Aaron Rodgers intends to sign a ~$50 million per year, 4-year deal with the Green Bay Packers instead of retiring. With that news, it now seems incredibly likely that Rodgers will join the short line of Hall of Fame NFL QBs to have an over-40 phase of their career, including Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
How have those “over the hill” years been in recent years for other elite NFL QBs?
First off, you might be surprised to know that the over-40 club is still exclusive. We’ll look at Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Brett Favre. We’ll also include Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, but those two didn’t actually play over 40, ending their careers at 39. Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers get a quick nod here as borderline Hall of Fame QBs who played into their late-30s, but didn’t actually cross the 40 line, either.
Let’s start with the recently un-retired Tom Brady. Brady over 40 won two Super Bowls with two different teams. The Super Bowls certainly added to Brady’s legacy, winning away from the New England Patriots, and his stats during those four years continued to increase his volume stats lead on any other NFL QB in history.
Post-40 for Brady was a success, more than any other QB can claim. Brady’s stats were consistently elite in the regular season, and his two Super Bowl wins were full of his classic “play within yourself” style that included a defensive slugfest with the LA Rams and a blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs with Brady rarely throwing past 7 yards in the air.
Drew Brees played two seasons at 40+. In terms of his legacy, Brees was not the player he was even in his late-30s. However, he still possessed the ability to lead a team and control an offense to contend for a Super Bowl, as the Saints were contenders in each of his last two seasons.
As we all know, the later-30s and two 40+ seasons for Brees were filled with elite level QB play, and brutal playoff losses that all Packers fans can relate to. In the end, injuries ended Brees career, as a rib injury eventually led to missing time and Brees moving on to the Sunday Night Football pre-game desk. It wasn’t until seasons of 40 and 41 that Brees didn’t appears to have the physical tools he did previously. Overall a mixed bag.
Peyton Manning did not play over 40. Manning’s last four years in Denver from ages 36-39 resulted in an incredible MVP year of 55 TDs, and two Super Bowl appearances with one win. Again, the later years of Manning were lucrative for his legacy and the Denver Broncos as well. Much like Brady, Manning got a Super Bowl while his defense carried the load.
Manning might be the outlier on this list that a genetic spinal condition cost him what could have been several years in the 40+ club, as he otherwise spent his career extremely healthy.
Ben Roethlisberger is also retired as of this writing, and while he didn’t play over 40, even his later-30s years weren’t much to look at. Some of his worst seasons occurred during this period, including a massive multi-interception playoff loss and consistently under-performing seasons despite offensive weapons and a stout defense. “Big Ben” still had highlight-filled bombs as the Steelers were always playoff contenders during his career with Pittsburgh.
Lastly, Brett Favre. Favre’s last two years exemplify the nature of post-35 NFL QB careers. One year was an MVP caliber return to glory and a deep playoff run. The other was injury filled and resulted in a soft stage-left exit to an otherwise energetic and exhilarating career.
Where does that leave Rodgers? With his back-to-back MVPs in his late 30s, he’s already in the upper-echelon of Manning, Brady, and Brees with multiple years of elite play in the last chapters.
However, as of now, his late-30s might most compare to Brees because of the lack of a Super Bowl win. Obviously, if he hadn’t played another snap, he’d have faired better than nearly any other QB in their 35+ and 40+ chapters. A Super Bowl win would squarely place Rodgers in the Brady, Manning and Elway club of late-chapter success stories that solidify Hall of Fame careers in the inner-circle of Canton.