NEW YORK – The two kids from northern California burst from NFL afterthought to championship contender in eerily similar fashion a decade apart.
Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick, each playing in a conference title game this weekend, are bookends to a fortuitous moment in quarterback history. On one side are the likes of Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, still scintillating in their mid-30s.
On the other are Kaepernick, a second-year player, and the brilliant class of rookies with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson leading their teams to the playoffs.
Young, old and in between, the current crop of NFL quarterbacks is deep and diverse.
Were in a little bit of a boom right now. Were flowing a little bit, especially young players, Hall of Famer Steve Young said last week. If those guys continue to develop, well have a period of time here, kind of a Camelot of quarterbacking.
The depth of the position shows in the other two guys joining the Patriots Brady and the 49ers Kaepernick in the conference championship games. Atlantas Matt Ryan and Baltimores Joe Flacco were first-round draft picks in 2008, and for all their successes, theyre probably low on the list when fans think of the most dominant NFL quarterbacks.
Yet here they are a win away from the Super Bowl after leading stirring comebacks that answered many doubts about each.
I cant remember – even though this is a quarterback-driven league – as many remarkable and compelling stories on the quarterback side as youre seeing this year, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said.
There was that brief stretch less than 15 years ago when Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson won Super Bowls, and it seemed perhaps championship teams didnt need a star at the position. Since then, heres the roll call of victorious quarterbacks: Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, both Manning brothers, Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Jimmy Johnson, who won two Super Bowls with future Hall of Famer Troy Aikman as his quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, was talking to Bill Belichick last summer about the recent shift. Belichick has won three championships with Brady, but even as of a few years ago, both coaches believed a title was possible behind a strong defense and running game.
Now, the only thing that matters is if you get a great quarterback, said Johnson, now a Fox commentator.
This quarterback Camelot is about more than the deep field of effective starters. The playoffs oozed with stars popular not just for their performances but their personalities and pizazz.
I marvel at how prepared these guys are – not only on the field, but the exposure they get off it, Aikman said. Whether its through social networks or different platforms, they are given the opportunity to talk to the press and are much more well-rounded and prepared for all that comes with the scrutiny of the position than ever before.
If youre on Park Avenue in New York (at league headquarters), youre pretty happy with the new representatives that will be the ambassadors for the league for the years to come.