Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Golden Age of the Quarterback

I recently read this article contemplating whether or not this was "the greatest QB era in history?"

If you're going to ask me for a one word answer it'd be "no." Two words "no way." Three words "not a chance." You get where I'm going with this?

Right now the state of the QB position in the NFL looks as good as it's looked all decade. Probable Hall of Famers Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner, and Brett Favre all have their teams playing at .500 or better, while other talented QB's such as Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Jay Cutler are all looking like QB's who will stick around the league for the next 4 to 5 seasons.

Another positive trait this current QB situation has is a slew of young guns who could potentially develop into top tier talent, QB's such as Chad Henne, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Orton, Tony Romo, and Matt Cassell. And let's not yet write off Jason Campbell, Alex Smith, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell, Kellen Clemens, Chris Simms, Brady Quinn, Trent Edwards, and Brodie Croyle as busts. Odds are at least one of them will turn it around and become a Pro Bowl talent.

And while some QB's like Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme, and Matt Hasselbeck look like they're on the back 9 (more like 3 to 1) of their careers, they're still names that we'll hear about for a long time, and it's good to see them play.

All of this taken into account, I strongly doubt this will go down as the golden age of the QB; the sole reason being that the decade of the 1990's existed.

At one point in the 1990's, more specifically 1994 (as the article mentions) we were blessed with seeing Dan Marino, John Elway, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre, and Jimmy Kelly all in their prime, or something near it. Joe Montana was also in the league at the time, though he was nearing his end, but was still a winning QB. That's 7 QB's who were hall of fame bound all playing competitive football at the same time.

Take into account that Drew Bledsoe was beginning his reign as a passing machine, Boomer Esiason was still pretty good, Phil Simms was ending his career (which should have ended in Canton), Dave Krieg was still hauling the ball around, Vinny Testaverde was starting to develop, and Mark Brunnell was was sitting on the bench somewhere behind Brett Favre and you had 14 of what I consider to be (as of this second in time) the 50 greatest QBs of all time all in the same NFL at once. Expand this time frame as a window from 1993 to 1998 and you could easily steak the claim as the mid 1990's as the premiere time for the QB.

How many QB's from today, let's say the window of 2004 to 2009, will be in the Hall of Fame? Well, Manning, Brady, and Favre are certain. McNabb and Warner are likely, that's 5. Throw in Roethlisberger and you have a confident 6. After that there are a lot of potential Hall of Famers; Eli Manning already has a great shot and due to the numbers game he'll probably end up there. Steve McNair, who retired after the 2007 season may have a chance, but the way his life ended will probably overshadow the way he played in the NFL. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, forever tied at the hip, both have impressive numbers but zero rings. There's a good chance that can eventually change.

(Note: from 1993-1998 there would be 9 Hall of Famers, because you'd have to include Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner who both came into the league in 1998. The means that Manning, Warner, and Favre double count for both era of the mid to late 90's, and the era of the mid to late 00's.)

So how many players from this era will be enshrined in Canton? Who knows? The number may blow the mid 1990's away, but it will likely come up short. Don't forget, there was a time in the mid 1990's when it looked like Bledsoe, Brunnell, and maybe even Neil O'Donnell were on their way to great careers. It's usually hard to make it to Canton, just ask Boomer and Simms.

No matter how many players from this decade make it Canton, I still don't think it would compete with the early 90's. Maybe it's nostalgia, but for me personally, the way that John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre (in the 90's), and Steve Young played signified the way the QB position should be played. The inter-competitive nature between these players helped create the Quarterback Club, and gave Peyton Manning and Drew Brees records to fight with. When John Elway raised the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl XXXIII, proclaiming the end to the 1998 season, the Golden Age of the QB also came to end.

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