The Quarterback Dilemma.
The Position is Changing.
Over the last fourteen years, the quarterback position has changed.
Once upon a time, the quarterback position was completely different.
Teams were much more committed to the run game, defenses were more physical, and the passing game was for emergencies only.
In 1974, Kenny Stabler had 2,469 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions as he lead the Raiders to an 11 and 2 record and a playoff berth. Good season for the Raiders, but an average statistical season, right?
Well, in 1974 Kenny Stabler was the league MVP.
In 2014, MVP Peyton Manning had 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns , and 10 interceptions.
Things certainly have changed over the last 30 years, huh?
As the game has grown more and more popular, so has medical science.
The more that we learn about what the damages of football are, the more the rules have changed to to protect the players. Unfortunately, the rules have also helped protect the offense, and more specifically, the quarterback.
As athletes have gotten better, offensive schemes have evolved, and the rules have changed to felicitate a softer passing game, it only makes sense that quarterback play would improve.
In 1974, only 3 quarterbacks had 20 touchdowns or more.
In 2014, 17 quarterbacks found the endzone more than 20 times. In fact, 5 passers had more than 30, and again, Peyton had 55.
In 1974, nobody came close to 3,000 yards, with Ken Anderson's 2,667 yards leading the league.
In 2014, 22 passers had more yards, from Nick Foles' 2,891 yards to Peyton Manning's 5,477 yards.
It's truly incredible, and for the most part, I'm a fan.
Here's the thing...
It's all about the money.
As the game becomes more and more about the passing game, the Quarterbacks are more and more in demand.
Every team looking to contend knows that they need that guy.
They need Peyton Manning.
They need Tom Brady.
They need their elite quarterback.
And they pay handsomely.
Yes, coaches and GM's will dig deep into their salary cap and pay whatever they think the player is worth, and once upon a time, that system worked.
Depending on their actual worth, that's how much they got paid, and they accepted it.
But everything changed in early 2013.
As the final year of his rookie contract neared an end, Joe Flacco led the Baltimore Ravens into the post-season.
Many people anticipated that Joe would be re-signed by the Ravens on a game manager's salary, somewhere in the 9-13 million dollar a year range.
Then something unthinkable happened.
1,140 yards, 11 TDs, 0 interceptions, and a Super Bowl victory.
Then... His contract was set to expire.
What do you do if you're John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome?
This guy just exceeded all expectations, seemingly had a breakthrough, and delivered a championship, do you franchise tag him, and pay him somewhere in the 12-15 million dollar range? Do you give him a first round tender and risk somebody trading him? I mean... He did win a Super Bowl after all, somebody out there will grab him.
So, they did what most teams would do, and they paid him whatever he wanted.
Which was a league-leading six year, 120 million dollar contract.
Now, that number is a bit inflated, as he isn't set to make most of the money until late in the contract, when many anticipate that he would've signed some kind of extension, but that's not the headline that the other 31 teams saw.
Now, did Joe Flacco turn around and earn the contract?
Did he finally break the 4,000 yard and 30 TD ceilings?
No... In fact, his numbers went down.
After tossing 22 TDs and only 10 interceptions in 2012, Flacco only managed to get the ball into the endzone 19 times, and threw to the wrong team 22 times.
Leading to the big problem.
"Well, if Joe Flacco is making that kind of money... and he's playing like that... Why the hell should I settle for less?"
It's an epidemic.
Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, and Matt Stafford have all been "the highest paid player in the NFL" at some point over the 12 months since Flacco signed his deal, and next year, when Russell Wilson's rookie contract expires? Bet your bottom dollar that the Seahawks will back the money truck up to his house.
And the QBs have the upper hands.
If they want more money, all they have to do is threaten to leave.
Teams are so desperate to keep their QBs that they will pay whatever it takes.
I mean, nowadays, a franchise tag on a QB means something in the neighborhood of 16 million anyway!
The price tag for an elite QB is getting bigger and bigger and though the cap space is also on the rise, it's not keeping pace.
So even if you are lucky enough to find a guy you believe in, you better get ready to commit a quarter of your cap to keeping the guy.... Good luck signing a supporting cast.
Don't believe me?
Watch the Seahawks over the next couple of years.
After locking up Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, and with the impending Wilson contract, keep an eye on what talent they can afford to build around them.
It doesn't look pretty.
Pretty soon, the NFL will be like the NBA, where if you want a championship team, you and your teammates will have to take paycuts.
One QB is way ahead of the curve.
No, it's not Peyton Manning. The Broncos are working around the 15 million dollar dent he's doing in their cap space.
It's Tom Brady.
Tom Terrific took a massive paycut last year when the Patriots promised him they'd attempt to re-sign Welker.
Tom Brady is only accountable for 2 million dollars of cap space this year.
Where did the other 15 million dollars go? Well... Not to Welker, like he was promised, I have to imagine most of that money is resting comfortably in Darrelle Revis' bank account.
Whether Robert Kraft's deception comes back to cost him his star Quarterback remains to be seen, but for now, give #12 a round of applause.