The state of the National Football League, where the quarterback is king, is in good shape.
Almost guaranteed for the Feb. 7 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., is a classic quarterback matchup.
The crop of young QBs is strong, and seemingly expanding every year.
The crop of old guys, stars destined for the Hall of Fame, is slowly eroding, but their skills remain at a high level.
This year’s playoffs featured four quarterbacks among the best the game has known — Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers.
The latter was the first to be eliminated, as his Indianapolis Colts were beaten by Baltimore Ravens, led by one of the most exciting of the newcomers — Lamar Jackson.
Brees, who will retire to a job in a TV broadcast booth, was sidelined the next week, losing to Brady and his Tampa Bay Bucs.
Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City Chiefs is the most prominent member of the new breed.
The QB’s resumé already includes a Super Bowl title and a league MVP crown, and it’s likely more of each will accumulate before he calls it a career.
Jackson, meanwhile, also has an MVP title, and is arguably the most exciting player wearing an NFL uniform today.
This year’s playoffs also featured two quarterbacks just beginning to post gold stars on their resumés.
One is Buffalo’s third-year pro Josh Allen, and the Bills are riding his skills towards becoming an NFL power.
Whether that manifests to a Super Bowl appearance this year or down the road remains to be seen, but if Allen were to guide the Bills to a Super Bowl title, there would be immediate talk of a statue in his honour.
The Bills, of course, are known infamously as the team that made it to the Super Bowl four years in a row, from 1991-94 — and lost four years in a row.
The second is another third-year player, Baker Mayfield of Cleveland, who led the Browns to their first playoff victory since 1995.
The Browns, who beat Pittsburgh 48 – 37 Jan. 10 in a wildcard game, fell in the next round to Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Mayfield statue plans, however, are still in the formative stage on the shores of Lake Erie.
Super Bowl 55 is still more than a week away, but the storylines are guaranteed to be intriguing. Brady on his home field?
Rodgers making Green Bay fans forget about Brett Favre?
Mahomes cementing his status as today’s No. 1?
Allen breaking through? No matter how it shakes down, it will be a classic.
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Jim Harbaugh has reached an incentive-laced contract extension to coach Michigan football coach through the 2025 season. No truth to the rumour that Ohio State boosters bankrolled the whole thing.”
• Janice Hough at leftcoastsportsbabe.com., on the James Harden trade to Brooklyn Nets, coached by Canadian Steve Nash: “Harden, Irving and Durant in the same locker room? I really like Steve Nash. And hope his insurance has good mental health coverage.”
• Bob Molinaro of pilot online.com (Hampton, Va.): “The Nets have brought together an amazing array of star-studded head cases. If I were rookie coach Steve Nash, I’d add two shrinks to my staff — one for the players, one for myself.”
• Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “Charles Barkley said pro athletes deserve preferential treatment when it comes to getting the vaccine. Personally, I think the vaccine should be distributed based on a person’s form when driving a golf ball.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “The Tampa Bay-New Orleans playoff game featured quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees, aged 43 and 42 respectively. You (could have placed) a bet in Las Vegas on which one is the first one to walk into the huddle and say, ‘Now why did I come in here?’
• Jack Finarelli, at sportscurmudgeoncom, on the James Harden trade to Brooklyn: “We will soon find out if James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant learned their lessons about ‘sharing with others’ in kindergarten.”
• Dwight Perry again: “News alert: This just in: NBA rejects Nets’ desperate request to play games using three basketballs.”
• Phil Mushnick in the New York Post: “The practical subtitle for HBO’s tell-most documentary on Tiger Woods would have been ‘What TV and Other Media Knowingly, Dishonestly Ignored for 25 years.’”
• Former Raiders’ exec Amy Trask, in The Athletic, on how nervous she was about becoming a CBS TV contributor: “I went to our producer and I said, ‘Look, there is a really, really good chance I’m going to throw up all over myself when we go live. His face just lit up and he said, ‘That would be great content.’”
Wizards guard Bradley Beal, to reporters, on his team’s floundering start: “At this point, we can’t guard a parked car.”
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By Bruce Penton