I was watching the Panthers-Vikings game earlier today and a thought occurred to me: With Cam Newton and Christian Ponder representing another wave of quarterbacks in the NFL, are we—finally—seeing a stake in the heart of "traditional pocket passers"?
The question is, obviously, hyperbolic.
Drew Brees, Tom Brady, (a healthy) Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are the NFL's best passers and all of them are pretty much traditional pocket passers (though Rodgers does like to tuck and run).
In addition, the league has been welcoming "mobile" quarterbacks for a while, dating back to Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and, of course, Mike Vick.
To me, it doesn't seem like the role can ever really go away for much of the same reason that we'll never see a movement of pitchers who can hit in baseball: It's just too much time training for skills in a position that's not your own.
But it got me thinking, besides Ron Mexico running around town and having a bunch of kids, what would need to happen to turn "pocket passing" into a relic?
One, that seems likely, is that this increasing trend (as many fantasy owners know) of shared backfields would have to continue to the point that teams are playing two potential running threats at one time (not a tailback and a lumbering fullback). That'll spread the linebackers more and give quarterbacks more running lanes.
I recognize the idea of consistently playing two running backs at the same time is weird, but as defenses continue their bigger-faster-stronger kick, offenses will need more and more tricks to spread the field.
A second factor will be those big, fast and strong defenses. More and more schemes are relying on unorthodox pass rushes, rather than just having four big guys up front and blitzing a fifth guy now and again. The Cowboys, for instance, had DeMarcus Ware rushing the passer on some plays and covering Vernon Davis, a borderline wide receiver, on others.
With so much athleticism on that side of the ball, offenses will have to keep up and will need passers to possess that same level of agility.
The bottom line, though, with these fleet-footed passers in the league, the position of quarterback is—believe it or not—about passing, not running. Mike Vick athleticism only comes along once a couple of decades and the ability to pick up a first down with a scramble only has so much benefit.
Unless there are drastic rule changes, the ability to run will always be an added bonus, not a core competency of a quarterback.
Caleb writes for Wired.com and says other stuff at www.twitter.com/calebgarling