Analysis: No Tom Brady, NFL in good hands with young QBs

FILE - New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. The Patriots won 28-24. Tom Brady has retired after winning seven Super Bowls and setting numerous passing records in an unprecedented 22-year-career. He made the announcement, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in a long post on Instagram. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
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AP Pro Football Writer

Tom Brady spent time chatting with Joe Burrow in his last interview before announcing his retirement. Consider it passing the torch.

Saying there will never be another Brady is no exaggeration. He won seven Super Bowls, owns nearly every passing record, and set an unparalleled level of excellence for more than two decades before walking away still at the top of his game at age 44.

But despite losing the quarterback widely considered the greatest of all time, the NFL has plenty of young stars ready to fill the void.

Burrow gets the first crack at winning the first post-Brady Super Bowl when he leads the Cincinnati Bengals against the Los Angeles Rams next week.

The ultra-cool, super confident, 25-year-old Burrow joined Brady on his SiriusXM podcast Monday night.

“I don’t know if I can be in the conversation with this guy yet, but I’m going to work really hard to try, and I think we’re off to a great start and I’m really excited about the opportunity we have,” Burrow said.

Brady, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title last season, fell two wins short of getting a shot to repeat. He was effusive in his praise of Burrow.

“I think Joe has some tools that I didn’t quite have when I was his age, so super impressed by how he’s kinda come into the league, went to Cincinnati — which has been a tough place to play over the years — and two years into his career, after a really tough injury last year, showed a lot of mental and physical toughness coming back and having an incredible season,” Brady said.

“I always love watching quarterbacks, certainly young quarterbacks, because I feel like there’s certain ways to play the game and to play the game at a high level requires a huge commitment. And I think Joe, even when I saw him at LSU, he makes that commitment. It’s a great thing for me to see as someone who has played this game for a long time. Really happy for Joe and his team.”

Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, made a remarkable comeback from ACL surgery during his rookie season to lead the Bengals to an AFC North title and first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years.

When he finished explaining how he gained enough confidence in his knee to start improvising midway through this season, Brady reminded him: “I had a whole career of playing in the pocket, so I was never gonna make too many plays outside the pocket. It’s a great luxury to have, and I will say it’s much safer to be in the pocket than out of the pocket.”

Burrow was sacked 51 times in the regular season and went down nine more times in a win at Tennessee in the divisional round. His ability to withstand the pressure has impressed Brady.

“I love it because there’s very few ways to display toughness from a quarterback because we don’t play at the line of scrimmage, we don’t block, we don’t tackle, we don’t hit anybody. But the way we can show our toughness is to stand in the pocket, make throws and sometimes you get … knocked out …. and you gotta get up and go on to the next play,” Brady said.

“You don’t want to ever show anyone, ‘Man ,he really got me good on that.’ What I love about Joe’s game is Joe does just that. He gets knocked down, he gets up and he’s ready for the next play, and the team gains a lot of confidence in that. The team needs to know the quarterback is going to be there week in and week out. You have tough injuries like ACL injuries and you just can’t. That’s the reality of that injury but there’s a lot of things you can overcome.”

Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers now have retired, paving the way for a new generation of superstar QBs to dominate the sport for the next decade.

Patrick Mahomes already has won a Super Bowl, an NFL MVP award, and he’s played in four straight AFC title games. Lamar Jackson was NFL MVP in his second season. There’s Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray. Dak Prescott hasn’t turned 30 yet.

With a mix of youth and veterans like Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson still around, the NFL is in good hands at QB even without its biggest icon.