When people remember back on this time period 20 or so years from now, it will fondly be thought of as the Golden Age of the Quarterback.
Leading the charge of the greats is none other than former sixth round draft pick and current quarterback of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady.
Brady added two career marks to his already otherworldly resume on Sunday in the Patriots’ 35-14 win over the Miami Dolphins. With a 276 yard passing day, Brady passed Dan Marino on the all-time passing yards list. Along with finishing out a 14-2 regular season (11-1 as a starter this year due to a suspension), Brady also finished the regular season with a 28:2 touchdown to interceptions ratio, breaking Nick Foles’ 27:2 mark from 2013.
As if that wasn’t already mindblowingly great, he did it at age 39 in his 17th NFL season!
Being with a great coach and staying healthy for a majority of his career certainly helped things out, but Brady wasn’t the most physically gifted quarterback of all time. If he was, he would have been drafted far sooner than the sixth round.
Brady’s greatness begins at the mental level.
Before the ball is snapped, Brady dissects the defense better than nearly anyone else ever has, and he generally knows exactly where he is going with the ball.
But that’s not a trait that only Brady holds.
In fact, that is the main aspect that separates this generation of quarterbacks with previous ones.
Two other all-time greats have been playing at the same time as Brady.
Peyton Manning retired a year ago after winning his second Superbowl, and he is as sure of a first ballot hall of famer as there has ever been. He did have all the physical tools you could ask for in a quarterback, and while he already retired, I’m still counting him in the generation I’m discussing.
Drew Brees just finished his 15th NFL season in the NFL, and in that season, he had his fifth season of passing for more than 5,000 yards, which is four more than any other player in NFL history.
Despite being listed at 6’, Brees is probably more like 5’11”, making him the ultimate outlier in terms of physical traits.
Still, with a mind as quick as a whip and elite arm talent, Brees will go down as one of the best to ever play, and if he didn’t have to share the spotlight with Manning and Brady, he would be the quarterback of the generation.
Now, those three quarterbacks are either at the end of their careers or are already retired, but a new wave has already arrived.
Leading the new group this season is Matt Ryan, who has finally reached his potential.
Ryan passed for 4,944 yards with a 69.9% completion rating. He has also passed for 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
And who could possibly forget Aaron Rodgers, the no-brainer successor to Brady’s throne.
Despite a somewhat weak start to the season, Rodgers has come roaring back, carrying his team to a division title with 40 passing touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
Before he broke his leg, Oakland QB Derek Carr was deep in the MVP discussion for carrying the Raiders to a 12 win season, while rookie Dak Prescott is doing the same.
And that’s not even mentioning reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton, Superbowl MVPs Joe Flacco and Eli Manning, or perennial Pro Bowlers Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers.
So the question is what has changed.
Sure, the physical training is as good as it has ever been and contact rules favor quarterbacks more now than they have in the past, but the thing that separates so many of these guys now from eras long since past is the arms race of information.
Due to the sheer amount of film and ways to watch it now from every possible angle, players are able to immerse themselves in ways that were not possible 30+ years ago.
The biggest up and coming tool that professionals and some collegiate teams have been using is virtual reality headsets, which allow players to take game situational snaps without fear of getting hurt in any weather condition at any time.
Two of the biggest virtual reality companies that are creating and implementing plans for football teams are EON Sports and STRIVR, which Sports Illustrated named the biggest technological innovation of the year.
It has completely changed how quarterbacks are able to train.
If a quarterback has a bad ankle or shoulder or any minor ailment at all, they can still get in valuable repetitions without fear of further damaging themselves.
Virtual reality technology has been praised by up and coming stars, like Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston, and seasoned veterans, like Arizona QB Carson Palmer, for both its ease of use and effectiveness.
Technology and information have sped up the natural evolution of the position, making it the most valuable position in any sport.
Records that once seemed unbreakable are being broken seemingly yearly now thanks to increases in pace and effectiveness.
We can only imagine what the next wave will bring.