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The Fading Class of 2004

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by SDRaiderH8er, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. SDRaiderH8er

    SDRaiderH8er Well-Known Member

    Apr 27, 2006

    Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger, and the Fading Class of 2004
    Dec. 5, 2013 9:34 p.m. ET
    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—When Eli Manning's Giants and Philip Rivers's Chargers face off on Sunday, it will mark the latest—and perhaps the last—showdown between two members of one of the greatest quarterback classes in NFL history.

    Ben Roethlisberger Getty Images

    Philip Rivers Associated Press

    Eli Manning Getty Images

    Since they were selected within 10 picks of one another in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft, Manning, Rivers and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger have become three of the most proficient and prolific passers in pro football.

    The trio has started a combined 409 regular-season games, thrown for more than 99,000 yards and 650 touchdowns, and led their teams to a collective 15 playoff appearances, including four Super Bowl titles.

    But ahead of Sunday's showdown between Manning and Rivers, there are signs that after a decade of extraordinary production and persistent success, the Class of '04 is losing some of its luster.

    Last season, for the first time since the three quarterbacks entered the league, the Giants, Chargers and Steelers all missed the playoffs. This year, for the first time in the past decade, their teams are all projected to finish with losing records.

    It may seem premature to talk about a farewell tour for three of the decade's best quarterbacks. After all, Denver's Peyton Manning, New England's Tom Brady and New Orleans's Drew Brees have been in the league longer, and yet they remain the most feared passers in the NFL. (Giants fans will remember that Rivers replaced Brees in San Diego after the Chargers drafted Manning first overall and then traded him to the Giants for Rivers, who had been drafted fourth.)

    Moreover, every NFL team has its down years, and failing to reach the playoffs for a couple of seasons hardly counts as a crisis.

    But for three quarterbacks who have a combined career win percentage of .696, the dramatic decline in their teams' performances this season may speak to a wider issue: All three of them may be over the hill, statistically speaking.

    At 31, Roethlisberger is the youngest of the three. Rivers turns 32 on Sunday and Manning will turn 33 five days after the regular season ends.

    In March, Chase Stuart of Football Perspective examined the career of every quarterback since 1970 with at least three above-average seasons to get a sense of when they reached their peak. The results showed that the five-year period from 26 to 30 represents a quarterback's prime, with age 29 being the peak year. After 30, the study showed, quarterbacks typically start to decline.

    That profile seems to fit Manning, who enjoyed his most successful season in 2011 and has endured two straight subpar seasons since. But Rivers and Roethlisberger are having strong seasons.

    The primary reason behind the collective struggles of the class of '04 may be related to a number that's a lot higher than their ages. Namely, how much they're getting paid.

    Thanks to their early-career success and to the premium teams place on quarterbacks, Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger were given lucrative contract extensions before the 2009 season. Now the players are headed into the richest years of their backloaded contracts.

    Five years into the six-year, $97.5 million contract extension he signed in 2009, Manning's salary cap figure of $20.85 million this season is the highest in the NFL. Rivers and Roethlisberger are also nearing the end of lavish deals and account for $17.1 million and $13.6 million of their teams' payrolls respectively.

    Joel Corry, a former NFL agent, said those deals are starting to weigh heavily on teams because the NFL's salary cap hasn't grown at the same pace as quarterback salaries.

    Since it was implemented in 1994, the NFL salary cap grew steadily, from $34.6 million in its first year to $120.3 million in 2010. But since the league's new collective bargaining agreement came into force in 2011, the cap has remained largely flat, with an increase of less than $3 million over the past two seasons.

    The upshot is these quarterbacks now occupy such a large proportion of the total payroll that their teams don't have enough cap room to keep other top players, leaving them with shallow rosters filled with rookies and low-price free agents.

    During the past off-season, the Giants signed a league-high 10 players to one-year, minimum-salary benefit deals, while Pittsburgh was forced to part ways with seven starters from last season, the team's largest cull of starters in a decade.

    "It's an issue teams are starting to face," said Corry. "You can spend forever searching for a franchise quarterback. But when you find one, especially when they get into their second contracts, it's harder and harder to put a successful team around them."
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  2. JohnnyX

    JohnnyX ☆☆☆☆☆

    Oct 7, 2010
    If Brees, Brady, and P.Manning are still in this league and not as 3rd string back up hasbeens. I think the '04 Class is gonna prosper. I really think Rivers best years ahead of him, if McCoy can do this well with Rivers and with very little added talent to the Offense. Imagine the duo a few years down the road when they can get a half way good defense built. I think Rivers is in for at least one MVP 40+ TD season(like '13, '04 Manning, '07 Brady, '11 Rodgers). Eli should be very well once that G defense of old returns and same goes for the Steelers, although with how Big Ben takes hits all the time I wouldn't be surprised if he were the first the three to decline.

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