Sitting at the top of the NFL quarterback food chain is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been starting in the NFL now for four seasons. Sure seems like a lot longer. The fact that he has only been in the NFL since 2005 means he is still a young QB with a lot of future playing still in front of him. And at the age of 28 why shouldn’t he? While Rodgers is obviously the youngest of the absolute elite QB’s, the NFL is becoming the young mans-land.
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees are the only other QB’ in the NFL with the same kind of elite status as Rodgers. They are also 36, 35, and 33 respectively. Their careers are winding down. Tomorrow when the regular season kicks off, more 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year QB’s will be starting than ever before. Of the remaining 29 NFL starting QB’s, 12 of them have three years or less experience. Sam Bradford of St. Louis and John Skelton in Arizona each have three. Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Andy Dalton all are entering their second season leaving five rookie QB’s to start this year.
Including the three mentioned as “elite”, 14 QB’s have more than 7 years experience with six of those having 10 or more. Teams like Oakland, Denver, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New England, and Dallas have a window that is rapidly closing on their veteran QB’s.
While aging veteran QB’s always make up a big portion of the NFL the meat of this years starters are young guns. Whether they are rising or falling, they still represent hope to the teams that rely on them come Sunday’s. Guys like Matt Stafford, Josh Freeman, and Mark Sanchez who are each entering their 4th season along with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco entering their 5th.
This NFL is a youth movement at quarterback.
How the rookies handle the pressure of the NFL sets a broad stage for their careers. Some will inevitably fade away quicker that others. Some will serve out a few years while their teams hope they turn a corner, and others will become the face of a franchise that we will be talking about in another 10 to 14 years. Who those QB’s are is anyone’s guess.
Tomorrow, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, III, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, and the Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill will start their careers behind center and not behind a clipboard. The youth movement in the NFL is something that cycles in the NFL but never has there been this many young QB’s at the same time.
The 2012 season kicked off Wednesday night with two QB’s who entered their 9th and 10th seasons, an even match-up. This weekend will provide games like Ryan Tannehill against 9 year veteran Matt Schaub. Tom Brady against 2nd year man Jake Locker. Brandon Weeden against Michael Vick and RGIII against Drew Brees. Can youth be served?
The NFL is an ever changing landscape at all of the positions but no position is more touted and recognized than the quarterback. Who we will be talking about in 10 years is as interesting as who we won’t be. Who will be Brady’s, Mannings, and Brees’ and who will be afterthoughts that no one remembers until they hear their names. Joey Harrington, David Carr, Kyle Boller, Patrick Ramsey, and others that simply didn’t make it. Time will of course tell but for now, history is being determined right in front of our eyes. Especially in Miami where a young rookie first round draft pick will start for the Dolphins for the first time since 1983.