The Changing of the Guard


The new star quarterbacks are making waves in the NFL. (Courtesy of Twitter)

From the early 2000s until now, the National Football League (NFL) has been dominated by quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. These five alone have racked up 12 MVPs, 13 Super Bowl rings and eight Super Bowl MVPs. With the retirements of the latter three in the last six years and the rapid decline of Brady and Rodgers this season, the NFL’s most prestigious position has new faces at its forefront.

When these five names became the face of the sport, the NFL had made its transition from a “running league” to a “passing league.” The change in the game allowed these men to flourish at their craft and take their teams to greater heights.

The 2010s brought out an emergence of names such as Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. This crop looked like the potential next five faces of the position once it was their turn to flourish. However, come this time, the previous five were still dominating while these five have so far produced two MVPs, two Super Bowl Rings and zero Super Bowl MVPs. Stafford and Wilson, the lone Super Bowl winners, are having rough starts to the season, Ryan has been benched without return and Luck and Newton already find themselves out of the game.

2018 started the real changing of the guard with the breakout play of that year’s MVP Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, drafted    in 2017 as Alex Smith’s successor in Kansas City, not only won MVP but came within a game of reaching the Super Bowl after an 37-31 AFC Championship overtime loss to Brady and the New England Patriots. Mahomes did not slow down, adding a Super Bowl MVP and ring the following year. This success inked him the largest contract in American professional sports history at 10 years, $503 million. Mahomes followed the extension by leading his team back to the Super Bowl the next year, losing to Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-9. 2021 came with an unfortunate AFC Championship loss to the Cincinnati Bengals after another stellar year from the league’s highest-paid man. After trading away one of his top targets Tyreek Hill in the offseason, Mahomes has proven his worth by leading his team to an early division lead in the AFC West along with numbers similar to his historic first full season.

2018 also saw that year’s first-round pick for the Baltimore Ravens make a name for himself. After taking over for long-time quarterback and Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson went 6-1 leading the Ravens to a playoff berth. He followed up this immediate success with an incredible 2019 season that ended with him unanimously being named that season’s MVP. These first two seasons cemented himself along with Mahomes as a future face of the game. After two mediocre seasons in 2020 and 2021, the latter riddled with injuries, Jackson was looking like he could’ve been another mobile quarterback to have his career cut short. However, his start to the 2022 season has silenced all critics. With few offensive weapons other than Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, Jackson has gotten off to one of the best starts of any quarterback this year, as well as having his Ravens atop the AFC North Division.

The 2018 draft class produced another current face of the game in Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Along with Mahomes and Jackson, Allen also started as a backup quarterback after being picked in the first round. During his first two years, Allen looked solid and was able to lead the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1995. After blowing a 16-point lead to the Houston Texans in that 2019 Wild Card game, sights were set high for the young quarterback for the next year to come. Allen delivered, as in just his third season, he finished in second place in MVP voting while securing Buffalo its first AFC East title in 25 years. The season would end on an unfortunate AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs, but the bar was set high for Allen. Allen was able to follow that same efficiency the next year, despite losing to the Chiefs once again in the playoffs. This year, the MVP favorite hopes he can lead his Bills over the hump and into the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.

The 2020 draft class produced big names such as Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, all of whom could add their names to this list. Burrow is the most successful so far with a Super Bowl appearance last year. A big year from any one of them may officially add their name to the list. But with the undeniable success of Mahomes, Jackson and Allen, they are the clear faces of the game for years to come.