A lot of the talk heading towards Super Bowl XLVII is about San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kapernick and rightfully so. He’s been terrific in the two playoff wins for the 49ers, but his success, and the success of those like him raises an interesting question. Is the position of quarterback changing in the NFL?
Historically the quarterbacks that win Super Bowls have been traditional pocket passers including recent history: Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Ben Rothlisberger, Tom Brady and so on. John Elway and Steve Young were scrambling quarterbacks early in their careers, but they won their Super Bowls at the end of their careers when they were pocket passers. That’s not to say it can’t and won’t change, but will it?
When something is new and different it tends to get people excited, and that often leads to overreaction. Kapernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and others can be very successful in the NFL, but that does not mean players like Manning and Brady are all of the sudden dinosaurs. A quarterback like Brady is always going to be able to win in this league. A Peyton Manning type is always going to be able to sit back and pick apart defenses. Someone told me today that the position has changed and quarterbacks like Manning are now a liability in the playoffs; really? I realize that the new breed of quarterbacks is the talk of the league, but have they won a Super Bowl yet? What if Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens win; he’s another pocket passer.
I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade; Wilson, Griffin III and Kapernick are a blast to watch, but there is a question that must be asked. Can their style of play stand up over the long run? The quarterback who can pass and run offers a dual threat that is seldom seen, but it also puts them in harm’s way a lot more than a pocket passer. We’ve all ready seen Griffin III get beaten and battered through his rookie season and there is some doubt as to how he will be coming back from a severe knee injury.
The difference between these three specifically and players like Michael Vick is that they have shown the ability to sit in the pocket and beat you that way; as well as with their legs. Vick was and is exciting at times, but he has never shown the ability to pick defenses apart. If the run is taken away from Wilson, Griffin III or Kapernick, they can still be very effective. Kapernick dissected the Atlanta Falcons after they took away the read-option, and that’s what makes him so dangerous.
Going forward; it will be fascinating to watch. As a fan, I hope it works because these three are so fun to watch, but there are doubts; there has to be. Whenever a quarterback runs and gets outside of the pocket, their risk of injury increases dramatically. In a league that relies so heavily on that one position, do teams really want their quarterbacks exposing themselves to that many more hits?
As for the notion that the pure pocket passer is on his way out, no he’s not. The best quarterbacks in NFL history are pocket passers and they are always going to have a place. I promise you that Joe Montana would still be lighting up defenses in the league today. Keep in mind with all of the talk of this new age of quarterbacks, they still have not won a championship. That could change in 11 days if the 49ers win but, that won’t mean Manning should head off to the retirement home.
There’s more than one way to win a football game from the quarterback position; one is proven over an 80 year period and the other, we’ll see.
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