NFL ratings are down. You know that, I know that, he/she/they know that. There are many who contribute this to the racial inequality protests, some who attribute it to the blackballing of Kaepernick and some who think it’s more of a quality problem, see above.
To me, it’s a combination of all the above, but that’s neither here nor there and not the purpose of this post.
Okay it kinda is, but bare with me.
Part of the NFL’s slow decline right now has to do with oversaturtion of the product. We’ve got mediocre to pathetic Thursday Night matchups that don’t need to exist, games Sunday, a game on Monday that tends to be mediocre because it can’t be flexed, rinse and repeat. While the league still rules the roost on Sundays, it’s becoming clear that the stranglehold that it once had on the American weekend is not what it used to be. The NFL saw a ratings boom in the 00s as the rise of Fantasy Football and high speed internet took viewership to new heights and introduced new experiences. When Sunday Ticket arrived it was a dream come true: you could watch every NFL game, or at least parts of it, if you wanted to. It was accessible.
Add to that we’ve shared a period of time where Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Peyton/Eli Manning, Steve McNair, Duante Culpepper, Kurt Warner, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, etc. have all been in the league. While not everyone on that aforementioned list is a Hall of Fame QB, they were faces of the league during this ratings boom. With most of those names now gone and the game’s best QBs on the tails of their career, many feel that there is an influx of bad QBs in the NFL like we’ve never seen before.
After all, Tom Savage and CJ Beathard got starts this year, that reeks of a lack of quality.
Not so fast my friend.
That’s the statline for current Bears QB Coach Dave Ragone back when he filled in for an injured David Carr in 2003. Ragone finished back to back NFL games with 71 yards and 64 yards respectively.
He’s not the worst I’ve ever seen either.
See, the NFL thought that we’d begin to see an influx of QBs like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady during the height of their careers. The college game saw spread offenses pop up all over the place, so the NFL believed that this was truly inevitable. They tried to jump ahead of the curve and tighten up rules against the defense, making play on that side of the ball a little less physical, which allowed for more points out the gate. This made games a bit more interesting but it relied on there continuing to be a hefty amount of successful QBs in the league so that these offensive performances would continue well after Peyton’s retirement. Little did they realize that they were going to run into a problem that will always plague a league of the NFL’s size when it comes to a position that’s as difficult to play as QB: there just aren’t 30+ guys who can be great at the job. That’s the inevitability, don’t believe me, check out this elite club of passers from 2001:
Yes, this includes a 39-year old Doug Flutie, a 38-year old Vinny Testaverde, and a young and spry 33 year old Brad Johnson (he really was comparatively speaking). Remember: this was back in a time where a QB sitting on the bench for a few years after being drafted was part of the norm. So a nearly 40-year old Doug Flutie being out there while a rookie Drew Brees sat and waited his turn wasn’t out of the question. Speaking of which, Drew Brees used to be pretty bad in San Diego:
That is from the 2003 season, where Brees was so ineffective that he was benched for a then 41-year old Doug Floutie. Yikes. There’s also this gem right here: this guy once started a PLAYOFF FOOTBALL GAME for the Baltimore Ravens….
Yes, we know the NFL can be REALLLLLLLLLY bad (and racist) when it comes to evaluating QBs , but it doesn’t change the fact that these bad QBs are more exciting (because of the rules) than the bad QBs of yesteryear. Even nowadays, you’ve got a solid crop of really good to great QBs, from surefire Hall of Famers like Brady, Brees and Rodgers to fringe guys like Roethlisberger and Rivers, consistent passers like Ryan, Newton, and Cousins and up-and-comers like Wentz, Goff, and Watson. That’s an overall better list than Alex Van Pelt and Jon freaking Kitna.
The less fortunate will always be around you, you can and should help them. Unfortunately, so will the less talented and there’s really not much you can do about that.