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Old guard vs young guns headlines NFL conference championship storylines

When Drew Brees was breaking Texas high school state records, leading Austin’s Westlake High School to a 16-0 record and a 1996 Texas state title, Jared Goff was hardly two years old. While Brees was throwing for 5,400 yards and 50 touchdowns, Goff was having his diapers changed. Saturday, the two will meet at the Superdome in New Orleans, both starting at quarterback for the teams in the NFC Championship game.

Much can be said about the explosive offenses of the four remaining teams in the NFL playoffs or the bubbly, hot Rams head coach Sean McVay that seemingly every NFL team is trying to clone in coaching searches. Drew Brees is still writing his legacy and trying to squeeze himself onto the quarterback Mount Rushmore with his second Super Bowl. Additionally, Tom Brady is trying to make his G.O.A.T status untouchable and out of sight. But the real storyline lies in the potential changing of the guard at quarterback.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees turned 40 this week. On the opposite sideline is 24-year-old Jared Goff, in just his third NFL season. In the AFC title game: 41-year-old New England’s Tom Brady will take on 23-year-old, and likely MVP, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. Brees and Brady are no-doubt, first-ballot Hall of Famers, but they could be about to hand the reigns over to a new crop of youngsters.

It’s almost too perfect a story for the NFL. I remember stories written by very well-respected football writers, as recently as a few years ago, worried about the future of the NFL quarterback position. Like a Houdini act, that’s all gone. Of the 12 teams that made the NFL playoffs, six were led by teams with quarterbacks that were 25-years-old or younger. Nine were led by teams with quarterbacks of 30-years of age or younger. The future is bright.

When Tom Brady topped the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, Pat Mahomes had a 3.86 ERA throwing 16 games for the Chicago Cubs. No, not Patrick Mahomes – his father.  Now at 23, in his first full year as the Chiefs starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes became the seventh player in the history of the league to throw for 5,000 yards. He’s going to win the MVP, but first he has a chance to knock off the best to ever do it, to reach the Super Bowl.

For Goff, the Rams struggled the first meeting against New Orleans. Now, he travels to the Superdome to play Brees in what might be his best season ever, despite his age. Brees is often forgotten in the conversation of the greatest quarterbacks to play, yet his numbers may suggest he’s right up there with Brady. He’s just missing those extra rings. Brees won Super Bowl XLIV nine years ago, but that’s the only one he’s played in. To get back to that mountain, he’ll have to beat the young guns.