I can still remember sitting and watching the 2004 NFL Draft and wondering if the Pittsburgh Steelers would be lucky enough to claim one of the top three quarterbacks in that particular draft class.
Eli Manning out of Ole Miss, Philip Rivers out of NC State and Ben Roethlisberger out of Miami of Ohio. The trio of quarterbacks were considered to be three of the best prospects in recent memory, at the time, and we all know how things shook out with the New York Giants, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fast forward to 2020, and it seems the beginning of the end has officially commenced for the great 2004 quarterback class. On Wednesday, Eli Manning announced his official retirement from the Giants, leaving just Roethlisberger and Rivers as the remaining pieces of the quarterback class puzzle.
Eli Manning announces retirement.#ThankYouEli— New York Giants (@Giants) January 22, 2020
Manning’s retirement shouldn’t shock anyone, considering he was the backup behind Daniel Jones in 2019, but when you look at the 2004 quarterback class as a whole, the future is pretty bleak.
Rivers is coming off another up-and-down season in Los Angeles, and, barring the team giving him a new contract, is about to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Rivers claims he still wants to play, but if he goes elsewhere seeing him without the lightning bolt on the side of his helmet will certainly be different.
As for Roethlisberger, he is under contract for the next two seasons, but is coming off a season-ending elbow injury to his throwing arm. Anyone who has sustained an injury to their throwing arm, in an occupation where throwing an object is what you do for a living, knows how difficult it is to come back from. In other words, Roethlisberger has to prove he can still play, and be effective, prior to the start of the 2020 regular season.
It is sad to see an era of quarterback coming to an end. Throw in the fact Tom Brady and Drew Brees are also preparing for their own personal stints as free agents, and the NFL quarterback landscape is certainly about to change.
If you want to argue if the 2004 quarterback draft class is the best ever, go right ahead, but for me this is more about the changing of the guard at the quarterback position. Enter Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes. All young quarterbacks with bright futures ahead of them. Meanwhile the old guard is just trying to hang on for one, or two, more glorious years in the sun before riding off into the sunset.
Manning’s retirement just set those wheels in motion, and for this 37 year old writer who has lived the majority of his life in this quarterback era, it will be different when these tremendous gun slingers call it quits and we are left wondering who is left in the NFL at the quarterback position.