With an incredulous smile, Tom Brady answered the question with a question of his own.
“Why does everyone want me to retire so bad?” the Patriots quarterback asked during Super Bowl week, when apprised of Jonathan Kraft’s comments that Brady has “earned the right” to make the call on his future.
“I don’t get it,’’ Brady continued with a laugh. “I’m having fun. The team’s doing good. I know I’m a little bit older than most of the guys, but I’m really enjoying it. . . . I’m not thinking about retirement.’’
And why should he?
Brady, who’ll turn 41 shortly after training camp opens, is coming off a season in which he threw for a league high 4,577 yards, added another 1,132 in the postseason, and picked up his third MVP award.
When he was last seen on a football field, Brady was chucking it for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards, so if he’s lost anything off his fastball, it’s hardly been noticeable.
“I’ve always wanted to play into my mid-40s, so we’ll see,’’ Brady said. “Football is such a physical sport. Every game could be your last game — that’s the reality of the sport.’’
The reality in New England is that Brady is the quarterback of the past, present, and future. Well, at least the near future.
The 19-year veteran still is playing at a sublime level. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of this ever-evolving offense, and he’s seen — and skewered — every defensive concoction known to man. He’s in a class by himself when it comes to identifying and exploiting mismatches.
Oh, and he’s a savage in crunch time.
If the plan is to draft his eventual successor this month, that player will get the benefit of learning at the foot of the master. It’s a process that served Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett well in recent seasons.
Garoppolo struck gold in San Francisco (it’s what 49ers do) to the tune of five years and $137.5 million. Depending on Andrew Luck’s mysterious shoulder injury, Brissett may again be leading the Colts this season.
Both have pointed to watching Brady’s meticulous preparation routines as having big influences on how they learned to conduct themselves as professionals.
Though the Patriots have the draft capital — four picks in the top 63 — to make a run at one of the big four QB prospects (Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Baker Mayfield), they aren’t expected to do so. Now if one of those players should fall down the board to No. 23, then the decision becomes more difficult.
This is considered a very deep draft at the position, and the Patriots could snag an arm in the third round (Luke Falk?) or even later (Kyle Lauletta? Logan Woodside?).
For now, Brian Hoyer remains Brady’s understudy.
Hoyer, who cut his NFL teeth in New England as a Brady backup from 2009-11, is perfectly suited for this role.
Hoyer has good size (6-2, 215 pounds), a strong arm, is well prepared, and makes good decisions. He has completed nearly 60 percent of his career attempts (837 of 1,410) for 9,895 yards, with 48 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
A young QB would benefit from hanging out with Brady and Hoyer.
Primary 2017 starter: Tom Brady.
Expected 2018 starter: Brady.
53-man depth chart: Brady, Brian Hoyer.
Possible draft option: Luke Falk, Washington State (third round). This 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pounder has a quick release, impressive accuracy, and a ton of experience. Falk pulled the trigger in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense for 3½ seasons and completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 14,481 yards, 119 TDs, and 39 interceptions. He doesn’t have elite arm strength but he has good recognition skills and isn’t careless with the ball.