Most NFL QB starters are grampas or babies

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes to a teammate during the first day of their...

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes to a teammate during the first day of their Training Camp in Foxborough, Massachusetts July 26, 2012. (REUTERS)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:41 PM ET

Grampas and babies comprise the majority of NFL starting quarterbacks this year.

Our examination of the league's projected first- and second-team QBs reveals a gulf in the usual wheelhouse of NFL experience.

Going by the most recent reports and club depth charts, only eight of the 32 projected Day-1 starting quarterbacks -- 25% -- are in their third to seventh years in the league. See the accompanying chart.

By contrast, 14 opening-day starting QBs are grizzled geezers who entered the league between 1998 and 2006. In fact, there are more from the 2001 rookie class (two) than there are from 2006, 2007 or 2010.

Then there's the baby-boomer generation. They're quickly taking over the league.

Ten quarterbacks who participated in their first off-season practices this year (that is, either rookies or second-year players, the latter of whom were locked out last off-season) are in line to start on Sept. 9-10 weekend.

And another eight first- or second-year QBs are either entrenched as second-stringers, or in the thick of the battle. That means as many as 18 of the 64 QBs on the league-wide two-deep charts are no more than 20 months removed from the college ranks, where goofy spread offences continue to be the rage.

One person who isn't surprised in the least is Gil Brandt.

"The Godfather" of NFL observers, as he's known, was vice-president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989. He's now a senior analyst for NFL.com. Wherever he goes -- as I saw first-hand at Baylor University's pro day in March -- NFL coaches, scouts and executives literally line up to pay their respect.

"None of it surprises me. I've seen it coming. The quarterbacks coming into the league now are so much more advanced than ever before," Brandt told me Tuesday over the phone from Texas.

"First of all, it starts in high school. They now have this thing down here called 7-on-7 football. School ends on May 31. On June 3, the 7-on-7 league starts. And they go right through the month of July. Secondly, the colleges are all throwing the ball a lot more than ever before.

"And so, what's happened is that young quarterbacks are just so much better equipped to play. And the fact they're throwing the ball so much more has increased their abilities by leaps and bounds."

Brandt provided an "eye-opening" historical comparison.

In the late '50s, there were 12 teams in the NFL. Four quarterbacks -- Norm Van Brocklin, Johnny Unitas, Bobby Layne and Y.A. Tittle -- became Hall of Famers. Yet in many seasons, each completed fewer than 50% of his passes, or threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

Today, an NFL quarterback is criticized if he completes fewer than 60% of his throws, and if his touchdowns don't outnumber his interceptions by at least a 2-1 ratio.

Tom Brady of the Patriots, who at age 35 is near the the head of the geezer class behind Peyton Manning, has thrown 75 touchdowns the past two seasons, against only 16 interceptions. That's more than a 4-1 ratio.

"We've got guys in the NFL now who complete 65-70% of their passes," Brandt said. "But it's like anything. Pole vaulters used to leap only 12 feet; now they're up to 20.

"It's totally unbelievable the skills these young quarterbacks have. I think that two weeks ago, three rookie quarterbacks completed more than 70% of their passes. Unheard of."

The gulf in the 2006 to 2010 rookie classes exists only at the starting level. Some 19 of them are projecting to be backups, or fighting to be.

The over-30 gang is as wily and as accomplished (for the most part) as it is numerous. Besides Brady, their ranks include the Mannings (Peyton 36, Eli 31), Drew Brees (33), Michael Vick (32), Tony Romo (32), Carson Palmer (32), Matt Schaub (31), Philip Rivers (30), Ben Roethlisberger (30) and Matt Cassel (30).

It seems age has nothing to do with it. Unless you're in your mid to late 20s.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/

 


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