Tom Brady and Peyton Manning: Too Old To Win Another Super Bowl?
July 15, 2010

Are Manning and Brady Too Old To Win Another Super Bowl?

Stallworth's Big Catch in the 1980 Superbowl Landed Him on the Cover of Sports Illustrated

On this Date in History:  When I was a kid, I hated the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The sole reason was that they knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs with the lucky “immaculate reception.”  Then they got so good and always kept the Houston Oilers out of the Super Bowl.  While I didn’t like the team, I secretly really admired and liked the players.  I loved Lynn Swann when he was at USC.  I never really liked Penn State after the Nittany Lions embarrassed the Texas Longhorns in the 1972 Cotton Bowl.  The star in the 30-6 victory was running back Lydell Mitchell but Franco Harris made some big runs  for Joe Paterno so I didn’t like Franco forever.   Vietnam Veteran Rocky Bleier  and Steeler’s running back was cool but I didn’t want to admit it.  And then there was John Stallworth.  I didn’t like him because it seemed the Steelers just got better each year with more good players.  When he joined the Steelers in the 74-75 season, they were already on the rise yet, somehow they got another good receiver.  John Stallworth was born on this date in 1952 and he went on to be elected to the National Football League Hall of Fame in 2002.  In a Superbowl that I thought was a great game that seems to get overlooked, on January 20, 1980 he caught a 73 yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that sealed the fate of the underdog but competitive Los Angeles Rams.   John Stallworth went on to a life off the field that is every bit as successful as it was on the field as he now heads up Genesis II, a firm that devotes itself to philanthropic efforts.

Terry Bradshaw Was Very Tough. Click For Video of October 10, 1975 Cheap Shot Sack by Joe "Turkey" Jones That Literally Could Have Killed Bradshaw, who came back to win two more Superbowls in '79 and '80

Now, Terry Bradshaw was the starting and winning quarterback of the Steelers in the 1980 Superbowl and was on tough son-of-a-gun.  I hated him because he was the Steelers quarterback but he was damn good and, even as a Hall of Famer, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  He survived what could have been a fatal sack by Joe “Turkey” Jones in 1976 to come back and win his 3rd and 4th championships.  If you are too young to remember, I encourage you to click on the photo to the left for some video.  The win in 1980  was Bradshaw’s fourth championship at the age of 32.  I heard a radio show today that was questioning whether or not Tom Brady at 33 was too old to win another Superbowl.  They didn’t really talk about Peyton Manning but you have to put him in the same category because he’s a year older than Brady.  When you look at past history, a kneejerk reaction might be that the odds are against him.  But, a close examination may result in a different conclusion.   Its certainly not impossible and every quarterback is different, though Brady has suffered a serious injury in his career.  In the most recent Superbowl, winning quarterback Drew Brees was 31 years old while Peyton Manning was just shy of his 34th birthday.  Manning had won the big one a few years before at age 30.   Thirteen of the 44 winning quarterbacks in Superbowl history have been 33 years of age or older.  That would suggest that Brady has a little less than a 1 in 3 chance.  However, 14 who were 33 or older ended up on the short end.

John Unitas Played In an Era When Quarterbacks Were Not Protected By The Rules Yet Survived Long Enough to Win a Superbowl at age 37

Of 88 starting NFL quarterbacks in the Superbowl, 62 have been younger than 33 years old.  So, it seems that getting there at age 33 is more difficult than winning it once you get there.  When you look at it even deeper, you find that of the 13 older quarterbacks to have been victorious, Bart Starr, Len Dawson and John Unitas represent four of the veteran champions as they won 4 of the first 5 Superbowls.  So, from 1972 on, we’re down to nine thirty-33 or better quarterbacks to wear the Superbowl ring.  The final 9 included some multiple winners.  John Elway won twice at at 37 and 38.  Jim Plunkett was 33 the first time around and 36 when he captured his second Superbowl title.  Roger Staubach, Joe Theismann, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brad Johnson are the other winners who were at least 33 years old.   So there are just 10 men who have won the big prize as a starting quarterback when they were older than 32. 

Ben Roethlisberger is the Youngest Quarterback to Win the Superbowl

Now, it may appear on the surface that it’s more improbable to win a Superbowl with a young quarterback and certainly a rookie.  But the average winning age of a quarterback in the Superbowl is 29.95 years while the average age of the quarterback for the losing side is 30.   The youngest quarterback to win a Superbowl was Ben Roethlisberger who was just 23.  The next youngest….Tom Brady at 24.  But, 15 of the 44 Superbowl winners have been under the age of 28.  To be sure, the total is limited to a fewer number of exceptional young quarterbacks when you consider that Roethlisberger, Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw had all won two Superbowls before their 28th birthday.  And…oh by the way…Tom Brady had won 3 Superbowls before the ripe old age of 28.  Nevertheless, the trend seems to be younger because 9 out of the last 10 Superbowls have been won by a quarterback under 33 years old, including the last 7 in a row.   And, in those last 10 years, only 3 winners have been 30 or older.  

George Blanda Was Paid $600 For First Year in the NFL in 1949; He was still tossing touchdowns against players less than half his age in the 1970's.

 The recent trend seems to say that youth is being served in the NFL.  But, the NFL has never had a young quarterback win as much as Tom Brady.  Also, it seems that guys in the early days of the Superbowl like Unitas and Starr and Earl Morrall seemed to fit the “old man” moniker that  they gained in their mid to late 30′s.   Today’s 30 something quarterbacks seem more youthful than their predecessors.  While age may be working against veterans like Bret Favre who last won a Superbowl in 1997, I think that thinking that talented individuals like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (who are well into their 30′s) have every bit of an opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.  Brady has been injured seriously once but he and Manning both tend to avoid big hits.  Kurt Warner was 38 when he retired and he could still bring it.  Warren Moon was still chucking the most beautiful, tightest spirals the league has ever seen at 44 and Elway went out as a champion and fastball chucker at age 38.  Athletes are individuals and their individual circumstance has more to do with their success later in their careers than simply a calendar.  George Blanda was an NFL quarterback in the 1940′s, 1950′s, 1960′s and 1970′s.  His first year he even played linebacker for the Bears as well as quarterback and placekicker.  Blanda was still coming off the bench to bail out the Raiders in the mid-70′s with his arm and kicking field goals until they finally ran him off after his 48th birthday and after 26 seasons!  Tom Brady is a long way from reaching the elderly status of “Old Man Blanda” and both he and Peyton Manning have much left in the tank.

Here is a list of Superbowl starting Quarterbacks:

I – 1/15/67
Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers – Alabama (*33)
Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs – Purdue (31)

II – 1/14/68
Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers – Alabama (34)
Daryle Lamonica, Oakland Raiders – Notre Dame (26)

III – 1/12/69
Joe Namath, New York Jets – Alabama (25)
Earl Morrall, Baltimore Colts – Michigan State (34)

IV – 1/11/70
Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs – Purdue (34)
Joe Kapp, Minnesota Vikings – California (31)

V – 1/17/71
Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts – Louisville (37)
Craig Morton, Dallas Cowboys – California (27)

VI – 1/16/72
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (29)
Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins – Purdue (26)

VII – 1/14/73
Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins – Purdue (27)
Bill Kilmer, Washington Redskins – UCLA (33)

VIII – 1/13/74
Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins – Purdue (28)
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings – Georgia (33)

IX – 1/12/75
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (26)
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings – Georgia (34)

X – 1/18/76
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (27)
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (33)

XI – 1/9/77
Ken Stabler, Oakland Raiders – Alabama (31)
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings – Georgia (36)

XII – 1/15/78
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (35)
Craig Morton, Denver Broncos – California (34)

XIII – 1/21/79
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (30)
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (36)

XIV – 1/20/80
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (31)
Vince Ferragamo, Los Angeles Rams – California, Nebraska (25)

XV – 1/25/81
Jim Plunkett, Oakland Raiders – Stanford (33)
Ron Jaworski, Philadelphia Eagles – Youngstown State (29)

XVI – 1/24/82
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (25)
Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals – Augustana (IL) (32)

XVII – 1/30/83
Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins – Notre Dame (33)
David Woodley, Miami Dolphins – Louisiana State (24)

XVIII – 1/22/84
Jim Plunkett, Los Angeles Raiders – Stanford (36)
Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins – Notre Dame (34)

XIX – 1/20/85
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (28)
Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins – Pittsburgh (23)

XX – 1/26/86
Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears – BYU (26)
Tony Eason, New England Patriots – Illinois (26)

XXI – 1/25/87
Phil Simms, New York Giants – Morehead State (32)
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (26)

XXII – 1/31/88
Doug Williams, Washington Redskins – Grambling (32)
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (27)

XXIII – 1/22/89
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (32)
Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati Bengals – Maryland (27)

XXIV – 1/28/90
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (33)
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (29)

XXV – 1/27/91
Jeff Hostetler, New York Giants – West Virginia (29)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (30)

XXVI – 1/26/92
Mark Rypien, Washington Redskins – Washington State (30)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (31)

XXVII – 1/31/93
Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys – Oklahoma, UCLA (26)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (32)

XXVIII – 1/30/94
Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys – Oklahoma, UCLA (27)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (33)

XXIX – 1/29/95
Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers – BYU (33)
Stan Humphries, San Diego Chargers – NE Louisiana (29)

XXX – 1/28/96
Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys – Oklahoma, UCLA (29)
Neil O’Donnell, Pittsburgh Steelers – Maryland (29)

XXXI – 1/26/97
Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers – Southern Mississippi (27)
Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots – Washington State (24)

XXXII – 1/25/98
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (37)
Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers – Southern Mississippi (28)

XXXIII – 1/31/99
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (38)
Chris Chandler, Atlanta Falcons – Washington (33)

XXXIV – 1/30/00
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams – Northern Iowa (28)
Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans – Alcorn State (26)

XXXV – 1/28/01
Trent Dilfer, Baltimore Ravens – Fresno State (28)
Kerry Collins, New York Giants – Penn State (28)

XXXVI – 2/3/02
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (24)
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams – Northern Iowa (30)

XXXVII – 1/26/03
Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Florida State (34)
Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders – Delaware (37)

XXXVIII – 2/1/04
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (26)
Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers – Louisiana-Lafayette (29)

XXXVIX – 2/6/05
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (27)
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia – Syracuse (28)

XL – 2/5/06
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – Miami (OH) (23)
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle – Boston College (30)

XLI – 2/4/07
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts – Tennessee (30)
Rex Grossman, Chicago Bears – Florida (26)

XLII – 2/3/08
Eli Manning, New York Giants – Ole Miss (27)
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (30)

XLIII – 2/7/09
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – (26)
Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals – (37)

XLIV – 2/7/09
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - (31)
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - (33)

 Weather Bottom Line:  It’s going to be perhaps the hottest day of the year.  Humidity will be relatively high for having afternoon highs in the upper 90′s.  I”m from Houston and grew up on the Gulf Coast and lived there much of my life.  I often scoff at some of the whining we get around here when its humid.  But this time, it’s gonna be tough even for those of who are used to it.  While we’ll get a break with a front that will bring rain and t’storm chances Thurday night into the weekend, I suspect that we may be heading into another extended period of hot and humid conditions.  This is certainly not the same as last year when we had zero 90 degree days in July for the first time in history.  Maybe this is Global Warming’s Revenge.  Be careful and keep an eye on the elderly and others who may have difficulty.  Take care of the pets and livestock and for goodness sakes, don’t go and leave your child in the car…even for just a few minutes.

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