Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Appreciate the NFL’s Golden Age of quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers has thrown 32 touchdown passes and only three interceptions this season.
Aaron Rodgers has thrown 32 touchdown passes and only three interceptions this season. Getty Images

Generally, it is in retrospect that we anoint something the “golden age of so and so.” It happens after the fact, upon reflection and in historical context. But we needn’t wait to call this the Golden Age of Quarterbacking in the NFL.

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers — not necessarily in that order — are a Mount Rushmore of current passers as good a quartet that has ever played concurrently. Andrew Luck seems destined to join their echelon.

This occurred to me last week as Rodgers and Brady faced each other for the first time, and as Manning threw a TD pass in his 51st consecutive game. Brees? He has a 101.7 rating and league-leading 70.3 completion percentage, and he’s said to be having an off year. Luck leads everybody with 4,011 yards.

A panel of experts just picked the NFL’s 50 greatest players for the New York Daily News, and Manning and Brady ranked sixth and seventh. That list in 10 years surely will include Rodgers, who ranks No.1 all-time (by a lot) with a 106.5 career passer rating. MVP favorite Rodgers has thrown 360 consecutive passes and 31 TDs at home since his last interception two full years ago. That’s insane.

It is in this context — by comparison — that all others pale. From solid veterans like Tony Romo and Philip Rivers to young guys like Ryan Tannehill in Miami, all stand in the shadow of Mount Rushmore.

THIRD-QUARTER AWARDS

Twelve games in and four to go means it’s time for the King Sport Third-Quarter Awards:

▪ MVP — Aaron Rodgers, Packers QB. With 32 TDs, three picks and a 118.6 rating, it isn’t close.

▪ Offensive Player of the Year — Andrew Luck, Colts QB. His 4,011 yards puts him on pace to still challenge the season record. Rodgers and Peyton Manning also are in the mix.

▪ Defensive POY — J.J. Watt, Texans DE. Give it to him now. Not close.

▪ Other categories — Offensive rookie: Mike Evans, Bucs WR. Defensive rookie: C.J. Moseley, Ravens LB. Coach: Bruce Arians, Cardinals.

▪ Dolphins MVP — Ryan Tannehill, QB. DE Cam Wake and CB Brent Grimes in the hunt.

SCATTER-SHOOTING

▪ Updated Super Bowl betting odds, via Bovada: Packers for first time are SB favorites at 7-2, then it’s Patriots 15-4, Broncos 17-4 and Seahawks 13-2. Miami is now 50-1 (was 75-1). Pack QB Rodgers is now a prohibitive MVP favorite at 1-2.

▪ The fight for the AFC’s No.6 playoff spot currently controlled by Miami is absurdly tight. Makenflplayoffs.com says Dolphins have a 33.45 percent chance to make the playoffs, Chiefs 33.06 percent, Steelers 32.22 percent and Bills, Ravens and Browns all in the 20s.

▪ Two teams can clinch playoff berths by winning Sunday: Colts (if Texans also lose) and Broncos (if five other teams all lose).

▪ Colts last week were first team since 1966 Redskins with six TDs of at least 30 yards.

▪ Looks like the three biggest NFL season records are all safe. Luck’s passing-yards pace of 5,348 is now well off Manning’s mark of 5,477. No one is even as close in rushing or receiving.

▪ Old Cane Andre Johnson of Texans (992) is eight catches from becoming 10th receiver with 10,000 in his career.

▪ Sunday’s Pats-Chargers game features two of greatest closers in the sport. Philip Rivers is 29-3 (.906) in final four games of regular season and Brady is 40-8 (.833). They rank 1-2 in Super Bowl era.

▪ Seahawk Richard Sherman has 23 interceptions with four games left in his fourth season. Record for one’s first four years in 25, by Lester Hayes, Everson Walls and Kenny Easley.

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