In honor of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady turning 41-years-old Friday, the ageless wonder has gotten us thinking about the men before him in the NFL, who have managed to have success in the league after going over the hill.
Athletes in any major professional sport are indeed fortunate to be able to compete at a high level in their 40s. A violent game such as football has left that list of players to achieve the feat relatively short. For this list, we’ll rate the best players in NFL history to play the game at 40-plus limiting eligibility to those in the Hall of Fame (or future Hall of Famers still active) who had at least one Pro Bowl season at the age of at least 40.
6. Bruce Matthews (OL) 40-Years-Old
Offensive linemen never get nearly enough credit for the job they do each week. They experience contact on pretty much every play while trying to move 300-plus pound men and pickup charging blitzes in the process. Center, guard, tackle Bruce Matthews could have been the best to ever do it.
He began his career in 1983 with the Houston Oilers and remained with the franchise when it transitioned to Tennessee in 1997. Throughout his incredible 19-year-career, blocking for greats like Warren Moon and Steve McNair, Matthews finished his career at the age of 40 in 2001, starting all 16 games for the 17th time in his career while grabbing his 14th straight Pro Bowl nod.
5. Adam Vinatieri (K) 45-Years-Old
The man who is just as responsible as Bill Belichick and Brady for literally kicking off the New England Patriots dynasty, Adam Vinatieri is set to play his 23rd season in the NFL in 2018. It’s a remarkable number even if he is a kicker considering he is still as reliable as ever.
A four-time Super Bowl champion who has made some of the most clutch kicks in NFL history, Vinatieri enjoyed an All-Pro season at the age of 42 in 2014 when he led the league in field goal percentage by posting an incredible 96.8 percent mark.
4. Warren Moon (QB) 44-Years-Old
The great Warren Moon is no stranger to making history. His athletically gifted style of play as a quarterback in the 80s and 90s has set the standard for today’s hybrid signal callers who can do damage with both their arms and legs.
The Hall of Famer played the majority of his long career with the Oilers, but after a quick stint with the Vikings, he finished up in Seattle with one last hoorah in 1997 when he was 41. He threw for 3,678 yards and 25 touchdowns, including an impressive 245.2 yards per game.
3. Brett Favre (QB) 41-Years-Old
It was a major gut-punch when Brett Favre left the Green Bay Packers feeling as if he was forced out from the organization who had young stud Aaron Rodgers eagerly waiting in the wings.
After a forgettable season in New York with the Jets, Favre would go on to finish his career with the rival Minnesota Vikings and nearly make it to the Super Bowl in 2009. That was his second-to-last season at the age of 40, highlighted by a turn-back-the-clock, vintage Favre Pro Bowl year.
2. Jerry Rice (WR) 42-Years-Old
NFL fans can argue all they want, but there is no better wide receiver in the history of the NFL than the G.O.A.T. Jerry Rice. He holds every major receiving record out there and the numbers aren’t even close.
At 40-years old, Rice put together one of his last memorable seasons catching an absurd 92 passes for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns from quarterback Rich Gannon. Rich Gannon! The three-time Super Bowl champ nearly added to his collection of rings, but the team fell just short to Tampa Bay and head coach Jon Gruden in SB XXXVII.
1. Tom Brady (QB) 41-Years-Old
There just is no one better. Tom Brady is doing things that elite players half his age wish they could do. The Michael Jordan of football continues to do the impossible, becoming the oldest player and first 40-year-old to win the NFL’s regular season MVP award in 2017. The five-time Super Bowl Champion was also the passing king last season with 4,577 yards, and he threw for a miraculous championship record 505 yards despite the loss to the Eagles in SB LII.
Brady is showing no signs of slowing down and believes he has another few years left in him, at least. He has not given anyone a reason to doubt he could do it.