Some might say these stars have lost a step over the years, but that isn’t stopping them from steadily marching towards football immortality.
Hello again readers, this is the final post I will be writing this semester, and the NFL season will likely be in the postseason if not finished by the time I write again. Because of this, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the “old men” of the NFL, who are all over the age of 35 (Ancient, am I right?) It isn’t certain that all 4 of these players will return in 2021 after this NFL season concludes, so there’s no better time than now to recognize them for their well-earned achievements.
Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Frank Gore, and Larry Fitzgerald have been stacking up numbers throughout the past 2 decades and have thrown (literally in Brady and Brees’ case) themselves into the all-time NFL record books in the process. Brady and Brees have taken control of the majority of the highly-sought-after passing statistics, while still performing like they did in their prime. The latter two players aren’t producing numbers like they once did, but Gore has slow and steadily climbed up the career rushing yards leaderboard, as has Fitzgerald in terms of career receiving yards and receptions. Let’s dive deeper into each of these players’ numbers and how they compare to the football greats of the past.
Tom Brady & Drew Brees:
I have chosen to write about Brady and Brees together because of their commonalities as fellow quarterbacks and having similar career stats. Tom Brady is now 43 years old after spending 20 years with the Patriots and is currently in his first season with the Buccaneers. Drew Brees, at 41 years old, is the “younger” of the two, and he too has enjoyed a very long career, beginning with a 5-year stint as the Chargers QB, and more-famously the Saints QB of the last 15 years. The pair of ageless quarterbacks have spent the 2020 season playing ping-pong with the all-time record for passing touchdowns, with Brady currently sporting a 4 TD lead with 569 over Brees’ 565 due in part to Brees being injured for the past 2 weeks and likely 2 to 4 more weeks. Regardless, Brady and Brees sit 1st and 2nd in all-time passing TDs, while Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Dan Marino round out the top 5. Keep an eye on current Colts QB Philip Rivers though, as his 413 TDs sit just 7 TDs below Marino’s 420 with 5 games still left to play this season.
“The Inconvenient Truth” is still a starting running back at 37 years old, albeit for a horrible Jets team. (Hey… you gotta get those rushing yards in any way you can.) Gore likely could have chosen to sign as a backup with a much better team in hopes of securing his first Super Bowl ring, but it’s understandable why he chose to go to a cellar-dwelling Jets team where there’s a much easier path to carries. At this point of his career, every rushing yard counts more than ever for Gore, as he currently is 3rd all-time in career rushing yards, trailing only Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith. Over his 16 years playing with 5 teams in the NFL, Gore now has 15,868 rushing yards, which puts him 858 yards behind Payton who sits 2nd all-time with 16,726. Gore would likely have to play into his 40s to approach Smith’s 18,355 total, but we have all learned that it isn’t wise to bet against Gore putting up numbers each year. No, they aren’t fantastic numbers anymore, but they do still add up. By the way, (Yoda voice) “there is another (Gore) in this galaxy”, as Frank Gore Jr. is a college freshman RB for Southern Miss, so be sure to mentally prepare for a new Frank Gore to replace the current Frank Gore in the coming years.
“Larry Legend” has spent his entire 17-year career with the Cardinals, spending the majority of it as an upper-echelon wide receiver in the NFL. Fitzgerald continued to perform spectacularly even into his age 34 season with the team in 2017, when he put up 109 receptions, 1,156 receiving yards, and 6 TDs. He hasn’t approached that level of production since then, and it’s unlikely that he will return to those levels with DeAndre Hopkins now the WR1 of the team, but he has continued to be useful as a safety-net for QB Kyler Murray in the dangerous Cardinals offense. Fitzgerald has also considered retirement over the past couple years, but each time he decided to return because of his desire to win a Super Bowl before he calls it a career. Fitz currently sits in a distant 2nd place for career receiving yards with 17,419 behind Hall of Famer Jerry Rice at 22,895. He’s also 2nd all-time in receptions with 1,421, trailing only (you guessed it) Jerry Rice, who reeled in 1,549 catches in his career.
It’s fair to wonder how many years on the field these four players have left in them, but I must say that it’s been a pleasure to get to watch each of them climb up the leaderboards of their respective counting stats. It’s cool to know that some of the very best players of NFL history are playing in 2020. If I were to look into my crystal ball and predict who we could see at or near the tops of leaderboards in the coming decades, I’d expect Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, Derrick Henry, and DeAndre Hopkins to show up next to Brady, Brees, Gore, and Fitzgerald.
Written by: Blake Koziel @thek0zy1 on Instagram
Photo Sources: Orlando Sentinel, Pro Football Rumors, DraftKings Nation, My Hero Project