Everybody's time comes to an end eventually. Even Brett Favre knows that by now.* For all of the great players of every generation, heck all of the people that have ever lived, eventually it's over. For athletes, accepting this can be hard. For fans, it can be confusing, but we are quicker to let go than we realize.
Dan Marino played his final season at the age of 38, but by 36 his touchdown numbers had hit a career low. He had thrown just 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions over a full season with Miami, and two years later he threw 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in just 11 games.
Joe Montana played his final season at the age of 38, but during his age 36 season he was hurt and missed all but one game. The 49ers dealt him to the Chiefs and he played two average years with Kansas City before retiring.
John Elway won the Super Bowl in each of his last two years but still called it quits at age 38.
Jim Kelly retired at 36, Steve Young at 38, Troy Aikman at 34. Of course, Warren Moon played until he was 44, though he was only productive in one of his final five seasons. Favre was incredible at 40, terrible at 41. It's easy to look back at careers and know what happened, it's harder to look at current careers and realize what's happening.
Tom Brady is now 36, and he's having the worst season of his career, by far.
Whether it's due to injury or loss of skill or loss of skill players, the fact still remains that this isn't the Brady we are used to seeing, and it's necessary to wonder if we've forever lost the Brady we're used to seeing. It's not crazy to think that we're seeing the beginning of the end, though it's entirely possible we're seeing nothing at all. There's plenty of evidence to show that Brady's capable of bouncing back to old form as soon as this week, but there's still enough evidence to start asking questions.
If you want to be successful in this league, you have to ask questions. And so we ask this week, among other things, is Tom Brady finished, and when should the Patriots start looking towards a different future?
Tom Brady, Patriots
Brady is completing 55.7 percent of his passes for 1,824 yards, nine touchdowns, six interceptions, 5.9 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 74.9.
His career-low in completion percentage is 60.2 percent, which was back in 2003. His career-low in yards per attempt is 6.3, which happened back in 2002. He's on pace for 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, which are the exact numbers he put up during his first season as starter back in 2001 when the Patriots own the Super Bowl.
Is Brady back to being a "game manager"?
The term "game manager" could also just be a fancy way of saying "he's doing alright given that he isn't surrounded with talent." Last season, Brady played with Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead. This season, he's playing with Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman, and Michael Hoomanawanui. Instead of a pass-catcher like Woodhead, he's got the stone-handed LeGarrette Blount.
He's had Danny Amendola for fewer than four games. He's had Gronkowski for two. Edelman might be on pace for 96 catches, but for less than 10 yards-per-catch. According to Football Outsiders, Brady threw to his right 10 times on Sunday against the Dolphins and completed four passes for 16 yards with an interception. Twice already, he's had balls intended for Gronkowski be picked off, something that happened only twice in the previous three seasons combined.
There are some question as to the health of Brady, if he's playing with an injured hand, but whatever the reason, it's still a good time to remember that aging exists and injuries have ended many careers, including some of those Hall of Fame names listed above.
Other questions surrounding Brady and the Patriots in this regard would be "When is Bill Belichick going to retire or leave New England?" and "When is it the right time to get an extensive look at backup Ryan Mallet?" The answer to the second question would likely not be answered this year unless Brady does hit the injury report and miss a game, and that's when it would really get interesting, should Mallet play well.
Brady's contract seemingly locks him in as the Patriots starter through at least 2016, as they'd save no money to release him before then, but it probably wouldn't be hard to call a team and ask, "Are you interested in Tom Brady?" If you've got a heartbeat, you're interested. Football and otherwise.
As of now, he'll continue to manage the game for a team that's playing good defense, special teams and is 6-2. The return of Amendola and getting reacquainted with Gronkowski likely makes it a moot point, and he'll do a lot more than just "manage."
Up next: Steelers
Both Andy Dalton and Geno Smith threw 30 passes on Sunday. Dalton completed 19 passes; Geno completed 20. I guess the biggest difference though, if you want to get into pointless "details," is that Dalton threw five touchdowns and 325 yards with one interception, and Geno had no touchdowns, 159 yards and two interceptions.
And Dalton wasn't replaced by Matt Simms.
Smith is as inconsistent as the Jets this year, but Rex Ryan can't afford to stick with Smith just because he's the young rookie. If Simms gives him a better chance to win, that's what he'll do. Ryan hasn't come to that decision ... yet.
Up next: Saints
It looks like Jason Campbell is a starter in the NFL again. That didn't always work out terribly for the Redskins and Raiders, but it was never as good as you wanted it to be. It was only weeks ago when he was passed over by Brian Hoyer, and now he's passed over Brandon Weeden.
The second AFC Wild Card is up for anyone other than the Jaguars, and the Browns have one of the top defenses in the conference. It'll be important to go with the hot hand for Rob Chudzinski. That's almost certainly not Weeden.
Up next: Ravens
Keenum 'n swell
Both Keenum and Campbell can boast solid games against the Chiefs, which either means they are both severely underrated, or the Kansas City pass defense is severely overrated.
Keenum got an extra week after his debut to gel with the number one offense and he'll get start number two this week despite Matt Schaub being healthy. Yes, even the Texans at 2-5 are still in the Wild Card hunt. Is Keenum going to pull out a second half miracle?
Up next: Colts
The Lesser of two Vikings
Leslie Frazier hasn't made a decision on which of these two players he will start on Sunday. Freeman missed the last game with a concussion and Frazier liked what he saw from Ponder, but he also knows that the team signed Freeman with the intention of finding out if it had anything.
Also, Matt Cassel could be better than both, but is completely out of the equation because that's not going to do anything for the future and they've given up on the present. That's pretty evident when they're deciding between Ponder and Freeman.
Up next: Cowboys
He ain't losin' job In Sain't Louis
Jeff Fisher expressed confidence in Clemens this week and reiterated that he'd be the starter for the foreseeable future. Yeah, we kind of already knew that. We watched Brady Quinn last year.
Up next: Titans
Vicky, Nicky, Barkley
The last time we saw Foles, he didn't look too good, but anything appears to be better than Matt Barkley right now. The question at this time almost seems to be "Which of these three guys will still be here next season?" if any. Chip Kelly may still use a first-round pick on a QB next year, though that wouldn't be doing the Eagles defense any favors.
And Philadelphia's 31st ranked total defense could use all the help it can get.