Overtime: The End of an Era for the NFL

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An entire generation of Quarterbacks is just about retired, but have made a lasting impact (courtesy of Twitter).

Thomas Aiello, Assistant Sports Editor

The indomitable records in sports will perhaps stand the test of time. Barry Bonds’ homerun record, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game and Ladainian Tomlinson’s single season touchdown record all come to mind. One stands above all the rest: Father Time’s undefeated streak, which began with the creation of life on Earth.  

Once again, he proclaims three victories in the form of potential NFL retirements. Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers: three quarterbacks who have left massive impacts in the NFL with their respective franchises. While Roethlisberger and Brady are the only confirmed retirees as of now, Rodgers has given mixed signals as to his plans beyond the 2022 season.  

One thing has come to the center of attention: an entire era is starting to ride off into the sunset. Growing up in the 2010s, the staple NFL Sunday quarterbacks were Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Eli and Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.

This select group has major significance on those who were kids in the 2010s, long before they began their transitions into adulthood. Many of those who are in college now see their childhoods becoming obsolete, but with these three signal callers perhaps reaching the end, how will they be remembered?

Many will look back on the exciting times that they had with their friends and family watching these great players perform week in and week out on Sundays. Attempting to collect as many of their jerseys as possible was a common pastime for young fans. In those times, every child fanatic had an affinity for one of these guys.

There were some great matchups, most of them from the Super Bowl, that created epic memories for a lifetime. Some of the most notable include Rodgers taking on Roethlisberger, Eli downing Brady, Brady ending Ryan and generating an NFL dynasty. Additional notable plays and games include Peyton vs. Brees, Peyton vs. Wilson, Flacco meeting Peyton in multiple AFC playoff games and Peyton taking down Big Ben, Brady and MVP Cam Newton to win a ring in his final game. 

Now that the dust has cleared for Roethliberger, Rodgers and Brady on their 2022 campaigns, their immediate futures are either in doubt or have already been decided. But the question remains: how will this group be remembered?

Roethlisberger won a Super Bowl in just his second year. Barring the motorcycle crash and a loss to Rodgers and the Packers in 2011, he could have had plenty more. “Big Ben” also never had a losing season, reigned supreme in the AFC North for essentially his entire Steeler tenure and is fifth all time in passing yards and has six Pro Bowls to his name spending all 18 years in Pittsburgh.

However, in addition to his motorcycle accident in 2006, he faced two sexual assault accusations in the early 2000s. The NFL took action, initially suspending him without pay for six weeks, a sentence later reduced to four. These offenses have hung over his head ever since.

On the field, there is no question that he would make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the assault accusations could likely hold him back significantly. 

Aaron Rodgers has been widely regarded as a transcending thrower in the football world, as he holds a unique ability to fit passes into places that only he can. Three MVPs, four all-pros, a Super Bowl Ring, Super Bowl MVP and 10 Pro Bowls later, Rodgers is still playing at an elite level. Though his playoff success does leave things to be desired, there is no doubt that he is one of the all time greatest football players of the 2010s and a sure-fire hall of famer.

His diva-like personality does play a role in how people will look back at Rodgers as a person, between his feud with Mike McCarthy and the Packers organization, to his COVID-19 antics and his personal life.

With the Packers offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, leaving to become the head coach in Denver, there is much speculation that Rodgers will leave for the Mile High City. Retirement also hasn’t been ruled out, but only Rodgers really knows what he will do. He just isn’t saying what it is.

Finally, we get to the great one: Tom Brady. As much as it pains most NFL fans to admit, Brady is the undisputed G.O.A.T. (“Greatest of All Time”) of football, whether everyone agrees or not. His individual accolades are otherworldly and may never be touched again. Six rings in New England and another in Tampa Bay push him over the edge of any other NFL player.

There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about Tom Brady, but following the Buccaneers almost miraculous comeback against the LA Rams, Tom Brady officially announced his retirement via his Instagram.

Regardless of what happens in the coming days of the offseason, these legends have made their marks on the NFL as otherworldly talents. Some have issues elsewhere, but nonetheless, a generation of football fans will look back on what this group has generated for years to come. Especially now that the G.O.A.T. has retired, a new wave of NFL stars is  set to take over and illuminate the next generation.  

It’s wild to think that your childhood has officially become an athletic star of the past, and that some of the most memorable players of it are fading off into the sunset.