The close of a tumultuous 2020 football season (and the entire year for that matter) and the subsequent start of 2021 has sparked feelings of optimism for many. Unfortunately, the start of 2021 always saw the end of an era play out, as Drew Brees and Philip Rivers played the final games of their illustrious careers. Many NFL fans have long been spoiled by specific players’ consistent high-quality quarterback play for much of the last two decades. Let’s take a few moments to appreciate what Brees and Rivers have accomplished.
THE END OF AN ERA
Brees, who turned 42 just two days before Sunday’s 30-20 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC divisional round, hasn’t officially announced a decision about his future. However, the Saints’ QB certainly looked like a player that is ready to hang it up this season. Though his decision will come later, the smart money remains on Brees retiring. Admittedly, in Brees’ defense, reports recently surfaced that he had dealt with more injuries this season than were reported. According to his wife, the veteran played with a torn rotator cuff and a torn plantar fascia, in addition to the 11 broken ribs and collapsed lung that was previously reported.
In what is believed to be his final game in the NFL, Brees completed 19 of 32 passes for 134 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Though his processing speed remains as sharp as ever, this performance seemed to stamp the fact that the aging veteran’s arm strength and mobility have noticeably diminished. Still, Brees’ NFL greatness should be highlighted. Brees currently sits first on the NFL’s all-time passing list with 80,358 passing yards and second on the list with 571 passing TDs.
Brees served as a perennial top-five fantasy option from 2008 to 2018 and was a reliable fantasy starter for even longer. He is a sure-fire HOFer and might go down the greatest free-agent signing in NFL history.
The Indianapolis Colts’ QB announced his retirement on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Rivers’ retirement comes after just one season with the Colts, leading them to an 11-5 record with a playoff berth. The former 2004 fourth-overall draft pick out of N.C. State spent his first 16 seasons in San Diego/Los Angeles as the signal-caller for the Chargers. He made 240 consecutive starts in his 17-year career. The 39-year-old Rivers ends his career ranked fifth in NFL history in both passing yards (63,440) and touchdown passes (421).
Philip Rivers and his A+ trash talk are retiring from the NFL.
We'll miss it.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 20, 2021
While many are quick to point out the absence of a Super Bowl appearance, the PG-rated, trash-talking QB with the unorthodox throwing motion looks to be a future HOFer. Rivers never became a top-tier fantasy starter, but he did offer multiple years of significant production and remained a reliable asset for the better part of 15 years. Moreover, in the waning hours of his career and under noticeable decline in ability, River helped lead Indianapolis to the playoffs, compiling 4,169 yards through the air and a 24:11 TD to INT ratio. You don’t find that in every dynasty rookie draft.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS MOVING FORWARD
Though Brees will retire with a litany of passing records and a Super Bowl championship, the Saints have immediate turbulence in the form of their salary cap. Currently, New Orleans has the worst cap situation of any team in the NFL. Nevertheless, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston could end up competing for the starting QB job in 2021; and there are NFL teams worse off than that at the position. If Winston can be brought back on another one-year, team-friendly deal then the situation next year may not be as dire as it looks now. Everyone saw the 56-yard trick play touchdown toss from Jameis Winston against the Bucs.
Brees’ ensuing retirement and moving on from some defensive starters can help remedy the cap space situation for the team. Aside from retooling a defense with younger, new starters, Winston or Hill would step into one of the league’s best offensive situations. Given the pedigree, history, arm-talent, and experience, your author suggests trying to acquire shares of Jameis Winston now while they are cheap.
“This is your team now” pic.twitter.com/eQp0RT29hT
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) January 18, 2021
However, don’t overreact and throw your first-round picks at him. Instead, toss a mid-to-late second-round pick to the owner and see if you can swindle a starting QB in Sean Payton’s potent offense.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS MOVING FORWARD
Philip Rivers making his decision this early gives Indianapolis clarity on their QB situation. Now they need one. Their 2021 starter may be on the roster now, should they choose to bring back Jacoby Brissett on a one-year, prove-it deal, or 2020 rookie Jacob Eason wins the job in the offseason. The answer also might come from the 2021 Draft this April. It might even be a different veteran QB once the market becomes settled in the coming weeks. Both Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz have been names thrown around, for a variety of reasons, if the Colts choose to explore a trade.
Finding the next face of the franchise is not easy, as many NFL franchises can attest to. However, the Colts do boast a solid, young defensive unit and some young playmakers on offense. Considering this, with QB specialist Frank Reich as head coach, the Colts are well-positioned to transition beyond Rivers. This will be a fun situation to monitor during the offseason, especially with the talent Indy possesses in the trenches, combined with young stars Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman, and Nyheim Hines, in addition to Parris Campbell returning from injury.
WHICH QBs WILL END THEIR ERA NEXT?
Looking ahead to 2021 one has to believe that Big Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady appear to be the most likely candidates for retirement after next season. Both sure-fire HOFers in their own right, it will be interesting to see how their respective franchises handle their personnel and cap situations during 2021. Currently, both Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay boast strong defenses and young offensive playmakers, similar to the Colts’ situation right now. We may be discussing this end of an era topic next season for those two illustrious QBs!
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