Tom Brady's first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has rivaled what any quarterback has done in NFL history in their first season with a new team. Brady has found a way to add to his legacy in the NFL, taking the Buccaneers to the NFC Championship Game at 43 years old -- after spending 20 seasons winning six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
What Brady has accomplished in his first season in Tampa Bay will live in NFL lore. Brady set the NFL record for most touchdown passes by a player in his first season with a team (40) and his 4,633 passing yards are the second-most ever by a player in his first season with a team. The Buccaneers won two playoff games and reached the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 18 years thanks to Brady, who has transformed a Tampa Bay franchise that entered the year with a postseason drought of 13 seasons.
Brady's first season with the Buccaneers rivals what Brett Favre and Joe Montana accomplished in their first season with a new team, two Hall of Fame quarterbacks who took their teams to the conference championship game in Year One. Was Brady's season better than Favre's first season with the Minnesota Vikings and Montana's first season with the Kansas City Chiefs? Let's take a look at three of the most talked about seasons for a quarterback over the last 30 years.
Joe Montana (Kansas City Chiefs, 1993)
Montana's messy departure from the San Francisco 49ers after 14 seasons with the franchise paved the way for the 37-year-old quarterback to extend his career in Kansas City. Montana wanted to prove he was far from finished as a starting quarterback in the NFL after a series of injuries led to him just playing only one game in his final two seasons with San Francisco. The gamble paid off in a big way for Kansas City.
The Chiefs tailored the offense to Montana prior to the season, hiring offensive coordinator Paul Hackett (Montana's former quarterbacks coach in San Francisco) and installed the West Coast offense. The Chiefs won their division for the first time in 22 years as Montana threw for 2,144 yards and 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions for an 87.4 passer rating (keep in mind Montana was 37). He finished fifth in the NFL in passer rating and seventh in touchdown percentage (4.4%), winning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors three times. Montana even missed five games with a left hamstring injury, which hampered him all year.
Montana led the Chiefs to back-to-back come-from-behind wins in the playoffs, throwing a touchdown pass on fourth down to send the Chiefs' wild card game to overtime (Kansas City beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24). The next week, the Chiefs scored 28 second half points to win a 28-20 thriller over the Houston Oilers. Kansas City fell in the AFC Championship Game to the Buffalo Bills, winning more postseason games in the 1993 season than the previous 24 seasons. Montana went to his final Pro Bowl in 1993.
Montana ended the legacy of Super Bowl-winning and/or future Hall of Fame quarterbacks having poor endings with different teams in their mid-to-late 30s with that AFC Championship game appearance, paving the way for Favre and Brady to set the stage over the next three decades.
Brett Favre (Minnesota Vikings, 2009)
The 2009 season wasn't Favre's first year with a new team after establishing a Hall of Fame career with a previous organization for a decade, but the Green Bay Packers legend proved he still had plenty of game left after a poor finish in his one season with the New York Jets. The Packers moved on from Favre -- after he retired the first time -- and traded him to the Jets in 2008, where he led the league with 22 interceptions, but made the Pro Bowl. Favre completed 65.7% of his passes and threw for 3,472 yards and 22 touchdowns as the Jets collapsed from an 8-3 start to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. Favre played with a torn biceps tendon in his right shoulder the final month of that season.
Shortly after the Jets' season ended, Favre retired again, only to come back and quarterback the Vikings in August of 2009. Favre wanted to prove he could still play at a high level and had arguably the best season of his career at age 40, completing 68.4% of his passes while throwing for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions (107.2 passer rating). He won NFC Offensive Player of the Week three times in 2009 and made the Pro Bowl, finishing third in the league in completion percentage, second in touchdowns, second in touchdown percentage (6.2%), second in interception percentage (1.3), and second in passer rating.
The Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game as Favre helped them take the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints to overtime. Favre threw a costly interception in the extra quarter that derailed the Vikings' first Super Bowl appearance, but he still became the first quarterback to start and win a playoff game at the age of 40. Minnesota went from a fringe playoff team to a Super Bowl contender in Favre's first season with the team, as Favre had six 300-yard games and three game with four passing touchdowns.
Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020)
Brady's first season with the Buccaneers is the best season for a quarterback over the age of 40 -- ever. Brady ended his 2020 season completing 65.7% of his passes for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns to 12 interceptions and a 102.2 passer rating, leading the Buccaneers to an 11-5 record and their first playoff appearance in over a decade. He finished third in the league in passing yards and tied for second in touchdown passes, becoming the oldest quarterback to throw 40 touchdown passes in a season -- and the first quarterback over 40 to throw 40 touchdown passes in a year.
Brady saved his best football for the end of the season. During Tampa Bay's current six-game winning streak, Brady is averaging 318.8 passing yards a game and 9.2 yards per attempt with 16 touchdown passes to just one interception. He's thrown multiple touchdown passes in nine straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL and his longest since 2015 (12 straight). In his past 12 games, Brady has completed 73% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and one interception in the fourth quarter. His 16 touchdown passes on third down are the most in the NFL this year. Brady also leads the NFL in completions and passing yards on throws of 20-plus air yards while tying for first in touchdown passes that traveled for 20-plus air yards.
Brady already has made an impact on the Buccaneers history books. He is the franchise's single-season leader in completion percentage (minimum 400 attempts), touchdown passes, touchdown percentage and passer rating -- while ranking second in passing yards. He may be the best quarterback in Buccaneers postseason history as well, despite playing just one season with the team. Brady's 580 passing yards are the second-most in Buccaneers postseason history and he needs just 91 more to pass Brad Johnson (670) for first. His four passing touchdowns are the second-most in Buccaneers postseason history and he needs one more to tie Johnson (five) for the most postseason passing touchdowns in team history.
With his first season in Tampa Bay not even completed, Brady arguably has the greatest season for a quarterback in his first year with a new team. A Super Bowl appearance will make Brady's 2020 season the stuff of NFL legend.