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"Changing of the Guard" A New Era in the NFL
“Changing of the Guards” A New Era In the NFL
I have been watching football since I was 8 years old. So, for about forty years, I have been a huge football fan. I remember watching great quarterbacks like Roger Staubach (Cowboys), Terry Bradshaw (Steelers), Ken Stabler (Raiders), Bob Griese (Dolphins), and Fran Tarkenton (Vikings). Wow, what a great time to watch football. There were so many memorable games during that decade. I remember the “Immaculate Reception” in the game between the Raiders and the Steelers. I remember Ken Stabler rolling to his left and throwing a touchdown to a receiver that was triple covered in the final minute to beat the Dolphins. This play went on to be known as the “Sea of Hands”. I remember watching Fran Tarkenton running for a hundred yards on one play (well it seemed like he ran that far) in the backfield just to throw it down the field for a reception. No one could ever catch him. The battles of the Super Bowl between Staubach and Bradshaw. Then, the end of an era came. One by one these great quarterbacks of the NFL started to retire. I remember wondering who would or who could replace these great quarterbacks. I thought football would never be the same. I remember being sad and I thought the game would change for the worse. It didn’t.
A new era of quarterbacks was ushered in. New greats were born into stardom. It was almost like the life cycle of the phoenix; great quarterbacks rose from the ashes of the past stars. Quarterbacks like Dan Marino (Dolphins), Joe Montana (49ers), Jim Plunket (Raiders), Dan Fouts (Chargers), and John Elway (Broncos) took the reins and gave us even more memorable games. The game never lost its mojo. These quarterbacks rewrote the record books. Wow was there some moments. Who could ever forget “The Catch”, where a young quarterback with a lot of moxie rolls to his right and throws a touchdown to his tight end in the end zone to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl. Then, it happened again. One by one they retired. It was sad to see another era end. Once again, I found myself wondering who would or who could ever replace these greats. I thought the game would never be the same.
Once again, a new era was born in the NFL. New quarterbacks burst onto the scene. Without skipping a beat, these new young quarterbacks were growing into stars right before our very own eyes. Quarterbacks like Brett Favre (Packers), Jim Kelly (Bills), Troy Aikman (Cowboys), Steve Young (49ers), and Drew Bledsoe (Patriots) rose out of the ashes. Steve Young captures another Super Bowl for the 49’ers and Brett Favre becomes one of the toughest modern day gun slingers in the league. Jim Kelly takes the Bills to the big dance four times but never captures the ring. Yet again that era ended.
Today, we have Tom Brady (Patriots), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Peyton Manning (Colts/Broncos), Eli Manning (Giants), Aaron Rogers (Packers), and Drew Brees (Saints). These quarterbacks of today, once again rewrote the record books. As their careers wind down, we can argue that Tom Brady could be the greatest quarterback of all time. Eli Manning will be known as a Giant Killer (or Patriots Killer), Aaron Rogers filled the shoes nicely for the great Brett Favre. The story line of the young apprentice takes over from the legend Jedi Favre is so Star Wars esque-like. Peyton Manning has recently closed the book on the final chapter of his career. This off-season Roethlisberger is considering retirement and the rest of these quarterbacks are at the end of their illustrious careers. The question arises once again, who will replace these greats or who can replace these greats. The proverbial “Changing of the Guard” is creeping upon us once again.
Who are the new future stars? When I look at the young quarterbacks that are in the NFL currently with five years or less on their resume, a few stand out as having the potential to be the next great quarterbacks to play this game and rewrite the record books yet again. I look at quarterbacks like Russell Wilson (Seahawks) who has already played in two Super Bowls and won one. Then there is Derek Carr (Raiders) who has set records in his first three years. There is a young quarterback in Marcus Mariota (Titans) who is looking promising and Jameis Winston (Buccaneers) has played above par. Other honorable mentions are Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings) started off great, but, a serious injury has placed things on hold for now. I look at Blake Bortles (Jaguars) has flashed a lot of potential. Then there is Dak Prescott (Cowboys) who as an amateur played like an old veteran.
So, as we venture into the future of the game in the NFL and I sit and wonder will it ever be the same as the era of the current great quarterbacks playing today comes to an end. There is one thing I do know, history has proven that there will always be new greats to rise and play this game. There will be new plays that get named and placed in the record books. There will be new rivalries or old ones rekindled. The game will go on.
By David Craig