Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) shake hands after the game at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts defeated the Bengals 27-0. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s consider this from a different angle. In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens became the last team to win the Super Bowl on the back of defensive play, albeit a historic defense. During that particular playoff run, Baltimore’s Trent Dilfer faced a league who’s quarterback play was represented by Gus Frerotte (Denver), Steve McNair (Tennessee), Rich Gannon (Oakland), and Kerry Collins (New York) in Super Bowl XXXV. As interesting tid-bits, both Dilfer and Frerotte assumed their starting role during the season, and Gannon was not the leading scorer that season for the Raiders; rookie kicker Sebastian Janikowski was with 112 points.
Over the next four years, the NFL witnessed the rise of Peyton and Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Rex Grossman, Drew Brees, David Carr, and most notably, Tom Brady. For nearly a decade and a half the NFL has been aligned with elite play at the quarterback position, inflated by modern rules designed to keep quarterbacks safer and thus more productive. However, since 2010, quarterback skill levels entering the NFL have dropped off significantly.
Only five quarterbacks drafted in the past five years have led their teams to multiple playoffs: Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Russel Wilson, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick. Of these five, only Andrew Luck’s game is without scrutiny. It is possible that an epoch of high-powered quarterbacks is drawing to a close, despite the league’s best effort to prolong it.
Next: Dalton and His Cincinnati Future