The Kids Have Taken Over
The only quarterback anybody wanted to talk about in the weeks preceding the NFL season was 38-year-old Brett Favre, and for good reason. Favre's been a star in the league for a long-time, his divorce from the Green Bay Packers was messy and moving to the New York Jets put him squarely in North America's biggest media market.
But here's the funny thing. The NFL is really No League For Old Men any more, at least when it comes to the quarterback position.
Sure, there's Favre, now 1-1 as the Jets' starter, and 37-year-old Kurt Warner, who passed for 361 yards as 2-0 Arizona beat dreadful Miami on Sunday.
But watching Philip Rivers of San Diego and Denver's Jay Cutler - two men who apparently dislike each other intensely, by the way - battle on Sunday afternoon in a shootout in the Mile High City cemented the impression that a new generation of appealing new quarterbacks have taken over the NFL. Seeing Cutler going for the two-point conversion - and the win - in the dying moments was a welcome sight in the often conservative league, and reinforced the notion that the young gunslingers are in charge.
Rivers is 26, and Cutler is 25. Elswhere around the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger is just 26, although it already seems like he's been around forever, and reigning Super Bowl champion Eli Manning is 27 years old.
Favre's successor, 24-year-old Aaron Rodgers, has been brilliant so far for the Packers. Buffalo-Toronto Bills QB Trent Edwards is only 24, Cleveland starter Derek Anderson is 25, Washington quarterback Jason Campbell is 26 and Tom Brady-substitute Matt Cassell is 26.
Former No. 1 overall pick Jamarcus Russell is 25, athough he's going to get older fast playing for the Raiders, and Kyle Orton is No. 1 in Chicago at the tender age of 25. Tavaris Jackson, while struggling for Minny, is still starting at the age of 25. With the disgraced Michael Vick, still only 28 and once the brightest of the young quarterbacks, incarcerated for his misbehavior and cruelty to animals, 23-year-old Matt Ryan has become Atlanta's No. 1 signal caller.
Troubled Tennessee quarterback Vince Young is 25, while Carson Palmer and Tony Romo are hardly old men at 28.
The one name we haven't mentioned? That would be former Heismann Trophy winner Matt Leinart, labouring behind Warner with the Cardinals. But the 25-year-old Leinart will get his shot.
Its an invigorating shot in the arm for the NFL, as if it needed one. Quarterbacks get more attention than any other position players, and when so many are so young, it adds a layer of freshness to the entire operation and new intrigue for a Sunday afternoon of couch potato-ness. Morever, its not like these guys are only being trusted with handing the ball off. They're throwing it, often and effectively.
For the CFL, all the quarterbacks tend to be older because they generally try their luck at the NFL or Arena Football before heading north. Darian Durant of Saskatchewan might be the brightest young quarterback in the league, and he's already 26. But so many come through the league without staying very long or getting a meaningful chance - Eric Crouch, Kevin Eakin, Mike McMahon, Shaun King, Jesse Palmer, Ted White, Tee Martin - that the wave of new blood never seems to arrive and the bigger names get moved around and recycled.