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NFL Report: League's QB crop growing old

Know any good young quarterbacks who can't run? The NFL could use a few. Deep into this 2014 season, two facts about the league's quarterbacks can't be ignored.

Peyton Manning, among other top quarterbacks in the NFL, is nearing the end of his career. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Peyton Manning, among other top quarterbacks in the NFL, is nearing the end of his career. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)Read more

Know any good young quarterbacks who can't run? The NFL could use a few.

Deep into this 2014 season, two facts about the league's quarterbacks can't be ignored.

First, and most problematic for a league whose signal-callers are its most prominent stars: The best of them are graying faster than a mid-January afternoon.

Peyton Manning is 38. Tom Brady is 37. Drew Brees is 35. That's a lot of passing yards, record-book entries, and merchandising dollars headed for the exit.

Not too far behind in total birthdays are Phillip Rivers (32), Ben Roethlisberger (32), and Aaron Rodgers (31).

In fact, of the top 10 quarterbacks in passing yardage so far this season, only one - Andrew Luck - was drafted after 2009.

Where are the quarterbacks who in the not-too-distant future will have to replace these guys?

The last two drafts haven't yet identified any superstars at the position, though it's probably unfair and too early to write off Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Zach Mettenberger, E.J. Manuel, and Johnny Manziel.

Anyway, what might be more interesting quarterback news is that some of the fleet young passers who in 2013 seemed to be providing the future model for the position are still running - but in the wrong direction.

Colin Kaepernick, who ran and passed San Francisco to Super Bowl XLVII, has seen his stock plummet in 2014. When asked five league executives last week whom they would prefer at quarterback, Kaepernick or Oakland's Carr - who has managed a 74.4 passer rating for a 1-11 team - all five named the Raider.

And consider some of Kaepernick's stylistic doppelgangers: Cam Newton has experienced a similar regression in Carolina. Washington's Robert Griffin III may have trouble finding another starting job. And, statistically at least, the Jets' Geno Smith may be the NFL's worst quarterback. Even Seattle's Russell Wilson has slipped a bit in 2014.

Why? Well, the prevailing theory for their slippage seems to be that by consistently breaking the pocket, they're retarding the passing game.

Wealth of wideouts

If star quarterbacks of the future seem in short supply, there's no such paucity of talented young receivers.

The first-year class of standout wideouts includes the Eagles' Jordan Matthews (54 catches, eight touchdowns), Tampa Bay's Mike Evans (53, eight), Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin (57, eight), the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., Buffalo's Sammy Watkins, Arizona's John Brown, Jacksonville's Allen Robinson, and New Orleans' Brandin Cooks.

The best of the bunch, Brian Billick said, might be Tampa Bay's Evans.

"He's just too big and strong for most defensive backs, and his game speed and route running have continued to improve," said Billick, a former coach and current NFL Network analyst. "He has the prototypical size and speed you drool over when scouting talent, and he's done nothing but back it up with his play this season."

Holiday hassle

The three Thanksgiving Day games were probably a little disruptive to holiday plans, not just for the players but for all those who interrupted or postponed meals to watch.

But that can't be blamed exclusively on the media demands of 2014. In the NFL of 1930, the schedule was even busier.

That Thanksgiving, as NFL historian Dan Daly noted, nine of the league's 11 teams were in action. (One, Portsmouth, played an independent rival.)

Locally, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who would fold a year later, hosted the Green Bay Packers, losing by 25-7 before a crowd of 7,000 at Frankford Stadium, located at Frankford Avenue and Devereaux Street.

The day's other games were the New York Giants at the Staten Island Stapletons, the Providence Steamroller at the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals at Wrigley Field, and the Portsmouth Spartans at the Ironton Tanks.

Sideline entertainment

Next season's Eagles-Giants games could be a lot less compelling if, as many expect, New York coach Tom Coughlin is fired.

The bespectacled martinet is as interesting to watch as any NFL coach in recent memory. His Coughlin Sideline Scowl ought to be copyrighted. It's a perfect blend of dyspepsia, anger, frustration, and befuddlement. No one expresses displeasure any better or more photogenically.

Coughlin's Giants tenure has scaled great heights and descended into abysmal lows. Curiously though, much like his hyper-erratic quarterback, Eli Manning, it has very rarely occupied middle ground.

The sports-gambling website has listed the odds of Coughlin's firing at 5-2. Seven other NFL coaches had shorter odds: Oakland's Tony Sparano (1-5), the Jets' Rex Ryan (2-9), San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh ((11-10), Carolina's Ron Rivera (5-4), Atlanta's Mike Smith (5-4), Jacksonville's Gus Bradley (5-3), and Chicago's Marc Trestman (7-4).

Weekend's Best



Baltimore at Miami

Both teams are two games out of a division lead and are two of six 7-5 clubs tied for the AFC's second wild-card spot. Miami's improving Ryan Tannehill has completed at least 70 percent of his throws in five straight games. The Ravens, meanwhile, must shore up their pass defense. Baltimore yielded a total of 803 yards and six TD passes the last two weeks.


Kansas City at Arizona

Two of football's hottest teams two weeks ago, they've now each lost two straight and find themselves in competitive divisions. Arizona is 6-0 at home and expects wideout Larry Fitzgerald to return after a two-game absence. The Chiefs have been flat, falling behind early in losses to Oakland and Denver the last two weeks.


Patriots at Chargers

Yet another matchup with an elite QB for Tom Brady, who went 2-1 against Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Aaron Rogers the last three weeks. This time it's Philip Rivers, who led the Chargers (8-4) to an improbable comeback win at Baltimore last Sunday. Among QBs with at least 25 December starts, Brady (45-7) and Rivers (30-6) have the two top records.


Atlanta at Green Bay

Atlanta is tied for first in the anemic NFC South and badly needs a win. Green Bay has the league's hottest team, its hottest QB in Rodgers, and the best home-field advantage. The Falcons possess a topflight receiving duo in Roddy White and Julio Jones, but the Pack can match them with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Near the bottom in total defense, Atlanta will need a magical performance.