(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Bill Polian interview fast-forward to 22:30 of the attached audio: https://www.spreaker.com/user/fullpresscoverage/eyetest-ep6 )
It doesn’t take an Einstein to see that the future of the NFL is in good hands, especially when those hands belong to a litter of talented, productive, and mobile young quarterbacks.
There’s Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. And Russell Wilson. Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Joe Burrow. Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Deshaun Watson. All are accurate inside or outside the pocket. All can run. And all have us wondering the same thing.
Namely: Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the pocket quarterback?
We asked Hall-of-Fame GM Bill Polian on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com., and he admitted he’s considered the question more than once this season.
“I asked a friend of mine this morning: ‘Have we seen with Brady and Manning, the last of this style of players coming into the league?’ ” he said. “The answer is: Maybe.
“Now, all of those guys are different in different ways. They’re not all the same. But they are … quote … athletic. They can move. They play quarterback in different ways. But that aside, I think there’s no question that the wave of the future is the athletic quarterback.”
All fit that description. Look at Wilson. He leads the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and is on schedule to throw for a league-record 56. But he’s run for 265 yards, too, averaging 7.2 yards a carry. Baltimore’s Jackson leads his team in rushing. So does Arizona’s Murray, also the Cards’ top touchdown maker. And Buffalo’s Allen? He has one more rushing TD (5) than the rest of the team combined and is the Bills’ second-leading rusher.
Mahomes was the league MVP two years ago. Jackson was the winner last season. And this year? It could be Wilson. There’s no denying the trend, which means that maybe, just maybe, we don’t see another Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Philip Rivers after they retire … and not because of their extraordinary productivity. But because of their limited mobility.
“As Bill Parcells said to me many years ago: ‘We are captive of what the colleges send us,’ “ Polian said. “And the colleges are captive of what the high schools send them. And the high schools are captive of what the seven-on-seven and junior-high schooling – principally seven-on-seven – send them.
“So we are seeing passers come up from the time they’re 10 years old who are as accurate … or more accurate … than guys who played 10 years ago in the National Football League. Secondly, we’re seeing – because there are no rushers in seven-on-seven – smaller and very much shorter quarterbacks doing well.”
And, third, we’re seeing young passers galore thrive from the moment they step behind center. Look at the Chargers’ Justin Herbert. He was rushed into his first NFL start in Week Two, and not because he was ready but because then-starter Tyrod Taylor’s lung was punctured by a pre-game injection. Result: Herbert has been so good he hasn’t left the lineup, has won six Rookie-of-the-Week awards and is a legitimate threat to Cincinnati’s Burrow for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Then there’s Murray. All he’s done in his second pro season is lead the NFL’s top offense, producing over 400 yards in offense and over 30 points in each of the past four games. Oh, yeah, he also quarterbacks a team that is 5-3.
You know about Mahomes, and you know about Jackson. But how about Allen? In his third year, he has the Bills on top of the AFC East, a division owned the past 11 seasons by New England. What’s more, if there’s a threat within, it’s not from the Patriots; it’s from Miami. Yes, Miami, quarterbacked by … you guessed it … another young and mobile quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa.
I think you get the picture. Quarterbacks today are different physically and athletically than quarterbacks 10-20 years ago (the Bradys, Breeses, and Mannings, if you will), and Polian isn’t surprised. It all stems, he said, from what’s happening at the ground levels of football.
“Who gets to be the quarterback? The guy with the best arm,” he said. “When he’s 11 years old … if he’s five-feet-two, so what? There’s no rush. If he grows up to be 5-10 like Kyler Murray, he’s still the quarterback. So we’re seeing more and more of those guys coming through the system, and that’s going to be the wave of the future, no question about it. And it’s made defensive coordinators’ jobs infinitely more difficult.”