NFL 2013: Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III in the 'steroid era' of quarterbacks

robert-griffin-iii-washington-redskins-325.jpgEveryone knows who the quarterback is. And rightly so. He's the leader of the offense, often the face of the franchise and the one the media tend to focus on (unless, of course, he's Aaron Hernandez or any of the slew of NFL players who ran into trouble with the law this offseason).

The breed of field general that frequents NFL playing fields these days throws for big yardage (11 topped 4,000 yards a year ago,) high completion rates (15 with more than 300 attempts connected on 60 percent or better of their passes in 2012) and a lot of touchdowns (five averaged two or more TD passes per game). And some, such as Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton, can run it, no matter the risk to their well-compensated bodies.

As ex-New York Giants quarterback and current CBS analyst Phil Simms tells Zap2it, "This is the steroid era for quarterbacks; the numbers are ridiculous. I heard somebody say -- I've forgotten which game it was -- the quarterback was 26 of 38 for like 300 yards and two touchdowns. 'Well, he just had an OK day.' It's moronic.

"I constantly rant about it, and I will never stop. It's not baseball -- [in that sport] the numbers are pretty true. To try to compare [the Baltimore Ravens'] Joe Flacco's numbers against [the New England Patriots'] Tom Brady's, you can't do it. Joe Flacco is a home-run hitter; Tom Brady is a singles and doubles guy. They play in two entirely different systems. So to start comparing numbers, you can't do that. And you know, people will never understand that because, you know, we have the QBR (quarterback rating) and whatever else they rate them by. So it's unfair, and it's unfair to the players because the public and everybody else, the media, gravitate to the numbers always."

One who has put up serious numbers over the years -- and won a lot of games in the process -- is Aaron Rodgers, whose Green Bay Packers are in preseason action against the Seattle Seahawks Friday, Aug. 23, on CBS. Since taking over for Brett Favre in 2008, the 29-year-old Californian has thrown for 21,332 yards, 170 touchdowns and only 45 interceptions with a 65.9 completion percentage and won NFL MVP honors in 2011. In those five years, the Pack has gone to the postseason four times and won the Super Bowl following the 2010 season (and he won game MVP honors in Super Bowl XLV).

"He's an elite quarterback," says ESPN analyst and former NFL head coach and player Herm Edwards, "the No. 1 quarterback in the league in my opinion because when you watch him, he's going to throw anywhere between 35 to 40 touchdowns a year. That means you have 14 points before the game starts."

One clearly on his way to becoming an elite signal caller is Griffin, who as a rookie in 2012 helped transform the moribund Washington Redskins into a contender, leading them to their first playoff berth in five years before succumbing to a late-season knee injury. His first NFL season was a productive one: 3,200 yards in the air with 20 touchdowns, only five interceptions and a completion percentage of 65.6. He also ran for 815 yards and another seven scores.

"Robert Griffin III is the key -- a dual threat," Edwards says of the 23-year-old whose Redskins can be seen in action Monday, Aug. 19, on ESPN when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers. "They've got to protect the guy. They've got to use him more like when Mike (Shanahan, the Redskins' head coach) was in Denver and he had (John) Elway. You know, get him on the edges and let him throw it and let him be a play-action-pass quarterback. ... (His health) is what you worry about. If you watch some of the hits he took, it was like 'Whoa!' "

"He is truly a star in every sense of the word," Simms says, "... because people want to be around him for a lot of reasons."
Photo/Video credit: ESPN Images/Photo by Phil Ellsworth