A look at Tom Brady's NFL career so far ahead of his 22nd season


Days before beginning his 22nd season in the NFL, Tom Brady was asked what advice he’d give young quarterbacks entering the league -- some of whom have yet to celebrate their 22nd birthday.

“Hmmm … I mean, I wrote a book on it,” Brady said, drawing a laugh from reporters. “I really did. It’s a good book, too.”

Yes, in addition to rewriting the history books, Brady also has written an actual book. 

It’s called “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance.” His words of wisdom in what is hailed as the “athlete’s bible” will cost young quarterbacks $19.31 for the hardcover edition on Amazon.

Given Tom Brady’s stats and most-recent accomplishment -- winning a Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP last season at the age of 43 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- it probably should be required reading for signal-callers. A textbook in the course of Quarterbacking 101. A guide to handing Father Time a rare, if not unprecedented, loss.

It’s easy to imagine any aspiring quarterbacks across the country ripping pages out of Brady’s book.

How many years has Tom Brady been in the NFL?

Before any of his 79,204 passing yards and 581 touchdowns were thrown, before any of his seven Super Bowl rings were won, before his book was written, Brady was a little-known sixth-round quarterback who made his NFL debut during garbage time of a Thanksgiving Day blowout.

It was November 23, 2000.

Trey Lance, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback not yet born when Brady was drafted in April of that year, was about 6 months old when Brady made his NFL debut. Jimmy Garoppolo was 9. Matthew Stafford was 12. Russell Wilson was 11. Kyler Murray was 3.

The 77,923 in attendance to watch the host Detroit Lions rout the New England Patriots 34-9 were unaware they were witnessing history, seeing the equivalent of Babe Ruth taking his first swing or Wayne Gretzky putting his first shot on goal or Michael Jordan attempting his first jumper. 

Probably should have held onto those ticket stubs. A parking pass and commemorative stuffed animal from Brady’s debut currently are listed on eBay for $5,995. A sideline pass and rally towel are up for $9,995.

Those are mementos from the day a 23-year-old Tom Brady -- following an interception thrown by Drew Bledsoe that was returned 101 yards for a 34-9 Lions lead -- first entered a NFL game. The Pontiac Silverdome scoreboard had 4:04 remaining in the fourth quarter when Brady made NFL debut.

Despite Tom Brady’s career stats, he still gets pregame butterflies

Taking the field for the first time of the season then and now, even after doing so for 22 years, still gives Brady the same sensation.

“Yeah, I think it’s butterflies,” Brady said. “It’s kind of being anxious because you put a lot into it and, emotionally, you’re at a super high point and you’re really focused.”

Trevor Lawrence, the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback selected first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, was 1 when Brady made his NFL debut in Detroit. Ryan Tannehill was 12. Tyrod Taylor was 11. Carson Wentz was 7.

The season-opening butterflies that Brady still gets at 44 are shared by Lawrence and the other highly touted rookie quarterbacks entering the league this season.

“I’m always a little nervous before almost every game, but especially like the first game,” Lawrence said Wednesday. “We played some preseason, and I was nervous before those, but first official game, starting a division game on the road, all those things, I’m going to have a little bit of butterflies. … Get a good first play under your belt, get rolling, sometimes take a little hit, kind of get you into the game. I’m excited.”

What does Tom Brady’s 2021 game log look like?

Of the five first-round quarterbacks drafted in 2021, Brady could face up to three this season with the Bucs playing the Patriots, New York Jets and Chicago Bears. Brady isn’t getting any younger, but his opposing quarterbacks certainly are.  

Justin Fields, the 22-year-old quarterback the Bears traded up to select at No. 11 overall in April’s NFL Draft, would set an NFL-record for age gap between starting QBs if he takes hold of Chicago’s QB1 job before playing Brady and the Bucs in October. Fields was 1 when Brady made his NFL debut. Aaron Rodgers was 16. Andy Dalton was 13. Kirk Cousins was 12. Jared Goff was 6.

When was Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl?

Brady’s debut was the first of his now 301 regular season games played and counting, and one of just two that he did not start. The other being when he replaced an injured Bledsoe against the Jets in the second game of his sophomore season in 2001. Brady went on to lead the Patriots to the first of six Super Bowls rings he won with the team.

That stretch included an NFL record 11 straight titles in the AFC East, a division that was happy to see Brady depart.

Josh Allen, the Buffalo Bills’ quarterback who is now the eldest starting QB in the AFC East at age 25, was 4 years old when Brady made his NFL debut. Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones were 2. Zach Wilson was 1.

How many Super Bowl rings has Tom Brady won?

Brady, one of only 22 NFL quarterbacks to play into his 40s, is the oldest player to ever play in and win a Super Bowl.

After capturing a seventh ring with the Bucs last season, Brady now looks to become the first quarterback to win back-to-back Super Bowls since his younger self did so in 2003 and 2004. 

Tampa Bay’s title defense begins Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC against the Dallas Cowboys.

Dak Prescott, Brady’s counterpart in Thursday’s NFL season opener, was 7 when Brady made his NFL debut. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 17. Daniel Jones was 3. Jalen Hurts was 2.

For Brady, age is a number. At 44 years old, he remains the face of the league, a betting favorite to win MVP and a viable option in fantasy football.

With the Bucs returning all 22 starters from last season, Brady is at the forefront of their quest for a rare repeat, which has happened just eight times in NFL history. The team most likely to stand in their way is the team they defeated in the Super Bowl last season to deny a repeat of their own: the Kansas City Chiefs.

Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs 25-year-old quarterback who over the summer pumped the brakes on Brady comparisons by saying “it’s still early for the LeBron-Michael Jordan stuff,” was 5 when Brady’s NFL debut against the Lions happened. Derek Carr was 9. Teddy Bridgewater was 8. Justin Herbert was 2.

Who caught Tom Brady’s first pass?

Brady’s first pass in the NFL during his debut hit his receiver in the face mask.

His second was nearly intercepted.

His third was negated by a holding call.

His fourth was the first completion of his career, caught by Rod Rutledge for six yards and what is inarguably the most famous of the tight end’s 27 career receptions.

And that marked the end of Brady’s debut – the only playing time he’d receive as a rookie. He completed 1 of 3 passes for the first six yards in a career that ultimately could conclude with close to 100,000.

Kyle Trask, Brady’s potential successor in Tampa Bay who the Bucs selected in the second round of the 2021 draft, was 2 when Brady made his NFL debut. Matt Ryan was 15. Jameis Winston was 6. Sam Darnold was 3.

Brady enters the 2021 NFL season just 1,154 passing yards behind the NFL’s all-time leader Drew Brees, who retired last season with 80,358.

Brees’ retirement, which came following the New Orleans Saints’ loss to Brady and the Bucs in the NFC divisional round in January, left Brady as the lone 40-plus-year-old quarterback in the league.

Ben Roethlisberger, slated to become the league’s next 40-year-old QB in March, was 18 when Brady made his NFL debut. Baker Mayfield was 5. Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson were 3.

As for the TB12 Method, here is the CliffNotes version of the book for those quarterbacks who don’t plan on making a trip to the bookstore or a purchase on their Kindle: Pliability, holistic training, oxygen-rich blood flow, proper hydration and brain exercises are among the 12 principles Brady lists in the book. Brady also offers readers exercise demonstrations, hydration routines, grocery lists and recipes that aim to allow athletes to avoid injury to play better and longer.  

“Sometimes, you're really disappointed when you lose games. It's more disappointing when you don't get to play in games,” Brady said. “I'd rather play and lose than not play at all, as crazy as that sounds. If you're not playing then it means you're at home and I remember that was a tough year (2008 after suffering a season-ending knee injury) just sitting and watching all my teammates. I made a pretty conscious decision that I was going to do everything I could at that point to stay as healthy as I could my entire career."

He hasn’t missed a game due to injury since. 

That’s why Brady thinks his method should be followed not just by quarterbacks, but by all athletes and non-athletes.  

“I think everybody should,” Brady said. “It’s common sense. I think it’s something that’s pretty easy to follow. You just have to have a little discipline.”

And a little advice.

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