What Are They Smoking’? : The NFL’s Next Big Problem

The NFL has ninety-nine problems, but a son of a bitch ain’t one.

After Donald Trump’s divisive comments that NFL owners should “fire” the “sons of bitches” who kneel during the National Anthem at football games, the league’s problems continue to grow with each passing day.

There’s the drop in television ratings; the protests of social and racial inequalities; the lack of entertaining gameplay; the archaic drug testing policy; and the fact that Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been signed yet. Not to mention the NFL’s biggest problem—head trauma—that needs to be solved as quickly as possible.

But there’s another issue that people aren’t talking about, and it will have a huge impact on the quality of games in the near future: The impending retirement of some of the NFL’s best—and most marketable—quarterbacks, and what that will mean for the future of football.

The NFL has recently struggled with unwatchable primetime games, including the start of the 2017 season. But future tilts will almost assuredly get better as teams get more playing time together and offenses inevitably catch up to defenses. However, the quality of games could get a lot worse, and it could happen as soon as next season. Let’s take a stroll down the NFL’s darkest timeline: One where EVERYONE RETIRES!

The Three B’s Retire

Almost immediately after the 2016 season ended, Ben Roethlisberger started dropping hints that he could have played his final game under center. Alas, Big Ben didn’t hang it up, but he has flirted with the idea. This could easily be the end of the line for a QB who has taken his fair share of hits.

In the offseason, Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bündchen, said that her husband has had a plethora of undocumented concussions. Brady has previously stated that he wants to play into his mid-40s, but how much more does he have to accomplish, seeing as he’s already regarded as the G.O.A.T.? And if Gisele wants her hubby to retire, that might be the end of the line for Brady as a Patriot. Don’t forget that New England has Jimmy Garoppollo—a potential franchise QB — waiting in the wings.

Drew Brees, who turns 39 at the end of the season, has to be tired of going 7 and 9 every year with Sean Payton. Brees might still be as accurate as ever, but he’s starting to lose more and more arm strength and mobility. It wouldn’t be crazy to think that if Payton gets fired, Brees will decide to hang it up.

If these three retire, it would be catastrophic for the NFL. But what if that’s just the beginning?

We already know that Jay Cutler (who came out of retirement for one last ride) and Carson Palmer (who said this is his final year) will retire at the end of the season.

What if Alex Smith loses the starting job to Patrick Mahomes, and decides he doesn’t want to be a bridge QB for another team looking to replace him?

And Eli Manning’s been washed for years. Maybe he’ll finally realize it and retire.

Perhaps Philip Rivers is tired of taking his pimped-out RV up the coast from San Diego to Los Angeles just to choke away another fourth quarter lead.

What if Cam Newton and Andrew Luck don’t return to form after serious offseason surgery?

College QBs are now entering the NFL more unprepared than ever, thanks to the invasion of the spread offenses in college football and the lack of reading defenses. If an influx of young QBs is needed, then football, perhaps even by next year, could be borderline unwatchable for many.

The game has already lost Peyton Manning and Tony Romo to retirement. If they lose any number of these star QBs, compounded with the other problems the NFL faces, then the league has a near-crisis on their hands.

Good luck, Roger Goodell.

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