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New York Jets' Zach Wilson shares birthday with Tom Brady -- and historic age gap

When Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was born, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady was preparing for his senior year at Michigan. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was in elementary school when he learned he shares a birthday with Tom Brady -- Aug. 3.

"I've always thought that was kind of cool, the same August birthday," Wilson said Thursday. "The cool thing was, I think he was born in 1977. I was born in 1999 -- so 22 years later, which is crazy, right? We're playing the same game."

On Sunday, they will play in the same game, as Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) -- in a battle for playoff seeding -- visit the struggling Jets (4-11) at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, Fox). It's the largest age difference between opposing starting quarterbacks in the past 72 years, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. Wilson is five months younger than Chicago Bears rookie Justin Fields, who faced Brady earlier in the season.

"He makes guys like me want to go as long as I can," Wilson said of Brady, who was preparing for his senior year at Michigan when Wilson was born.

For as long as he can remember, Wilson has known Brady as a quarterback. Think about that for a second; he doesn't know life without Brady in the NFL, winning Super Bowls.

"Pretty amazing," Wilson said.

Naturally, Wilson watched a lot of Brady tape growing up. Still does. If the Jets are preparing for a team that Brady has faced, he will make sure to study the tape "to see how the greatest quarterback was able to go through it." Stylistically, they're different quarterbacks, but Brady's mechanics and fundamentals are so pristine that he's a walking infomercial on how to play the position.

"He's a great example to learn from as far as fundamentals, always having your feet on the ground, ready to throw," Wilson said. "He works the pocket almost better than anyone I've ever seen. ... He knows how to operate in such a small pocket."

Wilson, drafted No. 2 overall in 2021, still is learning how to play from the pocket. He's improving -- three straight games without an interception -- but it has been a gradual process. He has more rushing touchdowns (two) over the past three games than passing touchdowns (one).

Brady is known as a great leader and fiery competitor. In recent weeks, Wilson has been more vocal, according to tackle Morgan Moses, who said the rookie is "demanding greatness" from his teammates.

The Jets are counting on Wilson to end their perpetual search for a franchise quarterback. Their quarterback hamster wheel, when paired with Brady's longevity with the New England Patriots and Bucs, makes for some outlandish comparisons and factoids.

Such as:

  • Brady, who became the Patriots' starter in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe was famously knocked out of a game by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, has faced 11 different Jets quarterbacks -- and has beaten them all at least once. Only two quarterbacks in history can say they have defeated more quarterbacks from a single franchise -- Brett Favre versus the Chicago Bears and Len Dawson versus the Denver Broncos.

  • In the past 10 years, Brady has won as many games at MetLife (eight, including two over the New York Giants) as any Jets quarterback in that span. That covers Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Sam Darnold. To borrow a line from Aaron Rodgers, Brady "owns" the Jets. His lifetime record against them is 30-7. (By the way, he's 33-3 against the Buffalo Bills.)

Sunday could be Brady's final trip to MetLife. The Jets want to beat him, of course, but it probably will turn into a learning experience more than anything else. Their defense, the youngest in the league, could get picked apart by the GOAT.

"It's exciting for a young defense like ours," said defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, 44, who was drafted the same year as Brady (2000) and played against him twice as a linebacker. "A lot of them have never played against him. They're excited about it, which is crazy, but they're excited about it."

Coach Robert Saleh, 42, joked about Brady, saying, "I’m going to ask him what water he drinks. I want to ask him a lot of questions about health because I need to get out of bed at the ease at which he does."

As for Brady the quarterback, Saleh couldn't stop gushing.

"I’m in absolute awe of his pocket presence, his footwork, just all of it, his decision-making," he said. "He’s an absolute stud and no question the greatest that’s ever played the position. Anyone who questions it, just look at the amount of rings he has."

Brady has more Super Bowl rings than the Jets have wins over the past two seasons -- seven to six.

Wilson said he will be too focused on his own job to watch Brady on Sunday, but he will rewatch the game -- specifically, Brady -- to see what he can learn.

"I think just knowing the fact that he’s still going and I’m able to play against him is really cool because I’ve obviously watched him my whole life," Wilson said. "So I think it’ll just be exciting. The NFL works like that."