Tom Brady’s decision to retire (permanently this time) closes the book on one of the greatest careers in NFL history, and perhaps one of the best in professional sports history. Rarely does an athlete dominate the sport for so many years, while winning so many titles.
Some of his records might not be broken for decades. Others might never be broken. But a few young quarterbacks have a shot at overtaking Brady on numerous fronts. Let’s examine this possibility and what it would take.
Breakable Tom Brady Records?
Based on elite play, incredible teammates, and pure longevity (competing through his age 45 campaign), Brady holds dozens of league records. Here are perhaps the five most notable, and how one or more current NFL QBs might somehow surpass him before they, too, retire.
Seven Super Bowl Wins
We’ll begin with what I believe will be the toughest Brady record to break. Not saying that lightly. He has giant shoes to fill, period.
But winning it all requires more than mere talent. It necessitates more than surrounding talent. So many seasons come down to one game, or one possession, or one play. The best teams don’t always claim the title, in a literal sense.
I mean, if you were on the witness stand, would you testify that the 2007 Giants would have beaten the 2007 Patriots in a best-of-seven series?
That’s no knock on those Giants, who rose to the occasion — twice. But it’s a reminder that Super Bowl runs are grinds that, at least this century, often have come down to the final possession.
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In fact, in six of Brady’s championships (all with New England), the Patriots took the lead for good in the fourth quarter. In his three Super Bowl defeats, the Patriots lost the lead for good with less than 2:30 remaining.
Honestly, I don’t see a clear or even foggy path for any current QB to break, or even tie, Brady’s Super Bowl victory record. But currently, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts seem to have the best chances, and not just because of their Super Bowl LVII faceoff.
Both helm outstanding teams with no short-term signs of massive regression. Yet, if I had 50-1 odds on one of them hitting 8+ titles, I wouldn’t take it.
251 Regular-Season Wins
There’s more than meets the eye on this one. On the one hand, how many quarterbacks will start for the better part of 21 “full” seasons, starting every game in 19 of them? Every . . . single . . . game.
And then, back to his teams’ incredible run of excellence. This year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers campaign was the first time he’s had a losing record. Think about that. Combined with his titles, the closest comparison I can make is Bill Russell, who won 11 championships in 13 seasons, during which his Celtics never endured a losing record.
Now, the NBA back then was different. There were only eight to 14 teams during Russell’s run. Dominance was a bit easier if you had, say, two of the league’s three best players.
But in the NFL, winning 73% of your regular-season games is, to put it mildly, incredible. Doing it across two decades is beyond incredible.
So could any current QB surpass Brady’s regular-season victory total? Well, Mahomes has a half-decent shot. He’s currently 64-16 (80% win rate) as a starter through five full seasons. If he plays 14 more full seasons at the same win rate, he would tack on another 190 victories, elevating him to 254.
Much depends on whether Mahomes continues playing deep into his 30s, or even into his early 40s. Of course, much more depends on the Kansas City Chiefs’ sustained dominance in the AFC West.
I’d take 50-1 odds on Mahomes doing it, because with his surrounding offensive and defensive corps, KC is on a trajectory to secure 12+ wins in each of the next three years, giving him 100+ at 30 years old.
89,214 Regular-Season Passing Yards
I actually believe this record is more breakable than it might seem. A 17-game season combined with more pass-heavy offenses could get some current quarterbacks close to Brady’s mark, and possibly exceed it.
Keep in mind, in Brady’s first full season (2002), teams averaged 212.2 passing yards per game. Ten years later, teams averaged 231.3 passing yards. It hit 240.2 a couple years ago before dipping in the last two seasons.
But the top passing teams are still slinging it. Mahomes led all QBs with 5,250 passing yards, lifting him to 24,241, or roughly 4,800 per season. Brady cracked 3,800 yards only once in his first six campaigns because the game was played a little differently then. Also, his Patriots operated differently than Mahomes’ Chiefs currently do.
To put an exclamation point on it, Brady’s averaged 266 passing yards per contest. Mahomes has averaged 303. At this rate, the latter could be on Brady’s doorstep by his age-38 season.
Then there’s Joe Burrow, who’s averaging 280 passing yards per game, and who has a nucleus of top-flight (and youthful) receivers who could help propel him to consistent 300-yard-per-game efforts in the next few years. Meanwhile, Justin Herbert is averaging 288 and shows no signs of slowing down.
Finally, don’t count out Trevor Lawrence. The numbers aren’t there yet, but Lawrence’s ceiling rivals every other QB in the game today. It comes down to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ continued development, as well as whether Lawrence keeps throwing 600+ times (or 650+?) per year.
Defeat 32 Teams
How does anyone break this record? Brady currently holds it with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Brett Favre.
Ah, but there’s always NFL expansion. Mahomes has already beaten 30 teams — every franchise except his own and the Minnesota Vikings. A league expansion to 34 or 36 teams or more could put Mahomes on a smooth trajectory to defeating more than 32 squads.
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And yes, I realize this has turned into a Mahomes-heavy article. But that’s largely because he’s the most established QB in the league who’s both (a) young, and (b) elite. Assuredly, several current quarterbacks could beat 33+ teams if the NFL expands. Even some of the older guys still playing could make a run if scheduling breaks right.
Many other records could be threatened in the 2030s or 2040s, depending on how long the current crop of young-and-hungry quarterbacks stick it out in a league that both elevates and churns through talent.
But one thing is for certain: Brady has forever altered the standards by which we measure QB greatness.