There’s no question that Tom Brady is one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time. First-ballot Hall of Fame? You bet.
Heading into his seventh career Super Bowl appearance, Brady even has the opportunity to surpass Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the winningest Super Bowl quarterback of all time, with his potential fifth career ring on the line when the Pats face off against the Atlanta Falcons for Super Bowl LI next Sunday (yes, we’re back to Roman numerals this year).
While sitting solo at the top of the podium with five career trips to Disney World could be enough to shine some definitive light on the greatest-NFL-quarterback-of-all-time conversation, perhaps even more impressive is the fact that TB12 is still spinning properly-inflated leather ovals as the NFL’s oldest player not a kicker or punter.
Coming up on Roman numeral XL (40), age-wise, it’s no secret that Captain America is getting pretty old, at least in terms of NFL quarterbacks and not so much in just general terms of being old for the earth, or old for being an Uggs spokesperson, for that matter.
In fact, next Sunday, Brady will become the second-oldest quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl, at the age of 39, second only to Peyton Manning, last year, by a margin of less than five months.
But it turns out that they aren’t alone when it comes to the fine-wine rule of Super Bowl signal-callers, with a few of the NFL’s all-time greats proving that some things get better with age.
While Brady and Manning are the only ones to start at Super Bowl at 39, here are some of the other old-timers to suit up on Super Sunday:
John Elway (Denver Broncos, 38)
While Manning actually cracks the list twice — once at 39, when he lead the Broncos to a win in Super Bowl 50 over the Panthers and also two seasons prior, at 37, when the Broncos got squawked in 43-8 loss to the Seahawks — the third name behind Brady’s and Manning’s belongs to another Orange Crush legend in former Broncos QB and current Broncos general manager John Elway.
Elway was carried off into the sunset after leading the Broncos to a 34-19 win over the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, at the age of 38, just a year after winning his first title, at 37, in a Super Bowl win over Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.
Johnny Unitas (Baltimore Colts, 37)
At least for Baltimore football fans, it’s sort of a travesty to have Baltimore Colts legend Johnny Unitas’ name anywhere near that of Elway, who snubbed the Colts in the 1983 NFL Draft when they tried to select the Stanford grad with the first overall pick, by threatening to play baseball instead.
But in terms of winning Super Bowls and playing for equestrian-themed franchises, Unitas and Elway very often find themselves in the same conversation about NFL legends.
Winning Super Bowls at 37 is just one more thing the two have in common, with Unitas earning his first and only ring in Super Bowl V, when the then Baltimore-based Colts took down the Cowboys 16-13.
Kurt Warner (Arizona Cardinals, 37)
Warner was named Super Bowl MVP after Tennessee Titans wideout Kevin Dyson came up just an outstretched inch or two short of the goal line on the game’s final play and the Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV.
Nine years later, however, Warner found himself back in action with the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLII, at the age of 37, that time getting bested by the Steelers, 27-23.
Rich Gannon (Oakland Raiders, 37)
With the success of Joe Flacco, former Raiders quarterback and University of Delaware grad Rich Gannon is far from the only Blue Hen to ever make a Super Bowl appearance.
Leading the Raiders to Super XXXVII at the age of 37, however, Gannon finds himself representing the First State solo in terms of the oldest quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.
At the age of 32, Flacco certainly has time to add another Blue Hen to that list.
Other Super Bowl old timers: Fran Tarkenton (Minnesota Vikings, 36), Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys, 36).
The names on that list considered, it goes to show that, when it comes down to it, the Super Bowl is very much a contest for old men. I guess we’ll see if Tom Brady can further that claim after calling the coin flip next Sunday.