Just three years ago, the NFL appeared to be heading into a new era – true dual threat QBs who could run as well as they could pass, and they were confounding NFL defenses. The Golden Era of Black Quarterbacks.
Robert Griffin III had snagged the Rookie of the Year award from Andrew Luck and taken the Redskins to the playoffs. Cam Newton was emerging from early-career doldrums. Colin Kaepernick came out of nowhere to take the 49ers within one play of a Super Bowl victory. And Russell Wilson nearly stunned the top-seeded Falcons in the playoffs.
Three years later, and half of the quartet appears done in the NFL, and the other two are having the worst season of their young careers.
Cam Newton’s been griping at officials all season, but I think that’s hiding his real disdain – he’s peeved NFL defenses have figured him out.
RGIII can’t stay healthy, and there’s no telling if he’ll be on a roster next year. Ditto Kaepernick, who still lacks accuracy. Halfway through this season, Wilson is having the worst statistical year of his career – yes, he’s been hobbled, but he’s only missed a handful of snaps.
But the biggest surprise this season has to be the poor play of Newton. Coming off an MVP season where led the Panthers to a 15-1 campaign and into the Super Bowl, Newton is hitting record lows in his career:
Completion percentage: 57 (Career worst; 31st in the NFL)
Yards per attempt: 7.28 (2nd Worst of his career; 16th in the NFL)
QB Rating: 80.7 (Worst of his career; 26th in the NFL)
QBR: 59.4 (Worst of his career; 16th in the NFL)
Newton missed the Tampa game with a concussion and has taken hard hits against Denver and Arizona … and reacted by complaining. The 6-foot-5 QB has taken hits throughout his career, but never really complained.
He’s also on pace for the fewest rushing attempts, rushing yards, passing yards, and passing TDs, and he’ll probably end up with the second most interceptions of his career. Again, off an MVP season.
NFL defenses usually take a few years to catch up to the new offfenses. Remember how Chip Kelly had a terrific first season in the NFL? A 10-6 record and a playoff trip. Year two was nearly as impressive, as he started 6-2 with Nick Foles at QB. But when he went down, the season fell apart, and they went 10-6 but missed the playoffs. Kelly’s 3rd year was a disaster, the offense a mess – you could argue he didn’t have a star QB – and he was fired.
NFL defenses needed a little over two seasons of Kaepernick to figure him out – we’re talking about a guy who beat the Packers in back-to-back postseasons, and beat Cam on the road, too – and he hasn’t adjusted.
Wilson is a total non-factor running the football this year. Is it his wobbly ankle or have defenses caught up with him? Is his ankle also the reason he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in three straight games (only 5 so far this year), the longest such stretch of his NFL career?
Both teams should rally and sneak into the playoffs, but if they don’t, the spotlight will certainly be on them all offseason, and it’ll make me wonder: Have defenses already caught up to these star QBs?