If the 2010s were the decade of the veteran quarterbacks, the 2020s promise to be the next generation’s era.
Ten years ago Peyton Manning met Drew Brees in the Super Bowl, Matt Schaub led the league in passing yards and Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning were all in the top 10.
Seven of that top 10 remain on teams in 2019 but only two – Rivers and Brady – featured among the leaders in that category this season.
Brees, Brady et al are used to completing passes, only this time it’s the baton that is changing hands.
We take a look at why the future is now when it comes to the NFL’s most important position.
QBs aged 27 or younger combined for a record 288 starts in 2019
Forty-somethings Brady and Brees may remain somewhere near the peak of their powers, but behind them there is a youth movement taking over.
Lamar Jackson of the @Ravens is the second QB in NFL history to win 10 straight starts at age 22 or younger.
He joins Ben Roethlisberger, who won all 13 of his starts as a 22 year old in 2004.#RavensFlock
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) December 13, 2019
The 2019 season saw QBs aged 27 or younger combine for 288 starts – by far the most since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Those young slingers combined for 145 wins too – again, another record broken by a large margin.
In Week 3, a record 20 of the 32 starting quarterbacks were 27 or younger. Draft classes after Brady, Brees and Rivers may not have produced players able to emulate their peers’ achievements but playoff-bound QBs Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson have provided plenty of early encouragement.
Nine rookie QBs started a game in 2019; four did so in 2009
Remember the days when coaches wanted rookies to sit, learn the system and be thrown in when they were ready?
Whether it was injuries (Gardner Minshew, Devlin Hodges, David Blough) or just pure curiosity (Will Grier, Ryan Finley) – teams turned to first-year players in 2019 in a way they never did a decade ago.
Only four rookies started games in the 2009 season – and three of those were first-rounders (Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman).
The QB with the most rushing yards in 2009 had … 323
A decade ago CJ2K became a thing as Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson went over 2,000 yards on the ground.
The leading QB in that category also came from the AFC South, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard amassing 323 rushing yards.
He was one of only four QBs – along with Rodgers, Vince Young and Jason Campbell – to pile up more than 200 on the season. Two hundred rushing yards? That’s practically an eight-day span for current Baltimore QB Jackson, who broke an NFL record with a whopping 1,206 on the ground.
MVP-in-waiting Jackson was one of 13 quarterbacks to rush for over 200 yards in 2019. Six of those beat Garrard’s 2009 total and all bar Russell Wilson are 24 or younger.
For years dual-threat quarterbacks were seen as a quick fad that would burn out as you had to win from the pocket. Yet mobility at the QB position has proven to be a vital weapon in today’s NFL.
75 percent of head-coaching hires came from offensive backgrounds in 2019
Eleven new head coach vacancies were filled prior to the 2009 season. Seven of those came from defensive backgrounds.
Eight new head coach vacancies were filled prior to the 2019 season. Six of those came from offensive backgrounds.
Call it the Sean McVay effect: NFL franchises want bright young minds to teach their promising-but-green QBs how to thrive at the next level.
Goodbye, golden generation?
In the list for most touchdown passes of all time — a category Brees recently put himself at the top of — six of the leading 10 players are still active.
Aside from Rodgers, who should have a few years left in Green Bay, it is conceivable that the rest of that group — Brees, Brady, Rivers, Eli Manning and Roethlisberger — may head off into the sunset over the next couple of seasons.
Throw in Peyton Manning, who retired in 2016, and it is obvious we are seeing the last days of the golden generation that spearheaded the pass-happy revolution.
Luckily, there’s a host of players ready to take over and take on the mantle in the 2020s.