Headlines are often made by the older veteran quarterbacks making a steller "comeback" such as Kurt Warner leading the traditional bottom-feeding Cardinals to the superbowl, or Kerry Collins replacing Vince Young and doing an outstanding job there. Of course we can't forget future hall-of-famer Brett Favre's retiring/un-retiring/retiring again saga, but it would be good to take a look at the young guns - the up-and-comers who will replace these gentlemen over the next 10 years or so.
So here you have it, what appears to be (in my humble opinion) the top young quarterbacks in the league who are still under 30 years old.
Drew Brees - Saints
Brees put up nearly record-shattering numbers this past season, falling just a few yards short of breaking Dan Marino's record of most yards passing in one season. He is efficient, accurate, and makes excellent reads, even without his best targets. It is hard to argue against a man who threw for 5069 yards and 34 touchdowns, both of which led the league.
Philip Rivers - Chargers
Rivers possessed the league's best passer rating over the last season and tied with Drew Brees for most touchdown passes with 34. Taking the Chargers to the playoffs often with an injured L.T. and an injury-plagued Antonio Gates at tight end, his quick reads and ability to place the ball exactly where it needs to be makes him one of the premier young quarterbacks in the league.
Jay Cutler - Broncos
Cutler finished the regular season ranked 3rd in passing yards and 7th in passing touchdowns, and is regarded as having an exceptionally strong arm. He has big-play ability and strong play-reading skills. Cutler definitely has the ability to become one of the next great quarterbacks.
Matt Cassel - Patriots
Cassel had the benefit of playing in an outstanding quarterback-producing system, and as a result finished 8th in passing yards for the season. While Cassel has much to prove, his years in Kansas City will prove whether or not he has what it takes to become a great quarterback. So far, he's on his way with multiple games with over 400 passing yards.
Matt Ryan - Falcons
Learning more each passing day, Ryan has the potential to become a superstar quarterback once he has a few more years under his belt. Complemented by a strong Falcon running attack and a good coaching system in place, Ryan will only continue to improve. He lead the Falcons to a playoff berth this year and has all the intangibles working in his favor.
Tony Romo - Cowboys
Despite missing three games this season with a broken finger, Romo was 6th in passing touchdowns and 12th in passing yards. Talent is not a problem with Romo, his reads are usually spot-on, and his ability to spread the ball around to multiple receivers is excellent. Playing mistake-free football is not his strongest suit, but he is improving game-by-game.
Joe Flacco - Ravens
Flacco has the big-play ability necessary to take his team far, and does not buckle under pressure. He is still more of a game-managing quarterback than a signal caller, but has the physical ability and necessary qualities to become an excellent quarterback when his time comes. Leading the Ravens to the AFC Championship game this year was an outstanding feat given his age and experience level.
Eli Manning - Giants
Manning played much more mistake-free football this past season than he has in seasons past, but continues to make key mistakes, fluctuating between stellar games and very lackluster performances. Without Plaxico Burress to throw to, Manning struggled but is still considered to be a solid quarterback. He will improve greatly in time, and needs to be a more consistent player to move up this list.
Ben Rothlisberger - Steelers
Spare me, Steelers fans, for placing Rothlisberger this far down the list. While the young quarterback has two Super Bowl rings, his performance in the first was dismal, while his performance in the second, except for orchestrating a perfect last-second drive to win, was only fair. Rothlisberger finished 15th in passing yards for '08, and 15th in passing touchdowns. Middle of the road, but he has the benefit of playing with a world-class defense and a strong running game.
Aaron Rodgers - Packers
Rogers had enormous shoes to fill after becoming the Packers quarterback following Brett Favre's "retirement" last season, but did so admirably. The Packers' record over the last season is definitely not a reflection of their quarterback. Showing good poise and, at times, escapability, Rogers threw for 4038 yards produced 28 touchdowns over the 2008 season. Give him time and he should make good use of the excellent tools he has been given.