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Will Brees and Brady pass the torch or light it up?

by J.W. Miller on 01/14/19

My grandson Keegan is 4 1/2 and loves to watch football and scrum with his 2 1/2 year old sister Ella. She is not only beautiful, but an able tackler, so Keegan has a good training mate with whom to sharpen his skills. My only scouting report on his athletic ability comes from his mom, who might be a bit partial, but I’m thinking that once he gets over his infatuation with soccer, he might become a gridiron force to be reckoned with. So indulge me while I fantasize for a moment at Keegan’s athletic future, and my purpose will become clear.

I envision Keegan is a quarterback and enjoys an All-America career at Virginia Tech (his dad’s alma mater). He is drafted in the first round of the 2035 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins (his favorite team) and in two years leads his team to the NFC championship with a 63 to 44 win over the Los Angeles Rams. The next week in Super Bowl LXX, Keegan leads the Redskins to an electric come-from-behind 77 to 74 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The electronic scribes of the day hail Keegan’s victory as a generational phenomenon. After all, he defeated two teams that, in succession, were led by 41-year-Jared Goff and his geriatric peer, 41-year-old Patrick Mahomes. You see where I’m going with this? 

NFL fans will not have to wait for Keegan to become a young quarterback who faces a couple of old coots in an effort to win the Super Bowl, but that’s the best way I can explain just what we are facing in the NFL conference championship games. Ice the beer, grill the chicken wings and order your favorite multi-topping pizzas as you watch two young quarterbacks who were Keegan's age when their aged opponents came into the NFL. In other words, never before have both conference championship games featured two veteran elite quarterbacks facing teams led by Millennials. 

If you don’t know what a Millennial is, go to You Tube for Micah Taylor's humorous explanation, but in popular terms it refers to the younger generation. And on Sunday, you’ll see two of their entitled delegates take the pitch. Goff, 23, leads the Rams against the Saints and QB Drew Brees, who turns 40 on Tuesday, while Mahomes, who is also 23, leads the Chiefs against the venerable Tom Brady, who is 41. 

Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal characterizes the games as a “potential generational torch passing.” Brees and Brady have “ritualistically carved up defenses for years in the most diabolical way, peppering opponents with precise and traditional passing attacks. Mahomes … (and)… Goff have invaded the league’s elite by playing completely differently. They star in explosive offenses that renounced the same norms Brady and Brees mastered en route to Super Bowl wins.” The fact is that the four quarterbacks lead the top four offenses in the NFL this year which helped earn their teams the top four seeds in the playoffs. 

So who will prevail? Will experience and performance over time win out? It would be a resounding statement if the Saints and Patriots win and head for the Super Bowl. Brees and Brady have performed at an elite level for many years, avoiding career-threatening injuries and solving multiple defensive schemes intended to stop them. They have endured rules interpretations, a revolving door of teammates and scandals (see: Bountygate, Inflategate, etc.). Or will youth be served as the young guns replicate their free-wheeling styles that might signal the direction of where the NFL is headed? More scoring, less emphasis on defense and rules changes to pump up the numbers. 

It’s a generational question worthy of a Gallup poll, and I believe the answers would be predictable. Respondents over the age of 40 would favor the Brees-Brady combination by a margin of 74 percent to 26 percent, while respondents age 39 and under would favor the Mahomes-Goff combination by a margin of 36 percent to 20 percent. The remaining 44 percent took their participation medals and went to Starbucks. 

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