Everyone on the football field has an important job to do, but nobody is as important as the quarterback. He runs the show, and without a decent player behind center a team can’t realistically hope to win anything.
So as the league moves more and more towards a pass first game, it’s even more important that a team have an elite quarterback. But there just aren’t many great quarterbacks anymore. At the very top you have elite guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. The next tier down includes players that show flashes of brilliance but don’t produce consistently, like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. After that, the list takes a nose dive, fast. The overall lack of talented quarterbacks evokes the NFL of the 70s more than the 80s, 90s and 2000s.
Hall of Famer Warren Moon attributes the lack of quality QB play to the perception that the NFL is in the decline:
“If this is going to be a quarterback-driven league, the quarterback has to be coached better,” Moon, a Hall of Fame quarterback, told USA TODAY Sports. “There’s a lot of bad quarterbacking out there.”
Teams rely on amateur level programs to develop their talent, chiefly high school and college football teams. But college football isn’t affiliated with the NFL, and teams are under no obligation to the league. As a result, many college teams run hurry up, no huddle spread offenses that don’t translate to the NFL. Moon thinks this is the main problem holding back quarterback play, and he believes the solution is a developmental league, just like the MLB, NHL and NBA have.
“The NFL needs a farm system, like it used to have with NFL Europe,” Moon said. “It gives them those reps. Think about guys like Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna, and Brad Johnson, who all played overseas and benefitted from the experience.”
Farm teams are a effective way for teams in other sports to develop talent on the cheap and delay giving out huge contracts until players have proven themselves. Even if the teams don’t make much money on their own, they add immense value to the franchises they’re affiliated with, and enhance the overall quality of the league they feed into. The NFL would be wise to restart the league, either at home or abroad in one of the foreign markets the league wants to expand into.