Out With The Old

Matt Hogan
September 20, 2019 - 12:40 pm

The NFL has been undergoing massive changes for the better part of the last decade. In the last few years, the NFL has changed what constitutes a penalty, how to win in overtime, the distance for the point after attempt, what is reviewable, what makes a catch a catch, and the NFL is slowly changing its views on gambling.

Despite all these changes, the product on the field, for the most part, has stayed the same until the last season or two. Sure, every now and then, you get a horrible no-call, a missed extra point, or a controversial ending in overtime, but a few mistakes during the season is par for the course in professional sports.

The reason why the overhaul of NFL rules have seemed to have little negative impact on the game is that a revolution takes time. I am here to tell you that the revolution is here, and the NFL is about to permanently change forever.

The rule changes are already in place for the next era of the NFL, and those changes bleed through to the surface from time to time in the form of bad calls, and controversial rules, plays, or penalties.

The real change will come the mass exodus of veteran coaching staffs, star players, and front office executives. They are the glue holding together the era of football that I grew up watching, and the era my 2-year-old nephew, Ben, will grow up watching.

This weekend could be the beginning of what I am calling “NFL 5.0”, or at the very least, a preview. Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Eli Manning are all nearing retirement and will not be starting for their teams this weekend. Watching the Steelers without Big Ben, the Saints without Brees, or the Giants without Eli will feel so wrong.

In addition to those veteran quarterbacks being out this week, a whopping 18 quarterbacks starting this weekend are 26 years old or younger. The last time that happened was 32 years ago.

As we start to say our final goodbyes to the single greatest era of NFL quarterbacks - an era that produced Brady, the Manning brothers, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Favre, Vick, Warner, Romo, etc. – we will begin to notice more and more that the NFL is a completely different game.

These young NFL players, especially quarterbacks, have grown up playing the game with different rules, and modern sports medicine have enabled these players to become more athletic than ever before. Look at the newest generation of quarterbacks for example; many are dual threat.

My whole life I have heard people confidentially say the NFL would never adapt to the dual threat quarterback, yet in 2019, you have some teams completely rearranging their staffs and playbooks in order to adapt to the mobile quarterback. The Ravens have conformed their offense to Lamar Jackson instead of forcing him to be a pro-style quarterback.

This shift in staff hiring and play calling has caused NFL teams to hire younger coaches with “youthful” play calling. The NFL currently has eight head coaches 40 or younger, and there are four more coaches between the ages of 41 and 44.

This youth movement is not only because older people are eventually replaced with younger people. The NFL has never played by that rule - if it did - we would have seen younger coaches throughout history, or we would not have had to wait 32 years to see the majority of starting quarterbacks be under the age of 27.

Starting NFL quarterbacks are getting younger and more athletic; and NFL head coaches are getting younger and more analytical in their approach. This new style of playing and coaching combined with modern NFL rules will naturally bring massive change to the product the NFL is selling.

Goodbyes are hard. Change is uncomfortable. I know it is just a game, and I know I have never met these people, but they were a part of my life. I watched them every Sunday, read about them every chance I got, drafted them in fantasy football, made friends while talking about them, and they even influenced my career choice. They will be missed, even the ones I loved to hate.

The rule changes have set the stage for the next era of NFL football; we are just waiting for the new cast members to take the stage… and I cannot wait.

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