Cavalcade: The Midseason Of The Quarterback

Campus Insiders & CFN
Posted Oct 15, 2013

Cavalcade of Whimsy - What's the big story so far? The star QBs, in the Midseason Cavalcade.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Midseason, Part 1

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- August 27 - Kickoff Cavalcade | Sept. 3 - Enter Jameis Winston 
- Sept. 10 - Trying To Quit Texas | Sept. 17 - Trying To Help The NCAA
- Sept. 24 - Cupcake Saturday Fiasco | Oct. 1 - The Lane Kiffin Aftermath
- Oct. 8 - Cavalcade of Condi

Midseason Cavalcade
Part 3 - Predicting the rest of the season, coming late Tuesday
Oct. 15 - Midseason Cavalcade, Part 2 - New coaches, dumb new trend and more

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … I was having too much fun over the first half of the season, and soon I have to start analyzing the dopey BCS.

33 days since … the Yahoo sports allegations against D.J. Fluker, Tyler Bray, Maurice Couch, Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis, along with the Sports Illustrated allegations against Oklahoma State.

The really, really, really big deal from the first half of the 2013 college football season was the ... Quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks.

There are 23 "modern era" quarterbacks currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Brett Favre and Kurt Warner are mortal locks to get in, meaning that a true legend came around every 2.5 seasons over the last 60 years.

That's changing in a big hurry.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are first ballot, no questions asked, slam-dunk HOFers the split-second that they're eligible. With multiple Super Bowl wins, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger will be in Canton, too. After that, figure that at least one more out of Joe Flacco (in if he wins another Super Bowl), Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford (possibly in the mix with a Super Bowl win to go along with the mega-statistics), Andrew Luck (looks the part of a sure-thing, 15-year superstar), Matt Ryan (again, needs a championship) and Cam Newton (has the potential for true greatness and is the only Heisman winner in the mix) will get in.

That means that right now, on a normal Sunday, you can flip around and watch six Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks, and probably at least one more with the potential to get there. So, if you include Favre and Warner, at least 28% of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play professional football – at least since professional football started to matter – are playing right now.

Helped by the proliferation of the spread offense in all forms, rules to protect the passer and keep him from getting breathed on, a change in what defensive backs can do to receivers, and more sophisticated coaching have ramped up the numbers, but more than anything else, the NFL quarterbacking improvement has been sparked by prospects who come in more prepared than ever.

Thanks to the smarter coaching, highly paid quarterback gurus/whisperers, academies, and training facilities and training regimens that would've been considered whacko a few years back, this Renaissance Period of NFL quarterbacks is happening in the college ranks as well.

It wasn't all that long ago when there was a learning curve for the new guys. A rookie quarterback got a few years to figure it all out, was given a grace period, and then he was judged. Now, with Luck, Newton, Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel, just to name a few, rocking and rolling from Day One, the pressure is on to figure out exactly which college quarterbacks can step in next season or the year after and change around the fortunes of a franchise right away.

In the history of college football, we've never had a time with more talent, more polish, and more superstars at quarterback, and at the 2013 midseason, this is now the new norm. The first six weeks have shown that college football is really and truly a quarterback driven sport.

There were times not all that long ago when elite teams needed a month – if not a lot longer – to throw for 400 yards, and now we don't blink when one guy hits the mark on a typical Saturday. Remember, college football used to be all about the running backs, and then with the spread and better passing games, the sport changed around from the three yards and a cloud of dust philosophy to 13 yards and a storm. If Oklahoma could change from a triple-option wishbone to a high-octane passing attack that produced Heisman-winning bombers, so could everyone else.

Now, not only do quarterbacks mean absolutely everything; they're being held to a higher standard than ever before.

The headline after the Louisville 24-10 win over Rutgers was, "Teddy Bridgewater off." The guy completed 21-of-31 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns with a pick.

In the pros, Tony Romo threw for over 500 yards against Denver, but he was ripped apart for a late interception. Meanwhile, Aaron Murray, with a receiving corps decimated by injuries, willed Georgia back into the game against Missouri with three touchdown passes and 290 yards, but he threw one bad late interception and the Heisman and national title hopes both vanished on a single toss.

During Texas A&M's win over Ole Miss, the announcer made a comment about how Johnny Manziel didn't throw a touchdown pass. Yeah, but on a bum knee he completed 31-of-39 throws for 346 yards with an interception and ran 19 times for 124 yards for two touchdowns including the game-winner.

The ante has been upped.

Alabama might have won titles because of its defense and physical ground game, but it wouldn't have played in the BCS championship last season without AJ McCarron going Tom Brady against LSU. This year, he's the steadying rock on a businesslike team that's making blowouts look boring.

Oregon has Marcus Mariota, Ohio State has Braxton Miller, Clemson has Tajh Boyd. Florida State has Jameis Winston. Louisville has Bridgewater. Texas A&M has Manziel. LSU has Zach Mettenberger. South Carolina has Connor Shaw (who, by the way, is as effective as any quarterback in the country), UCLA has Brett Hundley, and that's just the top ten ranked teams. Outside of Shaw, if any of those quarterbacks ended up winning the Heisman, would you be disappointed or stunned? Other than Shaw and Miller, would you be surprised if any of the other ten were drafted in the first round?

It's no coincidence that the best teams in college football are all led by superstars, and that doesn't even count the top 25 teams like Fresno State (Derek Carr), Georgia (Aaron Murray), Virginia Tech (don't scoff; Logan Thomas will earn an NFL paycheck, at least as a backup), Stanford (Kevin Hogan) and Washington (Keith Price) with legitimate pro prospects under center.

It's an exciting time to be a college football fan. Beyond all the inconsistencies and hypocrisies, and setting aside for a moment that we now know what the game is doing to their brains and bodies, the quarterbacks are making the game more thrilling than ever because the skill level is light years ahead of what it was just a few years ago.

Thanks to the quarterbacks, it's been a terrific first half of the season. If you haven't been entertained so far, I can't help you.

Oct. 15 - Midseason Cavalcade, Part 2 - New coaches, dumb new trend and more

Midseason Cavalcade
Part 3 - Predicting the rest of the season, coming late Tuesday