While Tom Brady has been busy injecting avocado ice cream and kale into every orifice in his body in an effort to play football until he's 100, Drew Brees has pulled porked and beef jerkyed his way through NFL life just fine.
The two 40-plusers convey different outward principles when it comes to their approach to NFL longevity, and yet it might be the swashbuckling cowboy from Texas who outlives the plant-based bohemian from California in terms of playing career.
Before the season started, Brees, 41, said he thinks he could play football until he's 45. That's the same age Brady, 43, previously said he wanted to play until, though his trainer, Alex Guerrero, said Brady could play a few more years than that which puts them on track to retire at around the same time.
Whether Brady's drive to play longer than Brees has something to do with Brady's desire to surpass Brees as the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns is unclear. Brady's never said as much publicly. But his competitive desire to be No. 1 in everything leads a reasonable person to assume that's at least a contributing factor. Brees currently leads Brady in both categories and the leader will likely be the person who plays longer than the other, though both records will likely be broken eventually by Patrick Mahomes or another quarterback in the now-pass friendly NFL.
Brady and Guerrero have lauded Brady's plant-heavy diet (he's not a vegan) and pliability as the biggest factors in Brady's NFL immortality. He's written a cookbook with his favorite healthy recipes, including avocado ice cream. He has a private chef who prepares his meals, which are 80 percent plant-based and 20 percent lean-protein-based. He likes nuts and seeds and multivitamins and protein shakes. He doesn't eat junk food. Pulled pork isn't in his vocabulary. Meanwhile, this is the kind of food Brees eats.
Brees has said in the past he likes to eat beef jerky and chicken fried steak and drink root beer. He's a big fan of BBQ pork based on his Instagram posts and on the night before games he's been known to eat cheesy ground beef served on top of spaghetti. His diet has improved over the last five years and he has food allergies he's mindful of. But Brees' diet is not nearly as prohibitive as Brady's and yet he's still playing at just as high of a level.
In eight games this season, Brees has thrown for 2,120 yards on 74 percent completions with 17 TDs and 3 INTs. That puts him on pace for 4,240 passing yards, 34 TDs and 6 INTs, which would be his best season since 2017. Even more important in terms of his ability/willingness to extend his playing career, Brees hasn't been injured so far this season and the Saints are now leading the Bucs in the NFC South race after their beatdown of Tampa this past Sunday.
Brady has been similarly efficient this season, throwing for 2,398 yards on 65.3 percent completions with 20 TDs and 7 INTs in nine games. That puts him on pace for 4,262 passing yards, 35 TDs and 13 INTs. The Bucs are currently in playoff position to earn a Wild Card spot, a half-game behind the Saints in the NFC South.
Ultimately what this will come down to is Brees' desire to keep playing and whether those records mean something to him. When he mentioned playing until he was 45 this year he added it would ultimately come down to a family decision because of the sacrifices needed to play in the NFL. Brady, meanwhile, seems fine making every sacrifice he needs to on and off the field in order to play until he physically can't anymore.
After missing at least one game the last two seasons, it was unclear if Brees was physically capable of playing as long as Brady or if he wanted to play as long as Brady coming into this season. But with the way things are going so far in 2020, the idea of Brees outlasting Brady seems more realistic than ever.