Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: 40 Is Becoming the New 30 for NFL QBs

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMay 20, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2020, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before the NFL NFC Championship football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. The Packers would love to give quarterback Aaron Rodgers more weapons as they attempt to make at least one more Super Bowl run with the 36-year-old, two-time MVP. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should pencil in a receiver to Green Bay with the 30th overall pick at the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

NFL quarterbacks are finding retirement can wait, the NFL's plan to increase minority hiring has some influential skeptics, and winning the offseason could count this year. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

    

1.  40 is the new 30

Of all the things Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has said recently while reacting to his team's decision to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round last month, perhaps the most relevant was this.

"The goal is, obviously, to play in my 40s," he said, per NBC Sports' Peter King. "That hasn't changed."

Rodgers has talked about this before, but this time felt different, more certain. Obviously I'm playing into my 40s. Are you a moron? 

And you know what? He'll do it. Not solely because he's one of the mentally toughest athletes I've ever been around, but also because he won't be alone.

Just this year, we'll have Tom Brady playing at 43 and Drew Brees at 41. Then you've got Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, both at 38. Thanks to the changing physical and mental abilities of the quarterbacks themselves, it's not unreasonable to believe we're going to reach a point at which a quarterback playing into his 40s will be commonplace. That's clearly where the future of the position is headed.

Thanks to a better understanding of the human body, highly advanced training techniques and rule changes that keep quarterbacks in more protective cocoons, a quarterback playing into his 40s won't be unusual; it will be expected.

"I definitely wanna play until my mid-40s," Russell Wilson said in 2017, per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. "I think it's something that I've been very passionate about, and taking care of my health and really trying to dive into the longevity now. ... For me it's an everyday process. I have a full-time trainer ...  I have a full-time chef as well ... and I have a full-time [physical therapist] and massage person. ... I'm constantly getting work and getting stretched so that way my body [can] be super mobile and can maneuver really well. That's really key to feel fresh every day."

Rodgers is 36, and while he isn't the same as he was at 26, he's still damn good. It's possible he'll still be damn good in four years. Or six.

We are entering into a new football world in which superhuman athletes become even more formidable. They will continue to defy the aging process, especially at the quarterback position.

But how will teams react? The answer is complicated.

     

2. Age is in the eye of the beholder

Steve Luciano/Associated Press

The notion that today's NFL quarterbacks will play long beyond what their predecessors did makes sense, one assistant coach told me. But he added an important caveat: If it happens, it won't be with one team.

Take Rodgers, for example.

"Unless something crazy happens, Aaron won't finish his career in Green Bay," the coach said. "I could see him playing not just for one more team, but two."

The coach noted that Brady moved on after two decades with the Patriots, and how Brett Favre played for the Jets in his late 30s and the Vikings in his 40s. Brees has already logged time with the Chargers and Saints.

"There's no way" Wilson finishes his career with the Seahawks, the coach said, adding that Wilson, who, as noted above, has also stated he wants to play into his 40s, could play for two additional teams the way Favre did.

Still, though players may want to play into their 40s, most teams won't risk it and will go younger. With few exceptions—see: Brady, Tomthey will always go for the younger player. The mentality of quarterbacks may be changing, but not that of teams. At least not yet.

Luckily for those who want to extend their careers, there are 32 teams to choose from. 

     

3. The ends don't always justify the means

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 16: Tony Dungy speaks at the All Star Breakfast held by the National Basketball Retired Players Association at the Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel on February 16, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Im
John McCoy/Getty Images

Last week, the NFL floated the idea of giving teams a boost to their draft position if they hire a minority coach or general manager. To be blunt, it was one of the weirdest plans the NFL has ever had. On Tuesday, the league tabled the proposal, and it's not hard to see why.

Several black assistant coaches with whom I've spoken absolutely blasted the plan. Their concerns echoed those of Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, who spoke about what other black coaches told him in an interview with Florio:

"There's three things that they're worried about. Number one, how does this put me in my relationship with the other coaches that I work with, and other white coaches? Are they thinking I'm getting an advantage now? Number two, when that General Manager or owner hires me, is he hiring me because he thinks I'm the best person, or is he hiring me to move his draft choice up a little bit? And then the third thing this is nobody feels like they want anything special . . . . Don't hire me and then say I'm going to give you more draft choices later on because you need help. And I know that's not the reason why the proposal is being put in, I know that's not what they're driving at, but that's still the end result."

It can't be said much better than that.

    

4. Full steam ahead

No, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, but all indications remain that the NFL is still planning to carry on with the 2020 season.

At this point, I don't think anything will stop the games from being played. There's almost an inevitability to it.

     

5. Write those plans in pencil, not pen

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - APRIL 01: An aerial drone view of AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys NFL football team plays, on April 01, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. The NBA, NHL, NCAA and MLB have all announced cancellations or postponements of events because of C
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Though plans for a full slate of games this fall are moving ahead, one league executive did caution me that it's possible the season opens late due to the combination of the coronavirus and the flu. 

Such a potent mix would force the league to wait at least a month, this person said. It would just be too dangerous to ignore the health risks if the waves of illnesses rise or start combining. 

The fear, this person says, is that in August there will be indicators the coronavirus is returning in a big way, and the league will have to make an early—and risky—call.

This doesn't contradict the belief that a season will come. There seems to be concern only about when it will be played. Not major concern. Just some.

     

6. A dynasty unmasked

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

There have been tons of books on the Patriots and how they established the greatest dynasty in the history of football (yes, it is). Now comes another one, and it sounds fairly electric.

It's called The Dynasty, and it's by author Jeff Benedict. This description from the publisher's press release caught my eye:

"Benedict conducted exhaustive interviews with team executives, coaches, players, players' wives, team doctors and lawyers, league officials, network television executives, sports agents, politicians, and entertainers. ... Benedict also had access to hundreds of hours of video and audio recordings, as well as thousands of pages of legal documents, transcripts, business records, emails, text messages, and minutes from phone calls and meetings."

Interviews with players' wives? Emails, text messages and minutes from phone calls and meetings?

Now you've got my attention.

    

7. Captain Comeback

Besides just being remarkably talented, Patrick Mahomes is also one of the most mentally tough throwers in football. Want proof? Check this out from ESPN Stats & Info:

And that's with names like Brady, Rodgers and Brees still in the league.

This is likely just the beginning of what's going to be a remarkable NFL career.

   

8. Virtual offseason

Normally, teams that "win" the offseason really don't win jack squat. This offseason will be different.

Players and coaches say privately that workouts in the offseason were important, but now they are perhaps more vital than ever. The teams that have the best Zoom meetings and the players who stay in shape without team supervision will have a huge advantage once the season starts.

One player even rhymed that whoever wins Zoom lowers the boom.

   

9. What a story the Eagles would be

Gillian Allen/Associated Press

If I could pick one NFL team to get the Michael Jordan docuseries treatment, it would be, easily, the late-1980s/early-1990s Eagles.

My guess is there are countless stories about that squad that would make the Jordan Bulls look tame. Those Eagles teams had some of the biggest personalities in football history, including Buddy Ryan, Reggie White, Randall Cunningham, Jerome Brown, Cris Carter, Keith Jackson, Mike Golic, Clyde Simmons and Andre Waters.

Ten episodes likely wouldn't be enough.

Let's get this done. 

    

10. Blocked

I wanted to end with an odd question: Why has Ben Roethlisberger blocked so many people on Twitter?

He recently uploaded an interesting video, but I can't tell you how many people complained about not being able to see it because they were blocked.

I've had NFL fans ask me about this for years, including Steelers fans who love him and discovered they, too, were blocked.

It's bizarre, and no one knows why. I wanted to ask Roethlisberger...

But he blocked me.

   

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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