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Armour: Patriots Might Win the Super Bowl, but the NFL’s Future is Now

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Los Angeles Rams' Jared Goff talks to New England Patriots' Tom Brady during Opening Night for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game in Atlanta. The wide-eyed, talented Goff will try to lead his Rams past the grizzled, 41-year-old Brady, who is looking to guide the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl victory. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

By Nancy Armour |

Watch this Super Bowl closely, and you’ll get a glimpse of the future.

Not in a Tony Romo kind of way, though seeing how many plays he correctly predicts will add another layer of fun to Sunday’s game. Much like the last time the New England Patriots and Rams played for the NFL title, this game feels somewhat like a passing of the torch. A transition from one generation to the next, regardless of the final score.

Just as a young Tom Brady heralded a new era back in 2002, so, too, it seems does Jared Goff now.  

“All of us get older — except Tom Brady,” Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips joked Thursday.

“It’s going to change sooner or later,” Phillips said, turning serious. “There’s new guys that step in. That’s what’s great about this league. There’s always up-and-coming young players that are great players that we all kind of gravitate to.”

For years, Brady and Peyton Manning carried the NFL, both in personality and with their performances on the field. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers eventually joined them, the latest golden age of quarterbacks.

Brady shows no signs of slowing down – obviously, given he’s got the Patriots in the Super Bowl for a third consecutive year at the age of 41. Brees, 40, also seems ageless, the biggest impediment to a second Super Bowl run coming not from his shortcomings but that of an official. And having just turned 35, Rodgers could easily make another title run or two.

But they are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, and the question looming over the NFL the last few years has been who will take their place? Who will be the NFL’s next big star?

This season provided some answers.

If you weren’t entertained by the epic shootout between Patrick Mahomes and Goff in Week 11 – 105 total points, 1,001 yards and four lead changes just in the fourth-quarter – then you obviously hate fun. And anyone who watched that game could clearly see that those two are the heirs apparent to Brady and Manning.

Which brings us to back to the Super Bowl. Mahomes nearly got here, staging a furious rally to force overtime against the Patriots in the AFC title game. Had the coin flip gone the other way, well, maybe it’d be Kansas City here and we’d be dissecting the end of the Brady-Belichick dynasty in New England.

We’re not, but the Chiefs’ time is coming.

Not so for Goff and the Rams. They’ve already arrived.

Two years ago, Goff was a colossal bust in the making, an overall No. 1 pick who couldn’t win a game. Turns out, all he needed was the right coach. In Sean McVay’s first two years, the Rams made the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 season and, this year, reached the Super Bowl. 

McVay has also upended the NFL’s traditional path to success with his turbocharged Rams offense. The Rams averaged a whopping 421.1 yards of offense a game, second only to Kansas City, and were the only team to finish in the top five in yards passing (281.7) and rushing (139.4).

But the stat that’s truly eye-popping is the 30 or more points the Rams scored in all but four games during the regular season.

Topping the 30-point barrier used to be an aberration in the NFL. Now everyone is scrambling to figure out how they, too, can run and gun – which explains why anyone who’s ever crossed paths with McVay was a hot commodity for teams looking for coaches.

“I’m hoping not all old coaches fade away!” the 71-year-old Phillips said. “But yeah, Sean coming in (sparked) the new wave of, `Hey, let’s be like Sean McVay. Let’s get a young guy that’s going to help us get to the playoffs and Super Bowl quickly.’”

McVay is the youngest to ever coach in the Super Bowl, and Goff is the youngest to win an NFC title. Nothing is promised to any NFL team, except maybe the Patriots, but the future looks bright for the Rams.

And if Goff and Mahomes turn out to be half as good and entertaining as Brady and Manning were, the NFL is in very good shape.

This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

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