At some point during the NFL season, it became clear that the league is in a state of change, the limits of playing quarterback quickly expanding. Young athletes equally threatening through the air and on the ground, improvising their steps, confounding defenses along the way.
Cam Newton foreshadowed this new era last year, throwing for more than 4,000 yards while running for more touchdowns than any QB in history. Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson presented a basic blueprint for how this breed of quarterback could take over the league, changing our perception of what it means to be a "running quarterback" and proving that spread option philosophies can work in the pros.
|Photo from: nfl.com
You see, the most important position in America's most popular sport has forever embodied many of society's favorite traits; leadership, intelligence, chisel-jaw handsomeness, poise under pressure, toughness. And for years, with notably few exceptions, the position has also had a very consistent template; tall, clean-cut white guys; Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Dan Marino, John Elway, Joe Montana, and so on down the line.
But the template is changing. It is turning more inclusive, more representative of America, right down to the ethnic ambiguity of Kaepernick and Wilson.
As the look of the position has broadened, so has its game. The spread option has become a staple for several successful teams, and saying somebody is an "athletic quarterback" no longer implies that the guy cannot throw accurately. Kaepernick, Griffin and Wilson have shown the quarterback can be the centerpiece of a run-oriented offensive attack, not because he is a deficient pocket passer, but because orthodox NFL playbooks constrain his skill set.
This transition is playing out as if it were consciously devised by the football gods themselves. In the AFC, Brady, Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are preserving the old guard, while the NFC is home to the next generation, with Griffin in the East and Kaepernick and Wilson both residing in the West.
So when exactly will this new generation fully merge with the ways we've grown accustom to for so many years? It already has. The fact that Colin Kaepernick has the 49ers a mere 60 minutes away from football's biggest prize proves it.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future.