by Mario "The Game" Granata
With the Final Four set, it is not March Madness, but examining the quarterbacks of the teams vying for the Lombardi Trophy, they are truly unique in their own right. See how the differences of these quarterbacks foreshadow what is on the horizon for the NFL.
When looking at the current NFL, there are many storylines that people tend to cling to when playoff time rolls around, but the current story that is getting much of the publicity is Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. However, when you look at the big picture, we may see a changing of the guard from the conventional drop back quarterbacks of yesteryear, and into the ‘new’ NFL. Now, make no mistake about it, I am not talking about the Pistol Formation and the Read Option, or even the Wildcat offenses that continue to be fads in the NFL, but more importantly, the type of quarterbacks that are able to survive in today’s NFL. Taking a look at the Final Four signal callers that are left vying for the Lombardi Trophy, the players that they are, individually, will tell you all you need to know about the generational shift that is happening in the NFL. There are 4 types of quarterbacks left in the playoffs, and they are without a doubt unique in their own way.
Peyton Manning – Never before (and probably never again) will we see a player as cerebral as Manning. The amount of time that he puts into preparation before a game is well documented, and because of his high football IQ, he is able to avoid the punishment that most quarterbacks in the NFL suffer on a weekly basis. When they make rules about quarterbacks, he is the exception. Setting protections, being able to audible out of a bad play, making sure everyone is on the same page before the snap of the ball, no one has done it better than Manning, and I am sure that no one ever will. His 40 time hovers around a calendar month, but when you figure out what a defense is going to do, you don’t have to move much to be successful.
Tom Brady – People will talk of his record playoff wins (18) or his dramatic comebacks in Super Bowls, and even the most skeptical of Brady observer can talk about the ‘tuck rule’ or the fact that he has been paired with, arguably, the best defensive minded coach of this or any generation, but the numbers speak for themselves. He has led the Patriots to the AFC Championship for the 8th time in his career amassing a 5-2 record in those games. Short check downs, getting the ball out of his hands and into the hands of his playmakers, and doing what all quarterbacks should strive do to: move the chains. In the past 15 years the percentage of passed that Brady has thrown downfield (minus the years he was paired with Randy Moss) is very low, but when you win games, division titles, and head to the dance as much as he has, people won’t care.
Phone Booth Quickness:
Russell Wilson – Now, there are many reports and statisticians out there that like to compare Wilson to Drew Brees. Well, I am not sure that Wilson will ever amass the type of 5,000 yard seasons that Brees has, but his knowledge of the game, his willingness to push the ball down the field for the big play and the element of Wilson to extend plays beyond their intended time, has separated him from Brees in that respect. In the midst of bodies flying around him, Wilson maintains his composure, and uses his legs, not go gain first downs, but to give time for his receivers to break coverage and hopefully hit a home run. Setting aside the fact that he is playing on a team that has one of the most dominant home field advantages, and a defensive secondary that might go now as the most intimidating in NFL history, he understands the role he is asked to play, and if there is a play that has to be made, he has the wherewithal to get it done.
Catch Me if You Can:
Colin Kaepernick – Much like the original 49ers struck gold in 1849, the San Francisco 49ers have also hit it big, landing the benchmark of quarterbacks that the next generation will be compared to coming out of college in the years to come. A true freak of nature, Kaepernick has hit the genetic jackpot being blessed with an arm that ranks in the top 5 of the league, and blinding speed to make fast defenders in the NFL look like they are standing still. When things breakdown for Kaepernick, heuses his legs to make plays and one cannot discount what that does to a defenders psyche. Think about that for a moment. You call the perfect defense, all the receivers are covered and one little crack in the line, Kapernick can expose it and make a first down or explode for a game changing play. As he matures and gets more starts under his belt, he will learn more about opposing defenses making his legs a bonus, not a necessity.
After this weekend’s AFC and NFC Conference Match-ups we as fans of the NFL will see generations collide, and they will set the table for how NFL will be played for years to come. Manning vs. Wilson, Brady vs. Kaepernick, Manning vs.Kaepernick, or Brady vs. Wilson, is what we will witness at Met Life Stadium on February 2nd, then and only then will you see how far the Generation Gap will be.