Young, Promising Quarterbacks Asserting Themselves All Over NFL

Taylor SmithAnalyst IOctober 19, 2009

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 20: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears looks for a receiver against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field on September 20, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Steelers 17-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

As SI's Peter King touched upon last week, this season we've seen several young quarterbacks begin to assert themselves all around the NFL.

He wondered if this is the potential beginning to a new "Golden Age" for quarterbacks.

I do believe it is.

Of the 32 teams in the league, 20 of them have a starting quarterback under the age of 30. 

While the NFL's three best QB's are all 30 or older (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees), there's incredible potential for the rest of the league's young guns.

In case you haven't noticed, the guys over 30 that are still going look as though they've got plenty left in the tank.

Drew Brees (30) is an MVP candidate and has thrown for 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns for the NFL's most dangerous offense so far.

Peyton Manning (33) appears to be headed towards his fourth MVP award, and may be having his best season yet.

Tom Brady (32) just dismantled the Titans on his way to six touchdown passes, and looked a lot like the Tom Brady of 2007. 

Brett Favre (40) has a 6-0 team for the first time in his seemingly interminable career, and has continued to show his knack for winning games in the final seconds already as a member of the Vikings.

Kurt Warner (38) is coming off another Super Bowl appearance, and leads one of the NFL's elite aerial attacks. 

Donovan McNabb (32), despite a terrible showing against dismal Oakland yesterday, is still a guy that looks as though he can lead his team to a championship.

Matt Hasselbeck (34), other than yesterday's manhandling at the hands of Arizona, has clearly shown that he still has tremendous value to his Seahawks.

While not all of the NFL's younger quarterbacks have gotten off to great starts in 2009 (Trent Edwards, JaMarcus Russell, both Browns QB's ), a huge number of them are making lots of noise early on.

Reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Atlanta's Matt Ryan (24), has shown absolutely no signs of any sophomore slump so far.

"Matty Ice" has led his Falcons to a 4-1 record, with two straight impressive wins at San Francisco and last night at home against Chicago.

Next week, the Falcons hit the road again, this time to visit the Cowboys in their space shuttle of a stadium.

Ryan has thrown for 1,162 yards to go along with nine touchdown passes so far, with a stellar completion percentage up around 65 percent.

Baltimore's Joe Flacco (24), another second-year player, has arguably been better than Ryan.

The 6'6" QB from Delaware has thrown for 11 touchdowns so far this season, and, despite three straight losses, has his Ravens at 3-3 and in the thick of the AFC race.

Flacco has thrown for 300 or more yards in three of six games this season.

The Texans' Matt Schaub (28) is having his best season as a pro, by far.

He leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 14, and has thrown for 1,810 yards already.

It's been said that Schaub has always had the ability to put up these kinds of numbers, it's just been a matter of staying healthy enough.

So far in 2009 (knock on wood, Texans fans), Schaub has stayed on the field and has been the NFL's most underrated player.

Houston's success depends very much on Schaub, and if he can stay healthy, they're a team that can surprise some people in the AFC.

The Chicago Bears' most important offseason acquisition, Jay Cutler (26), has been as good as advertised since the week one debacle at Green Bay in which he threw four interceptions.

The former Vanderbilt star came over from Denver, and has thrown for 10 touchdowns so far, making the most of his unheralded team of receiving options.

While his attitude has been questioned nonstop, his ability speaks for itself.

He has a tremendously strong arm (which gets him in trouble from time to time), and is poised and controlled enough to effectively move his team down the field.

Cutler was drafted the same year as collegiate all-stars Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

So far, Cutler has (obviously) been the most productive of the three by miles.

Carson Palmer seems to have been in the NFL for ages, yet he is only 29.

While he turns 30 in December, the former Heisman winner (if he can stay healthy) is clearly good enough to have several more productive years.

He's led his Bengals to a surprising 4-2 record, with last-second wins over two notable divisional opponents in Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

He's smart with the football, and, while his statistics don't jump off the page, he's one of the major reasons that Cincinnati is still very relevant this season.

Eli Manning (28), the NFL's highest-paid player, has certainly lived up to his sparkling new contract so far.

Before his subpar homecoming against the Saints yesterday, it could've been argued that Eli had been the NFL's second-best QB so far, behind only brother Peyton.

Eli has still thrown for 1,390 yards and 11 touchdowns for the 5-1 Giants, and has thrown just three interceptions.

Eli has performed well over the past couple of weeks despite battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Philip Rivers (27), the player the Chargers traded Eli Manning for on draft day in 2004, has an explosive arm and throws one of the more accurate deep balls in the entire league.

Two years ago, he almost led his Chargers to an improbable playoff win over the then-unbeaten New England Patriots, despite playing on what turned out to be a torn ACL.

While San Diego has looked pedestrian at times this year, Rivers has shown that he has the ability to lift his team, as he did last season after they started off slowly.

Rivers, the most accurate passer in the history of the NCAA, has thrown for over 1,200 yards in four games so far this season.

We'll know much more about Rivers and the Chargers after tonight, when they face the undefeated Broncos at home.

Speaking of the Broncos, they've got a younger quarterback of their own that has shown he's capable of leading a winning team.

Not much was expected of Kyle Orton and the Broncos this season, especially after all they went through over the summer.

Orton (26) certainly didn't help his own popularity in Denver when he went out and threw three horrible interceptions in his first preseason game.

However, Orton (with the help of a stellar defense) is the starting quarterback of a 5-0 team with legitimate playoff aspirations.

While he isn't as flashy as guys like Rivers and Cutler, Orton has been the surprise story of the season.

He shined in leading Denver on a 98-yard touchdown drive against Tom Brady and the Patriots last Sunday afternoon.

Orton has thrown for 1,236 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

However, his most impressive statistic: one interception through the first five games.

The Broncos are certainly not going to be sneaking up on anybody anymore this season, and it will be interesting to see how they deal with actual expectations the rest of the way.

We haven't seen much of 24-year-old Dolphins' QB Chad Henne (just two starts), but there already appears to be a lot to like.

In his two starts (two home games against the Bills and Jets), Henne has racked up 448 yards passing to go along with three touchdowns and one pick.

His completion percentage is a phenomenal 65 percent, and his strong arm is refreshing for Miami in the place of Chad Pennington's weak arm.

The big-play threat of Ted Ginn Jr. wasn't much of an option with Pennington back there, but we've already seen what the Ohio State-Michigan tandem of Ginn and Henne can do.

While it may be early to call him a future star, Henne's stock is certainly on the rise.

Elsewhere in the AFC East, it's been an interesting beginning for Jets' 22-year-old QB Mark Sanchez .

Over the course of his first three NFL games, Sanchez could've likely successfully run for mayor of New York City.

He had the Jets at 3-0 heading into week four, having thrown four touchdown passes and just two interceptions.

However, it's been a different story since then.

In his last three games (all losses), Sanchez has thrown just one touchdown pass and a whopping eight interceptions, including five yesterday in the demoralizing loss at the hands of the Bills.

While his stock has taken a hit recently, there's still plenty to be excited about.

Since day one, he's shown major maturity and poise in the pocket, and doesn't get rattled easily.

This was on full display during the first two games of the season against Houston and New England.

While he's certainly going through some struggles as a rookie, I still think the future will be bright for Mark Sanchez.

The first overall pick in this year's draft, Detroit's Matthew Stafford (21), has already done one thing as Lions' QB that Dan Orlovsky wasn't able to do: win a game. 

Although he's currently injured, there was plenty to like about Stafford's four starts to begin the season.

In Detroit's only win against Washington, Stafford was 21-36 for 241 yards and a score, without an interception.

Stafford has a rocket for an arm, and reminds me a little bit of Jay Cutler.

He's certainly got the attitude and swagger of a guy that knows he will be successful at the highest level.

It also doesn't hurt that he has a teammate that could one day be the NFL's best receiver in Calvin Johnson.

The going could get rough for Stafford early on, but I certainly think he has what it takes to be a superstar.

It hasn't been a great start for Cowboys QB Tony Romo  (29) in 2009, but he's shown in the past that he's capable of dominating a game.

This is the same guy that threw for over 4,000 yards, with 36 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 2007.

While he doesn't have all the weapons he's had before (never thought I'd be saying that), he's definitely still a major weapon and the key to Dallas' potential success.

While he's only thrown six touchdowns so far this season, he's still racked up 1,341 yards through the air.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their recent performance can't have them too hyped up about their matchups later in the season.

This season, Dallas still has to face Atlanta, Philadelphia (twice), Green Bay, New York Giants, New Orleans, and San Diego.

It could be a tough season for Romo and the Cowboys, but I still think of him as a top-tier QB right in the middle of his prime.

Brett Favre's Packers replacement, Aaron Rodgers (25), has already shown that he's capable of big things after just over one year of starting in the NFL.

Last season, Rodgers wasted no time showing what he can do, going 18-22 for 178 yards and a touchdown in his first career start, a win over the Vikings.

His rookie season, despite the team being a disappointment, was definitely a personal success.

Rodgers finished with over 4,000 yards passing, to go along with 28 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions.

This season, he's led Green Bay to a 3-2 record through five games, with 1,456 yards, eight touchdown passes, and two interceptions.

Although the final Favre saga was initially unpopular for Packers fans, it's quite easy to see why the team's brass was so eager to get the Rodgers era underway. 

I think he's going to be a star for a long time.

Last but not least is a quarterback that has had more success earlier in his career than any other QB in history: Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (27).

The owner of two Super Bowl titles already, Roethlisberger led his Steelers to a 15-1 record as a rookie.

While his career numbers haven't been particularly overwhelming, it's impossible to argue with his success.

So far this season, even though Pittsburgh is certainly not where they'd like to be in terms of team performance (although they're still 4-2), Big Ben is having his most productive one to date.

He's completing an amazing 73 percent of his passes, which, if it keeps up, would be an NFL record for a season.

Roethlisberger also has thrown for 1,887 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

While it may not always be pretty, and he certainly has his flaws, Ben Roethlisberger is a proven winner, and consistently gets the job done.

While the league's top three signal-callers are all 30 or older, it's clear that the NFL still has very much to look forward to in terms of stellar quarterback play for years to come.


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