On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will take on the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field. The Panthers will start 43-year old Vinny Testaverde at quarterback. To give you some idea as to how old that is in football terms, Testaverde threw his first NFL pass during the Ronald Reagan administration. The fact that Vinny can be starting for an NFL team at his age--and just a few weeks after signing a contract with the team--leads me to wonder: what happened to the quarterback position?
Not to sound like one of those curmudgeons who thinks everything new stinks and that the "good old days will always be better"--but when I was a kid every NFL had a decent quarterback. Even the lowly Saints had Archie Manning or Dan Pastorini. When he was healthy, Lynn Dickey looked like a Hall of Famer compared to some of the bums running offenses today.
If you break down the current NFL QB's, you would be hard pressed to find more than seven or eight guys who would have been starters in the league back in the 1980's. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre are obviously the cream of the crop and future hall of famers. The second level guys would include Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh, Tony Romo in Dallas, and Carson Palmer in Cincinnati. But after that--is there anyone that impresses you at all with their quarterback play? Guys who used to be pretty good--Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair--are so beaten up they can barely throw the ball anymore.
Look at the Chicago Bears. They've had about 50 different quarterbacks play for them in the 14-years that Brett Favre has started every game for the Packers.
So what has happened to all of the good quarterbacks? I've got two theories on this. The first is over-controlling coaches. From the very first day a kid plays quarterback the coach is calling all of the plays and limiting the qb's ability to audible. That creates mindless robots on the field who go through their progressive reads and don't know what to do if nothing's open right away. It also doesn't help that so many high school programs still run outdated offenses like the wing "T" or the double wing--where the quarterback just hands off the ball or is a running option first.
The second problem is the spread offense--which is becoming more and more popular in the college ranks. While you would think an offense with five wide receivers on every play would make for great quarterbacks, it actually teaches bad habits for the quarterback. In the spread, you never learn the proper five or seven step drop and usually you are making just one read and throwing quick routes to receivers. But more colleges are going to it because its easier to find quick little guys to play receiver than it is to find quick little guys to play defensive back.
I don't see the quarterback situation getting better any time soon. So maybe we'll see Brett Favre running out there yet when he is 43 and can still run an offense better than the last two Heisman Trophy winning QB's. If this keeps up, we may have to go back to the single wing.