Magic occurred on the Saturday following Christmas Day at the end of the Miami Dolphins game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Fitzmagic, to be exact.
With rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa struggling in crunch time in the 4th quarter, Brian Flores made the call to change to Ryan Fitzpatrick; the Dolphins aren’t strangers to quarterback changes and have rotated Tua and Fitz multiple times during the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 38-years old, has played for 16 seasons on 8 teams, and he led the Miami offense right down the throats of the Raiders’ defense to set up a game-winning field goal for the 26-25 victory.
The Dolphins are now 10-5 and could make the playoffs with a victory next week despite having a revolving quarterback tandem and potentially using a journeyman who resembles a Civil War Veteran more so than a gunslinging golden boy.
During the first moments of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, all of our eyes were set on the ESPN documentary, The Last Dance, a recounting of the Chicago Bulls’ one last Championship ride in 1998, when Michael Jordan was 35 years old.
Colonel Fitzpatrick is trying to lead his own kind of Last Dance postseason run in South Beach this season, and he’s not the only tenured, seasoned veteran quarterback who could pull off that narrative.
Of course, there’s Tom Brady down in Tampa: the man who began the trend of wanting to play until you’re 50 after being reborn by his “TB12 Method” training and diet regimen that consists of avocado smoothies and a single almond, probably. However, who am I to poke fun at his religion when he still seems to have not skipped a beat at 43, the oldest active player in the league? He looks even more revitalized in a new location, away from Belichick’s Massachusetts military academy, and gets to throw the deep ball to an elite set of weapons. In their 47-7 win against Detroit, he had a perfect passer rating and was 5-7 on deep balls and didn’t even have to play past halftime as the Bucs clinched a playoff birth. He’s having fun, and that’s been the main element that has negated the possibility of old age regression.
There’s also Aaron Rodgers, who, at 37, was thought to be on the decline by even his OWN TEAM this year when they drafted a rookie QB in Jordan Love to replace him.
That’s when Rodgers took it personally.
Rodgers is on his way to the MVP and a #1 seed in the NFC by playing with the anger of the older guy in movies set on proving his boss wrong when they bring in the young, handsome replacement who went to a private school and is really skilled with technology. His renaissance this year has been a revelation, and anyone who doubted the man should apologize.
Finally, on the other side of the spectrum, we have three legends of the game who are hanging on by a thread at the shot of bringing their team another title.
There’s Drew Brees (41) in New Orleans, who’s currently playing with 11 broken ribs and a collapsed lung, Ben Roethlisberger (38) on Pittsburgh, who’s one year removed from surgery and moves with the elusiveness of a newborn baby giraffe, and Philip Rivers (39) in Indy, who may have more children than quality deep-throws left in him at this point.
All three of these guys are probable Hall of Famers in potentially their last season playing with a noodle arm on teams carried by their dominant defenses. Nevertheless, they’ve still held their own; the Saints and Steelers have a guaranteed playoff spot, and the Colts are at 10 wins and on the brink of qualifying. Say what you will about their level of play this year. Still, given how tenured these three leaders are, it’s an incredible achievement for them to have the veteran leadership and maintained skillset to still position their teams for contention.
Old age aside, each quarterback’s legacy could each be significantly impacted by a Super Bowl run. Brady, maybe less so; he’s already considered the greatest of all-time with six rings, so a 7th on a new team without Bill would just be another feather in his Louis Vuitton cap. Rodgers has been regarded as one of the most talented quarterbacks of all-time, but critics believe the teams around him have failed him as he’s only gotten one ring out of his prime; a second ring could potentially put him on that “Mt. Rushmore” list of quarterbacks if he’s not on there already for legacy’s sake.
Ben would get a third ring out of four appearances, Brees would get a second to redeem some of the heartbreaking playoff losses, and Rivers would get his first and firmly place his name in the Hall of Fame by getting over the hump after all these years.
If Fitzpatrick wins it, with all due respect to the Miami Dolphins, the entire planet should begin to believe in magic.
NFL fans, take it all in because our time witnessing the successful play of these quarterbacks may be dwindling after having spent the last two decades with them.
It’s poetic to see the paralleled passing of the torch with young guys like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, or Kyler Murray trying to engrave their name in playoff lore as these icons are simultaneously competing for potentially their last chance at a ring.
We’ll be blessed with a new crop of faces in the league, that’s certain, but an homage to the elders and their sustained greatness is necessary.
Featured Image: Brett Martel/APnews.com