First Peyton Manning. Then Eli Manning. Philip Rivers. Drew Brees. Ben Roethliberger. And finally Tom Brady retired. Aaron Rodgers even considered joining them, but, alas, he is the last quarterback standing from a group of all-time greats who've helped the NFL thrive in the 21st century, combining to win 15 championships. Fifteen!
That leaves us with a relatively new generation of talented, but unproven QBs entering 2023. Here are 10 facts you need to know about this unprecedented group.
1. This is the first Week 1 without Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees starting since 1997. Twenty-six years ago. Brett Favre was about to win his third straight MVP. Barry Sanders would rush for 2,000 yards, John Elway would win his first ring and Daniel Snyder had yet to buy an NFL franchise. So yeah, NFL life was good.
2. Now it's Patrick Mahomes' world and we're all just living in it. He has 11 playoff wins, tied with Aaron Rodgers for the most among any active QB. Did I mention he's just 27 years old?!?!? He's the youngest QB in NFL history to enter a season as the active QB leader in that category. In case you're curious, the previous mark was held by Terry Bradshaw (age 28) entering 1976. For good measure, Mahomes also leads all active QBs with two Super Bowl titles.
3. Mahomes nearly has as many Super Bowl rings (two) as all other 31 starting QBs combined (three between Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford). The five combined rings by Week 1 starting QBs is the fewest since 2004.
4. The QB carousel was spinning this offseason with Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr changing teams, leaving Dak Prescott as the NFL's longest-tenured QB with his current team. That's pretty amazing when you consider this is only his eighth season with Dallas. This is the first time in the Super Bowl era that no QB has an active stretch of nine-plus seasons with the same team. In other words, we've never seen a QB landscape quite like this one. This is what happens when you have all-time greats retiring, young QBs taking their places and impulsive teams making changes.
5. Whether the Cardinals start Joshua Dobbs or Clayton Tune, this is the NFL's youngest group of QBs in season openers (average age: 27) since 1957. There were five Hall of Fame QBs starting that year: Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Bobby Layne, Norm Van Brocklin and Y.A. Tittle.
6. The youth movement includes 15 starting QBs who are still within their first four seasons in the league, tied for the most in season openers ever with 2012 and 2013. Eight of those QBs are getting their first Week 1 start, like Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell and Kenny Pickett.
7. A lot of the blue-chip talent is over in the AFC. Fourteen of the AFC QBs are former first-round picks, matching the most for a conference to open a season since 1970. The AFC also did this in 2021.
8. It's left quite the talent disparity between the AFC and the NFC. AFC starters have at least twice as many Pro Bowls, MVPs, playoff wins and Super Bowl titles than NFC QBs. In fact, there is not a single NFC QB with an MVP award on his resume. The last time that happened was with the AFC in 2016 and that was on a technicality, as Brady didn't start Week 1 while serving his Deflategate suspension.
Tale of the Tape - Week 1 Starting QBs
Pro Bowl selections
Super Bowl titles
9. Starting QB in the NFL pays handsomely these days. The 32 starters make a combined $2.4 billion in guarantees on their current deals, ranging from Deshaun Watson ($230M) to Brock Purdy ($77K). The amount of $2.4 billion still goes a long way in 2023; it's enough to buy a majority ownership share of the defending Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs (based on 2022 Forbes valuations).
10. Every team in the NFC South has a new Week 1 starting QB compared with last year's season openers. It's the second division in NFL history with that distinction (1973 AFC West).
Add it all up and there's never been a QB landscape quite like 2023, full of young, blue-chip talent and potential. At the very least, it should make for great entertainment. At best, they are ushering in a new era of all-time greats.
H/T to Sportradar