Hannable: Tom Brady’s AFC championship performance gave glimpse into future, and he’s not going away anytime soon

Ryan Hannable
January 23, 2019 - 12:06 am

There’s no question Tom Brady had a subpar season by his standards in 2018. 

The 41-year-old didn’t finish in the top-10 in most major statistical categories, but like he always seems to do, he’s still playing into February when 30 other NFL starting quarterbacks are on the golf course and sitting on their couches.

Brady didn’t have his greatest playoff performance in Sunday’s AFC championship against the Chiefs. He threw for 348 yards, but had a touchdown and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 77.1 in the Patriots’ 37-31 overtime win in Kansas City.

While it wasn’t his best, he was his best when he always seems to be — when it matters most. 

In the fourth quarter and overtime he was 14-for-23 for 180 yards, and then on third down in the second half and overtime he was 5-for-6 for 86 yards. Not to mention he led the Patriots to touchdown drives in their last three possessions.

That is the thing that has never wavered with him over the years — when the pressure rises, his game rises.

“You always have a lot of confidence when No. 12’s on your team,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said Monday. “You always have a chance to win any game, no matter what the situation is.”

Watching Brady go to work in the fourth quarter and overtime, he looked like a player who was still in the prime of his career. His decision-making was top-notch and so was his ultra-quick release to avoid the pass rush. His ability to perform in the clutch is something that just will not go away.

And then seeing the the pure joy and emotion on the field and immediately afterwards in the locker room, it was like a player going to his first Super Bowl, not his ninth, which is more than any other NFL franchise.

“You just have to stay in the moment. We always say one play at a time. You can’t make up for things that happened in the past,” Brady said. “You just have to think about what you’re going to do moving forward.”

With him being 41 years old, there’s always going to be talk of him potentially retiring after every season, especially with what he’s accomplished. But, after watching what transpired Sunday and knowing what we know, the end may actually be even further away than we may think.

Brady has consistently said he wants to play until he’s 45, but who said he has to stop then?

The quarterback is always physically going to be ready to play. He’s insanely dedicated to his diet and training regimen, which is never going to go away. And then of course his family plays a role, but it seems he was able to strike a balance this offseason by not attending OTAs to spend more time with them.

Is it ideal to miss spring workouts? No. But, when you’re Tom Brady and it’s what needs to happen in order for to keep playing, then it is worth it for everyone involved.

The Patriots as an organization do not seem to be bothered by it, and Brady is on a completely different level than anyone else. What he’s doing has never been done in the history of the NFL, so there is no model to be followed. If more time in the offseason with his family means another year of playing for the Patriots, that seems to be worth the trade off.

What would Brady really do once he retires anyway? He’s said he wants to continue to promote the TB12 brand, but isn’t playing in the NFL well into his 40s the biggest endorsement for the product?

Playing for 19 seasons, it could be easy to just lose some passion for the game and not have it mean as much as it did earlier in a career, but that simply is not the case for Brady. Seeing how he reacted after Sunday’s win was confirmation that he will be emotionally invested no matter how old he gets. 

That is just who he is.

“I’m shocked that he’s even playing today,” Tom Brady Sr. told MMQB’s Albert Breer a few days ago. "But he says he wants three or four or five more years.”

Five years, huh?

Based on what was shown Sunday, don't bet against it.

Related: Patriots' official Twitter account trolls FS1's Rob Parker for take prior to AFC championship