosen ahead of him, and none have thrown a…