Forget Barack Obama and John McCain. The real changing of the guard has already happened.
Nearly halfway through the NFL season, the lone unbeaten team is the Tennessee Titans. Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall leads the league in receptions, despite serving a one-game suspension. Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner and Chris Johnson have more yards than Steven Jackson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson.
To top it off: Chicago Bears quarterback Kyle Orton has one fewer touchdown pass than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer — combined. And Orton is just one of a whole new crop of young quarterbacks. In fact, four of the top five teams in the NFL — the Giants, the Steelers, the Bills and the Redskins — are all headed by passers drafted in the past four years.
So forget Peyton and Brady. The future is all about Eli, Big Ben and Romo. And Jay Cutler, Trent Edwards and Aaron Rodgers aren’t too far behind.
This isn’t just a result of some freak injuries. It’s part of a gradual shift that happens once every 10 years. In the 1990s, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, John Elway and Brett Favre were the NFL’s marquee quarterbacks, combining to win eight Super Bowls in 10 years.
Despite the near-total dominance, the seeds of the changeover were in the making after the Colts made Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning the first selection of the 1998 draft. That same year, an ex-CFL quarterback named Kurt Warner came out of nowhere and took the league by storm, eventually finishing the year with two MVP trophies and a Super Bowl ring.
In the next three years, Aikman, Young and Elway all retired, setting the stage for a new generation of quarterbacks to take over. The shift was cemented in Super Bowl XXIV when Tom Brady led the Patriots to a shocking upset over the heavily favored Rams. Warner, Brady and Manning would eventually combine to win five of the first eight Super Bowls in the new millennium.
With Brady out for the year and Peyton struggling to keep the Colts afloat, it’s a matter of when the changeover will occur, not if. Eli and the Giants already stuck the sword in the Patriots dynasty in the biggest Super Bowl upset in NFL history. After another season or two of his annual retirement soap opera, Favre will eventually decide to hang up the cleats.
And even if you think the Colts still have a chance this year, you have to remember: Peyton has already been beaten by Kyle Orton, David Garrard and Aaron Rodgers. Only Garrard has started a full NFL season.
So get used to the idea of Aaron Rodgers and Trent Edwards as our Super Bowl quarterbacks. And if you haven’t noticed the shift in the NFL’s quarterbacking hierarchy, don’t worry — with election season approaching, it’s easy to forget the important things in life.
Karan Arakotaram is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.