NEW YORK – APRIL13: (L-R) NFL Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning attend the Ermenegildo Zegna Flagship store opening April 13, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
Tom Brady turns 38 years old Monday. How have some of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game done at the age of 38? Here’s our take on the top 10 single-season performances for 38-year-old signal-callers.
1. Peyton Manning: While his team stalled out in the divisional playoffs at home against the Colts, Manning’s 2014 season with Denver was the best year statistically for any 38-year-old quarterback in the history of the game. He finished the season with a 66 percent completion rate, 4,727 passing yards (21st on the list of best single-season performances of all time), 39 touchdowns and 15 picks, to go along with a quarterback rating of 101.5. From a numbers standpoint, it’s hard to argue with this one.
2. Brett Favre: When he was 36 and 37, Favre had miserable back-to-back seasons with Green Bay, completing a combined 59 percent of his passes and throwing 10 times as many picks as touchdown passes. That all changed in 2007, when a 38-year-old Favre enjoyed a career renaissance, completing 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,155 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. (It’s the highest single-season completion percentage in the history of the game for any 38-year-old quarterback with at least 16 regular-season starts.) He ended the year with a QB rating of 95.7, but an interception late in the NFC championship game sealed his fate.
3. Kurt Warner: Speaking of a career renaissance, Warner propped up the Cardinals with a terrific 2009 — as a 38-year-old in his last full season in the NFL, he ended up throwing for 3,753 yards, as well as 26 touchdowns and a passer rating of 93.2. The numbers pale in comparison to his work with the Greatest Show on Turf, but are still nothing short of impressive for a 38-year-old nonetheless.
4. John Elway: He was pretty much a shell of his former self — at least statistically — when he reached the age of 38. (That’s not necessarily a knock on him, as the numbers from early in his career are absolutely mind-boggling.) In his final season, he completed 59 percent of his passes, finished with 2,806 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. And while quarterback wins is always a dicey way to measure overall ability, he went out in style with the second of back-to-back Super Bowl wins. He’s the oldest starting QB in league history to win a Super Bowl.
5. Joe Montana: Like Warner, Montana’s last full season as a starter came the year he turned 38 in 1994. With Kansas City, Montana willed the Chiefs to the postseason with 3,283 passing yards, 16 touchdown passes and a 61 percent completion rate, to go along with a QB rating of 83.6. His team lost to Miami in the wild card round of the playoffs.
6. Phil Simms: When you’re discussing great NFL quarterbacks of the 1980s, Montana and Simms are joined at the hip, and in this context, it’s worth mentioning that their respective seasons at the age of 38 were very similar. Like Montana, Simms’ last full year as a starter was as a 38-year-old, and while he wasn’t anywhere near the old form he flashed in his 20s, he was still spry enough to post numbers good enough to make this list: 16 regular-season starts, 62 percent completion rate, 3,038 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and a QB rating of 88.3. That year, Simms’ team lost in the divisional playoffs to the Niners, 12-6.
7. Warren Moon: He didn’t have the cleanest of seasons — he threw more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (18) at the age of 38 — but we felt compelled to put him on this list for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he threw for an awesome 4,264 yards. When you’re talking about a 38-year-old quarterback, that’s second only to Manning in terms of overall yardage. He did finish with a 62 percent completion rate and a 79.9 quarterback rating for a Vikings team that lost in the wild card round of the postseason. (Of course, Moon was just getting started. Remarkably, he would play for six more seasons, working as a starter for three of those until he retired in 2000 at the age of 44. He threw for 77 touchdowns and 11,376 passing yards after the age of 38. How nuts is that?)
8. Craig Morton: Craig Morton? Yep. Morton, who played 19 years in the NFL, had one of his best single seasons at the age of 38 with the 1981 Broncos. Two years before Elway became a starter, Morton started 15 games and threw for 3,195 yards while completing 60 percent of his passes. His TD-to-interception ratio was a pedestrian 3:2, but still good enough to allow him to end the year with a 90.5 QB rating. That Denver team finished 10-6, but out of the playoffs. (Interestingly, the only team on this list with three different quarterbacks is Denver. We’re looking forward to seeing what a 38-year-old Brock Osweiler has to offer.)
9. Fran Tarkenton: It’s an apples-to-oranges argument here because it was a different era, but Tarkenton belongs on the list because he and George Blanda were the first real quarterbacks of note to post substantial numbers at the age of 38. Tarkenton did it as a member of the Vikings in 1978, when he started 16 games and threw for 3,468 yards and 25 touchdowns for Minnesota. Of course, he did add 32 interceptions to the mix, a single-season high for any 38-year-old quarterback, but he does deserve some credit for posting those numbers in the 1970s, when the game was was different than it is today. For the record, that Vikes’ team finished 8-7-1, but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
10. Vinny Testaverde: We’ve always had a soft spot for Testaverde, and while he doesn’t have the overwhelming numbers of some of the quarterbacks at the top of this list, the stats were still good enough to warrant a spot. As a 38-year-old with the 2001 Jets, he had a 59 percent completion rate and 2,752 passing yards to go along with 15 touchdown passes and a 75.3 rating. (Testaverde had some elements of Moon’s late-career numbers, albeit on a smaller scale. In all, he played until the age of 44, throwing 34 TDs after the age of 38, including 17 in 2004 as a 41-year-old with Dallas.) Testaverde’s Jets’ ended the year 10-6, but saw their season come to an end with a playoff loss to the Raiders in Oakland.