Super Bowl a showcase for next generation of quarterback talent
Feb 5 (Reuters) - It's out with the old and in with the new as the Philadelphia Eagles' Gen-Z talent Jalen Hurts takes on 27-year-old Kansas City Chiefs leader Patrick Mahomes on Sunday in a Super Bowl battle of fresh-faced quarterbacks.
With a combined age of 51 and 337 days -- just six years older than newly re-retired Tom Brady - they are the first two quarterbacks under the age of 28 to face off for the Lombardi Trophy in roughly a quarter-century.
The next-youngest quarterback duo was Joe Montana and Dan Marino, who faced off at Super Bowl 19 at a combined age of 51 years and 350 days, according to ESPN, in 1985.
In a league where elder statesmen once dominated, the young guns are ready to shine.
"There's a brand new generation of really gifted quarterbacks," agent Leigh Steinberg, often credited as the real-life inspiration behind "Jerry Maguire", told Reuters.
Whereas fresh talent used to need time to take hold, Steinberg said the new generation has a "different progression than their forebears", meeting with quarterback coaches and becoming masters of their craft long before they begin studying for their SATs.
"Generally, what holds back a quarterback at younger age is the ability to see the field clearly," he said. "Normally, the first couple of years of a quarterback are bad interceptions, calling time out inappropriately, lining up over guard instead of center.
"But this new group that we have... (is) much more ready to play than their predecessors."
Hurts will become the first member of Gen-Z to start in a Super Bowl, with Pew Research Center defining his generation as those born in 1997 or later.
He has plenty of company among high-achieving young quarterbacks.
With Hurts, Mahomes, Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow and San Francisco 49ers "Mr. Irrelevant" Brock Purdy, it was the first time quarterbacks all aged under 28 started the AFC and NFC championship games last month.
And after 39-year-old Aaron Rodgers picked up back-to-back MVP honors in 2020 and 2021, the four quarterbacks among this year's Most Valuable Player finalists were all 27 or younger.
It is a pattern that's bound to favor budget-minded franchises in a league where established household names demand top dollar.
"To find some stability in that position is like finding a massive gold nugget," ESPN analyst and retired twice Super Bowl champion Rob Ninkovich told Reuters.
"With the current contract status, you have to make a choice: do we pay $50 million annually to a quarterback and then lose other pieces? Or, like a lot of these teams right now, we have somebody under a rookie contract that expands our available money to go to other places?"
The Kansas City Chiefs play the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 57 on Feb. 12.
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