Many people wonder, “Is Tom Brady the oldest NFL player ever?”
Others ask, “Is Tom Brady the oldest NFL quarterback?”
Who is the oldest quarterback in NFL history? George Blanda. He played quarterback for the Raiders at age 48. He is also the oldest pro football player of all-time.
Has There Ever Been a QB as Old as Tom Brady? Yes!
Tom Brady played in his 22nd NFL season during the 2021 NFL season and his 23rd season during the 2022 NFL season. However, Tom Brady was not the oldest NFL player to ever play the game, nor is he the oldest quarterback to ever play in the NFL.
George Blanda is the oldest player in NFL history. He is also the NFL’s oldest quarterback ever, playing quarterback at age 48 for the Oakland Raiders. He wasn’t the team’s starting quarterback, however, as Ken Stabler was the team’s starter. A summary of Blanda’s career and his playing quarterback at age 48 is in one of the sections below.
Hall of Famer Warren Moon also played quarterback at age 44. He discussed his life and career with me on the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Podcast.
44-year old NFL Quarterbacks
Vinny Testaverde and Steve DeBerg are two quarterbacks who lined up at age 44.Embed from Getty Images
Photos: Vinny Testaverde with 1986 Heisman Trophy; Steve DeBerg
Vinny Testaverde won the 1986 Heisman Trophy. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him as the first-overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft. He was selected for the Pro Bowl twice, and led the NFL in interceptions four times. In 1988, Testaverde threw 35 interceptions, the second-most interceptions in a single season in NFL history. (Keep reading to find out which Hall of Fame quarterback holds the record.) Like Brady, Testaverde was a starting quarterback for Bill Belichick, but that was when Belichick coached the Cleveland Browns.
Fun fact: the 1994 Browns tandem of Testaverde and Belichick defeated the New England Patriots in the 1994 NFL Playoffs. A second fun fact is that Vinny Testaverde and Tom Brady both played for Bill Belichick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the New England Patriots. Brady and Testaverde even together on the Patriots in 2006! Testaverde was 43 when he was with the Patriots for that one season, and last played in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers in 2007 at age 44.
The man who was the 49ers starting quarterback before Joe Montana is named Steve DeBerg. DeBerg started his career with the San Francisco 49ers in 1978. He led the NFL in pass completions in 1979. He also threw the longest pass of the 1980 NFL season, a touchdown to Freddie Solomon. DeBerg eventually was replaced by Montana in San Francisco and was traded to the Broncos before playing for the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Dolphins, and Falcons.
Unfortunately for DeBerg, he was a quarterback for the 49ers when they drafted Joe Montana, on the Broncos roster when they drafted John Elway, and played for the Buccaneers when they drafted Steve Young. He was also on the Buccaneers when they drafted Vinny Testaverde! DeBerg originally left the NFL after the 1993 season at age 39 but he resurfaced as a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons at age 44.
He played for head coach Dan Reeves on both the Broncos and the Falcons.
Hall of Fame Quarterbacks Who Played at Age 44
Two Hall of Fame quarterbacks played in the NFL at age 44: Warren Moon and George Blanda.Embed from Getty Images
Photos: Warren Moon at the University of Washington; George Blanda with Pete Rozelle.
Warren Moon most famously played quarterback for the Houston Oilers as the crown jewel of their innovative run-and-shoot offense. He was the NFL’s passing leader in both 1990 and 1991, tossing for over 4,600 yards each season. Moon made the Pro Bowl nine times and his brilliant career places him 13th in all-time passing yardage and 16th in passing TDs (as of the end of 2021 NFL season). The fact that Warren Moon played in the Canadian Football League for six years before entering the NFL makes his NFL career stats even more remarkable. Moon turned 28 in his first NFL season.
As fantastic as Warren Moon was, at age 44 he was not playing near the level Tom Brady played at age 44. Moon threw only 34 passes for the Kansas City Chiefs during the season that he turned 44. Although Moon made the Pro Bowl as a member of the Seattle Seahawks at age 41, he was relegated to a back up role in Kansas City for his final two NFL seasons. Neither Moon nor Brady entered the Kansas City at New England contest during the 2000 NFL season, Brady’s rookie year and Moon’s final season.
Despite the fact that Moon played his first six pro seasons in Canada, he retired with the third-most passing yards in NFL history.
Listen to Warren Moon share stories on the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Podcast!
Who is the Oldest Quarterback in NFL History?
George Blanda stands as the oldest quarterback in NFL history, playing at age 48. Blanda is also the oldest player in NFL history at any position.
Blanda started the second half as the Oakland Raiders quarterback in the final game of their 1975 NFL season; Blanda was 48 years old at the time. A New York Times summary of the game noted that Blanda hadn’t played quarterback in over a year. Blanda completed 1 of 3 passes in a 28-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Blanda also kicked for the Raiders and became the first player in NFL history to amass over 2,000 points in that game.
George Blanda’s career started in 1948 with the Chicago Bears. He served as the team’s kicker and was backup quarterback to Johnny Lujack, who led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns that season and later led the NFL in rushing touchdowns. Blanda couldn’t supplant Lujack at quarterback and was subsequently traded to the Colts, but he was later waived by Baltimore and George Halas again added him to the Bears roster. Blanda played behind Lujack until Lujack retired after the 1951 NFL season. Blanda started for the Bears at quarterback for part of 1952, all of 1953, and part of 1954. He led the NFL in completions in 1953 but found himself replaced by Ed Brown by 1955. Blanda retired before the 1959 season – at least temporarily.
George Blanda and the AFL
George Blanda did not play pro football in 1959, but his career found a resurgence in the American Football League as quarterback of the Houston Oilers in 1960. He commanded the Oilers to the first two AFL championships in 1960 and 1961. He led them to the championship game again in 1962, an overtime loss to the Dallas Texans.
During that 1962 AFL season, Blanda set an all-time record by throwing 42 interceptions in a single season, a record that still stands as of 2021. He led the AFL in interceptions for four consecutive seasons, from 1962-1965. He also led the AFL in passing yards in 1961 and 1963, and led the league in touchdown throws in 1961, with 36. Both the 42 interceptions and 36 touchdowns were compiled in 14-game seasons.
Blanda also led the AFL in completions for three consecutive years, 1964-1965. He was 38 years old at the end of that 1965 AFL season, and he played through 1975! After 1966, however, the majority of his playing time was spent kicking field goals and extra points.
He retired after the 1975 NFL season. His final game was the 1975 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh, a game in which he kicked a field goal and an extra point in a 16-10 loss.Embed from Getty Images
Photos: George Blanda with the Bears, Oilers, and Raiders.
Tom Brady Compared With Other Older Quarterbacks
Blanda completed 32 of 58 passes in the 1971 NFL season, the year in which he turned 44. For comparison, Tom Brady completed 41 passes in a single game in 2021 when he was 44. Brady led the NFL in several passing categories, including completions (485), yardage (5,316), and touchdowns (43).
Tom Brady at age 44 clearly outplayed others who played quarterback at that age. All of the others listed in this article were backup quarterbacks and most were in their final season at age 44. Only Blanda played longer, and he only attempted 22 passes at age 45 and later. Blanda, Testaverde, DeBerg, and Moon completed a combined total of 171 passes in the seasons they were 44 years old. Brady’s statistics at age 44 are the best in NFL history for a quarterback at that age, and it’s not even close. He was even second in MVP voting in 2021.
Did Tom Brady Retire?
Tom Brady retired after the 2021 NFL season, but still returned for the 2022 season. He then apparently permanently retired after the 2022 season.
Brady once told longtime football reporters Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm that he thought he could play until he was 50 or even 55, although he added that he didn’t intend to do that. He stated that his body would still be in condition to play, however. He announced his retirement at the end of the 2021 season but later changed his mind. He looks to be Tampa Bay’s starting QB in 2022.
Tom Brady 2022 NFL Season
Brady was 45 years old during the 2022 season. Although he faced criticism for his play, Brady still posted some remarkable statistics. He threw for over 4,000 yards for the sixth consecutive season. He even led the NFL in completions. He is the oldest NFL quarterback to lead the league in that category.
How the NFL Has Changed
As mentioned before, the times have changed and the game is different. Knowledge of training and staying in shape combined with NFL rule changes to protect quarterbacks and the fact that Brady doesn’t have to work an off-season job to pay the bills as players in even the 1980s often had to do are things to take into consideration.
How long would Johnny Unitas or Sammy Baugh have been able to play with today’s knowledge, rules, equipment, and training? Unitas retired at age 40; Sammy Baugh retired at 38. Like Unitas, Brady changed teams late in his NFL career.
Although many of us believe that stars of the past could have had longer and even more productive careers with the advantages Brady enjoys in today’s game, the level of Brady’s quarterback play at age 44 was still remarkable.
The game was different when Brady played, of course. Everything from the number of passing attempts to field conditions have changed since George Blanda lined up at quarterback. Blanda played both quarterback and kicked field goals for much of his career. In 1961, he led the AFL in passing yards, touchdown passes, yards per attempt AND field goal percentage AND extra points. He even kicked a 55-yard field goal, just one yard shy of what was then the pro record set by Bert Rechichar of the Baltimore Colts in 1953.
The game has even changed dramatically in Brady’s time. Consider the fact that he led the NFL in passing TDs in 2002, with 28. He threw 43 to lead the league in 2021. Had he thrown 28 TDs in 2021, he would have placed tenth in touchdown throws.
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