The one thing that surprised Tom Brady during NFL Week 1

The one thing that surprised Tom Brady during NFL Week 1

Tom Brady spent the final minutes of his Thursday night season-opener manufacturing the 49th game-winning drive of his career. He’s won 231 games, 34 playoff matchups, seven Super Bowls and three MVP awards, while finding ways to replicate success season after season as he enters the 2021 campaign at age 44.

But when the rest of the NFL played Sunday, Brady noticed how young the league’s quarterbacks are — where he’s now even more of an outlier than before.

“I don’t remember this many rookies playing,” Brady said on Monday’s episode of his “Let’s Go!” podcast with Jim Gray and Larry Fitzgerald. “Even the second-year guys. Tua (Tagovailoa), (Justin) Herbert, (Joe) Burrow, Trevor Lawrence. (Justin) Fields played a little bit. Trey Lance played a little bit. Zach Wilson is playing. Mac Jones is playing. That’s a lot of young quarterbacks. Gone are the days of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning. You know, those are the guys I’m used to hearing about.”

Tom Brady during the Bucs' Week 1 victory over the Cowboys.Tom Brady during the Bucs’ Week 1 victory over the Cowboys.Getty Images

Those quarterbacks he’s referring to — Brees, Rivers, the Mannings — have all retired. Two of them played last season before stepping away. Three were on broadcast teams the past two nights; Brees on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and the Mannings on ESPN’s alternate broadcast of “Monday Night Football” for the Ravens and Raiders game. 

Zach Wilson during the Jets' game against the Panthers.Zach Wilson during the Jets’ game against the Panthers.Getty Images

The NFL has since received an injection of youth at the quarterback position. Three rookies started Week 1 games for just the second time since 1970, according to research, the other coming in 2012 when Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill all debuted in the opening slate of games. 

This year’s group of rookies — Jones, Lawrence and Wilson — all lost their debuts, but each flashed potential. Jones only threw 10 incomplete passes, Lawrence racked up 332 yards and three touchdowns, and Wilson showcased pocket mobility to help prevent a shaky New York Jets offensive line from surrendering more sacks.

“I’ll be forgotten here soon,” Brady said on the podcast. “I’ll move on and they’ll be onto someone else, but that’s just the way football goes, as does life.”

He also explicitly mentioned Tagovailoa, Herbert and Burrow in the group of future quarterbacks. The three second-year players were on teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season, but all three engineered 2021 Week 1 wins — by a combined eight points.

Brady, meanwhile, led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, completing 32 of 50 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.