On Sunday, the meeting between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers will be marked by commiseration and commemoration. Both teams are 0-4, but at least they can take a break from wallowing to remember a league-shaping chain of events.
In the 2004 NFL Draft, the Chargers took Eli Manning with the first overall pick. When Manning forced a trade, the Chargers shipped him to the Giants and used the draft choice they acquired to pick Phillip Rivers. Thirteen years later, they’re both still plugging away on the same teams.
The Manning-Rivers matchup is instructive. The NFL has become a league dominated by old quarterbacks. Tom Brady is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Matt Ryan won the regular season award and Aaron Rodgers is (or should be) the consensus choice for best quarterback on Earth. This weekend, 13 of 32 teams will start quarterbacks drafted before the turn of the current decade.
Does it seem as though the same quarterbacks have been showing up on your screen and getting taken in your fantasy drafts forever? That’s because they have. Those 13 quarterbacks: Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Josh McCown, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. It is a position for familiar faces.
At some point, Brady and the early 2000s quarterbacks are going to cycle out of the league. And this season may be serving as a platform for their replacements to step forward.
When the Bears anointed No. 2 pick Mitchell Trubisky as their starter, they added another young quarterback to a league starting to brim with them. Nine teams — more than a quarter of the league — are now starting quarterbacks drafted in the past three years who could reasonably be considered candidates to become their franchise quarterback. Those quarterbacks: Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott, Trevor Siemian and Trubisky.
We know not all of them, even those showing promise, will make it; remember when Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick were going to take over the league? But that group includes three current division leaders and a quarterback who last year clinched a top seed. Though the quarterbacks who have been around for all of the 2010s linger, we may be seeing the next wave of NFL quarterbacks.
It would be nice if those nine quarterbacks offered some kind of lesson for how teams can better developed a generation of quarterbacks groomed in the spread offense. Winston and Wentz both played in prostyle systems in college. The Texans and Titans have incorporated read-option concepts for Watson and Mariota. Goff has benefited from Sean McVay’s blend of innovation and aggression.
There are all different kinds of quarterbacks, in all different kinds of situations. They may just be the start. In next year’s draft, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen are all expected to be taken off the board high, with Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield also early-round possibilities. The NFL has waited for a changing of the quarterback guard, and it may be happening in front of our eyes.
>>> The Tennessee Titans signed Brandon Weeden after Mariota suffered an injury. As we’ve noted here before: The NFL has made up its mind on Colin Kaepernick. The Titans signing Weeden is as close to an official declaration as there could be. Weeden is a proven ineffective NFL quarterback — he hasn’t played since 2015, and his career record is 6-19. One repeated talking point suggests Kaepernick isn’t a good backup because his style clashes with systems designed for the dropback passer starting on a given team. Well, the Titans run the read option with Mariota, and bootlegs and moving pockets are a huge part of the offense. There simply is no football-centric argument that Weeden is a better option for Tennessee than Kaepernick.
>>> Sam Darnold might have hurt his stock in USC’s loss Friday night at Washington State, Albert Breer writes. Darnold passed for only 164 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown, although he made an otherworldly play on a late 4th and 13 to keep the Trojans alive. His ceiling isn’t in question, but his consistency and release might be.
“He has a slight hitch, a windup in his throw, and he does stare down receivers,” one ‘veteran evaluator’ told Breer. “He’s still learning to read defenses. This is a young kid. Not ready for prime time yet. He has the tools, but he’s too inconsistent, and the hype doesn’t help him either. Overall, he has a lot of ability but he’s just not there yet.”
>>> Upon appeal, the NFL reduced Danny Trevathan’s suspension from two games to one. NFL appeals officer Derrick Brooks, a former linebacker, made the decision to lessen Trevanthan’s punishment for the vicious hit he put on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.