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The Weekly Kickoff with Geoff Schwartz: NFL Week 6

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Editor’s note: The Weekly Kickoff is a weekly column from the pen of former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Check back every week for the latest edition.

The NFL, unlike the NBA, isn’t a star driven league. It’s a team driven league, with fans rooting for their favorite team and those stars on each team. The biggest star, and the only chance to win a Super Bowl, is having an elite quarterback.

For years, the elite quarterbacks were the same: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and a few others. There was genuine concern about the future of the NFL at QB. Fast forward to 2020, and the NFL has never been at a better place with the future of that position, especially with the incoming rookies. 

Brady left the New England Patriots after 19 seasons and six Super Bowl rings, the greatest dynasty in NFL history. At 42 years old, he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, looking for a few more years of glory in the Florida sunshine. And while I believed it would take time for Brady to get into the swing of things with his new team in Tampa, it’s clear he’s on the downturn. Brady’s Expected Points Added, a number that shows efficiency, puts him at 19th in the NFL through five weeks in the NFL. Back in 2018, he was near the top 5 in that number. His ball doesn’t have zip to the sidelines and he’s not as accurate. While I think Brady can still win a Super Bowl as a game manager type, it’s clear he’s on the downward spiral.

Same goes for Brees, who just doesn’t throw the ball downfield that often anymore. At the end of 2018 it was clear his arm strength was declining quickly. And guess what, that’s fine. He’s old. It was going to happen. But this year seems to have progressed the concern. Brees is dead last in the NFL in air yards. He can go through periods of games where the offense stalls out. Last season the Saints’ passing attack was fourth in DVOA, while this season it’s 16th. I see nothing that would improve what’s going on in New Orleans, even with the addition back of Michael Thomas. This is Brees’s final season

Ditto for Rivers, who’s clearly on the way out after his first season in Indianapolis. The Colts’ passing offense is 22nd in DVOA and Rivers just can’t make the same throws as before. He has four touchdown passes and four interceptions. Outside of Week 1, when he was behind and had to throw, he’s averaging 216 yards per game in those four weeks.  

So while these three older quarterbacks seem on the outs, we have plenty of young talent to be excited about. Of course Russell Wilson (not that young now), Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, etc. are already the immediate future of the NFL. But what about the two rookies who are already playing? They both look like studs.

Let’s start with Joe Burrow, the first pick in the draft. Burrow was drafted by the hapless Cincinnati Bengals and it’s been an adventure so far. It’s been clear that Burrow has all the talent to be successful. He’s got swagger and the “it” factor. He’s playing behind the worst offensive line in the NFL and he’s getting beat up. AJ Green has been in and out of the lineup. Burrow just hasn’t had a chance, but he’s shown enough that I feel great about his future.

Now to my guy, Oregon graduate Justin Herbert, the Los Angeles Chargers’ sixth overall pick. My scouting report on Herbert was simple: If he was pushed to be elite, he would do it. At Oregon, he wasn’t asked to do much until his final two games and he played well in those outings. Now in Los Angeles, after filling in for Tyrod Taylor, he’s been given the starting role after playing so well in his first four game. What Herbert has done is exactly what I thought he could do. He’s been told by the Chargers staff to “be the guy.” Herbert has been outstanding against pressure and letting the ball loose in the play action pass game. There’s still plenty to work on, but it’s clear he’s got it.

The NFL has never had this amount of QB talent in the league at once. While the older Hall of Fame quarterbacks are being phased out, the young up and comers will shine for years to come, continuing on the legacy of the position.