I watched Peyton Manning’s entire career. FUCK. I’m really old! But that’s the fact of the matter. I started watching both the NFL and NCAA football in 1997. Peyton Manning entered the 97 season as the Heisman favourite and it was expected to be the season he and the Tennessee Volunteers FINALLY beat the Florida Gators, which they didn’t. The first NFL draft I gave anything of a damn about was the 1998 draft, which saw Peyton Manning go 1st overall. I saw most of his throws, most of his TD’s, his records, his failure’s, and his finest moments. For the previous 10 seasons or so he’s been at the forefront of what has been the greatest era of quarterbacking in NFL history. Sadly, that era is coming to a close.
It wouldn’t be the first time we saw this happen in NFL history. From 95-99 we saw the end of what was previously the best era of quarterbacking in NFL history die off. Montana, Elway, Marino, Kelly, and Young all played their final game in this time, with Troy Aikman playing his final season in 2000. As a result, we saw Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon, and Kerry Collins all QB teams to a Super Bowl appearance over the next three seasons. Remember that Ravens/Giants Super Bowl? Do you really want to see THAT again?!
It would be too simplistic to suggest this is ending just because Manning has now retired. But I had been thinking about it when writing my season preview piece which will come out tomorrow. Then yesterday on Colin Cowherd’s show, he was dancing around this subject as well talking about how vital it is to the league that some of these young QB’s pan out.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the league’s popularity has gone through the roof during this era of Peyton, Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, Eli, Rivers, Romo, Flacco, Ryan, and Stafford. For some of the era Favre was still going and had some monster seasons. He retired, but then in stepped Newton, Luck, and Wilson. Everyone has made such a big deal over the rule changes during this time opening up the offense, but the same rules are in place now that were 5 years ago. Offense started to really drop off the last few seasons, and it’s in large part due to a drop off in quarterbacking.
It isn’t just a result of the old guard falling off. The kids coming in just aren’t that good. The 2013 draft had nobody. 2014 has produced some solid kids in Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and hopefully still Teddy Bridgewater, but I’m not sure any of those guys are elite QB’s down the road. 2015 had Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but both guys have major question marks long term. With Winston it’s whether or not he has the IQ to stay out of trouble off the field. With Mariota it’s whether or not he can develop into a pro style QB. We have seen it a quite a bit in recent years that these running QB’s don’t last unless they learn to throw from the pocket like Newton and Wilson have. Scrambling is fine, it’s a good skill to have. But depending on your running to do the work is a recipe for disaster long term.
Even with this past draft, things aren’t looking great. Jared Goff is starting the season as the Rams 3rd string QB. That’s fine if they are wanting to give him a season to put on some weight, learn the playbook, and ease him into the league. But they could do that with him as the backup. And then you have the Eagles rushing Carson Wentz into the starters role. The kid has a ton of talent, but the book on him pre draft was that he was extremely raw and needed a year…maybe two on the bench before starting. Some think Dak Prescott might be another Russell Wilson, but Wilson wasn’t busted for a DUI the week NFL GM’s were about to evaluate him as a player and a person. He has some talent, but the jury will be out.
The league isn’t in dire straights for high end quarterbacking. Rodgers, Newton, Luck and Wilson are all elite guys, and you still have most of what I’ve deemed the golden era around minus Peyton. But you can see it’s starting to get thin. And without good quarterbacks, scoring takes a major hit. And if scoring takes a major hit, the games get a lot less interesting. So we better all be with Colin Cowherd’s sentiment that a bunch of these young QB’s pan out, because if they don’t we could see some pretty awful football being played the next few seasons.
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