A year ago, whispers of a Tom Brady decline seemed laughable. The reigning NFL MVP looked like a football cyborg who would never cease to fling a pigskin.
Recently, however, the 41-year-old is looking more his age. The Patriots pass attack has been inconsistent at best, and downright futile at worst. Sunday's 126 yards passing, two-interception, one-TD output was as dismal as Brady has looked.
Despite questions about his future, TB12 insists he plans to play beyond this year. Brady was specifically asked by Jim Gray on Westwood One Sports radio on Monday if he plans to return in 2019.
"I absolutely believe I will," Brady responded. "I know I've talked about it a long time. I have goals to play not only next year but beyond that. And I'm going to try to do it as best as I possibly can. I'm going to give it everything I have, like I always have. It will certainly be a challenge. I don't take any of these things for granted. But I hope I can keep playing. I hope I can keep playing at a championship level."
Following another division title, it's easy for Brady to insist he'll continue playing. Perhaps if the postseason ends with another Lombardi Trophy, he could re-evaluate. But as long as Brady's decline doesn't hit a rapid descent, he'll have a job in Foxboro if he wants.
This season, however, has looked challenging for a quarterback who always made the toughest position in professional sports seem easy. Brady seems more skittish in the pocket than any time in his career, fearing the crushing hits.
Brady won't win back-to-back MVPs, but the heretofore ageless quarterback insists he's just as motivated to continue his career each day.
"I've been able to be in a career for 19 years that I love," Brady said, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. "I wake up every day excited to go to work ... fulfilled ... I don't think there's any greater gift in my life than to have that ... In my heart and soul, I love playing the sport of football."
When that feeling fades, the GOAT will step away.