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End Of The Line Looms For Four Top Quarterbacks

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New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In case you’ve been wondering why the National Football League seems so doggedly determined to play the 2020 season, or at least a portion of it, let’s see if we can try to shed some light on that question today.

Aside from the two most obvious reasons, revenue and the league’s fear that fans will realize that they can, indeed, live without the NFL if they have live without it for a year and survive , there is undoubtedly another reason: four of the best quarterbacks this game has ever seen are in the winter of their careers, and 2020 is almost certainly one of the very last years in which we will see them all playing. These four men have thrown for an aggregate total of 267,803 yards, 1848 touchdowns and three of them have combined to win nine of the past nineteen Super Bowls.

The first of them to enter the league was Tom Brady, a sixth round pick in 2000. Born on August 3rd, 1977, Brady turns 43 tomorrow. People wonder how he could possibly have lasted nearly two hundred picks into the draft, but prior to his arrival, Michigan quarterbacks were not widely known for being NFL quality passers. With 74,571 career passing yards, 541 touchdowns and a career rating of 97.0, Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback, and therefore the greatest player, the game has ever seen.

A year after Brady’s arrival, Drew Brees was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 32nd overall pick in 2001. After spending his first five years in the league with the Chargers, he signed a six year, $60 million contract with the Saints and won a Super Bowl for New Orleans after the 2009 season. Statistically the best of the four, Brees boasts a total of career passing yards, 547 touchdowns and a rating of 98.4.

There is little doubt that the Miami Dolphins have had some bad luck over the years; they also didn’t help themselves in their management of the team or in coaching. But in terms of having some of the all time great quarterbacks and still failing to win at least one Super Bowl, no one has had it worse than the San Diego Chargers. Even the largely inept Colts still managed to win one championship with Peyton Manning; I’ll always believe they should have won two. Only a successful onside kick to start Super Bowl XLIV prevented Indianapolis from winning a second one. How would you like to see your team have not one, but two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks on your team, and yet fail not only to win a league championship game, but to even play in one? That has been the fate of the Chargers. Although they did play, and lose Super Bowl XXIX to San Francisco (if I don’t mention that, someone will try to ‘fact check’ me and bring it up), that was with journeyman QB Stan Humphries. Three years after drafting Brees, and with the former Purdue Boilermaker having not yet rounded into the formidable signal caller he would blossom into in the Crescent City, San Diego drafted Philip Rivers with the fourth overall pick in 2004, after the number one overall pick, Eli Manning, refused to play for them. Rivers has been a model of consistency, throwing for a career total of 59,271 yards, 397 touchdowns and a rating of 95.1, but he’s with the Colts now, and the Chargers are still looking for their first Super Bowl win. In other words, perhaps Manning was right. Rivers will turn 40 in December, 2021, so he, too is in the twilight of his career.

Finally, we have Ben Roethlisberger, who was selected three picks after Rivers in that same 2004 draft. Other than Brady, Big Ben has been the most successful postseason quarterback of the four, having won Super Bowls after the 2005 and 2008 seasons. Roethlisberger has thrown for a career total of 56,545 yards, 363 touchdowns and a rating of 94.0. Born three months after Rivers, in March, 1982, Big Ben is the youngest of the quarterbacks on this list, but he’s also the most banged up, and has considered retiring after the past couple of seasons. With him nearing the end, a resurgent AFC North division and no quarterback of the future on the team, it figures to be a while before the Steelers appear in another Super Bowl. The Dolphins were fortunate to be able to pry a number one pick out of Pittsburgh this past Spring.