A new guard has truly arrived at the most macroscopic position in American sports.
The Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan generation of quarterbacks is mostly out of the league, creating a pathway for the newest generation of heroes to take over the game and start forging their own legacies free of the past's shadows.
The gravitational pull of the quarterback is not a new phenomenon for teams or fans to experience, but the new stars at the position are taking the term “hero” in the metaphysical sense — the athleticism of these new quarterbacks is changing the landscape of how teams are even approaching the game as a whole.
The team that sits atop of the NFL understands the power of a transformative athlete being the center of an entire operation. Patrick Mahomes is the player bridging the gap between the normal and the supernormal with his athleticism blending with an overall understanding of the game to create a supernova of offensive efficiency.
His head coach Andy Reid has also seen the power of a transformational quarterback talent throughout his NFL tenure by starting his career watching Brett Favre as an assistant with the Packers before molding Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick into elite quarterbacks with the Eagles. Mahomes is the next iteration of what Reid has already had his hands on.
"With quarterbacks, the work is never done," Reid said earlier this summer. "As I’ve mentioned before, it’s like being a farmer, you just keep on cranking. We’re always trying to give him new challenges with things, and he loves that, he loves to attack those type of things so that’s where it’s at."
"He has a new way to challenge me it seems like every day," Mahomes said of Reid. "I always feel like I have kind of mastered the offense or feel like I know what he’s always thinking, and then he’ll throw a little curveball for me."
Everything in the NFL starts with the quarterback talent a team is fortunate (or not) to have, but now that this era fully gets to flap its own wings, it’s fascinating to see how the drawing beacon of quarterback play has evolved over the years.
The new crop of talent is flashy, man. It’s like setting off fireworks every Sunday for 10 hours and another three hours on Monday and Thursday. There have been athletic players at the position over the years, but the overabundance of athletic quarterbacks now feels different than recent eras of football. It’s damn near a prerequisite for the star to have standalone athletic talent before the rest of the team can be captured by the weight of the quarterback.
The AFC by itself is a stark reminder of just how much the game has changed. Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Deshaun Watson, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson are some of the returning starters who check off the true dual threat box to varying degrees. That doesn’t include C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson, who were just added to the conference via the draft. Then over in the NFC, there's Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, Bryce Young, Daniel Jones, Kyler Murray, Geno Smith, Desmond Ridder — the new era and style is here and it should be a primary viewing point for fans to pay attention to throughout the season.
"I’ve said it a lot, you look at the AFC, almost every team you can see a path for them getting to the playoffs," Mahomes said in July. "And I know you say that every year, but I think this year it’s really real."
Patrick Mahomes is the player bridging the gap between the normal and the supernormal with his athleticism blending with an overall understanding of the game to create a supernova of offensive efficiency.
Football started with throwing the ball being viewed as a borderline heretical behavior before it became an accepted part of the game, and ultimately evolved into the backbone of every great offense today. Now that the effectiveness of throwing has largely been figured out by coaches across the spectrum, the athletes who are executing these plays have a higher prominence than ever.
Even the idea of someone like Josh Allen panning out and becoming the legitimate, bonafide superstar quarterback that he is now is a tremendous case study of taking the top 1 percentile athlete and kind of seeing what happens. It worked out for the Bills in a way where they get to play an exciting brand of football every week for the next decade.
The new generation of quarterbacks is an ode to every kid who made a cracked out Create-A-Player on any version of Madden just to see the different ways in which they could break the game. The NFL is forging imagination into reality with the latest generation of quarterbacks to enter the league and become its faces. Football has always been a captivating game to watch, but the manner in which it’s being played now is like throwing a little extra seasoning on a meal everyone already loves. Sometimes it’s going to create some ugly results, but at its best, it’ll be something that hasn’t been experienced in its current capacity.
How the new brand of superheroes is ultimately remembered will play out over the coming seasons, but for now it’s time to bask in the evolution process that has taken place at the game’s most important and visible position. Zeus, Kratos from God of War, Patrick Mahomes — these are all one in the same. Now, just about every team has someone who can play in both realms as a passer and a runner. This inherent widespread skill is something that’s new to football, even if the importance of the quarterback has not necessarily changed. Open your heart to the impossible — this generation of signal-callers demands your attention.