Is the SEC in for another long drought without a starting Super Bowl QB? A deeper look
For the 5th consecutive year, a Super Bowl was played without a former SEC quarterback starting in it. Every other Power 5 conference has been represented in that stretch. Shoot, even the FCS Ohio Valley Conference got in there thanks to Jimmy Garoppolo last year.
Ever since Peyton Manning started against Cam Newton to decide the winner of the 2015 NFL season, we haven’t even seen a former SEC quarterback reach a conference title game. Well, we’re not counting former Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill in that department because he never played in the SEC.
Five years actually isn’t that long of a drought, though. From 1983-2005, not a single SEC quarterback started in the Super Bowl. Are we heading into another drought like that?
The short answer to that question is “no.” At least I don’t think so. That would essentially mean that Dak Prescott, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones and Kyle Trask will never make a Super Bowl. Betting odds would suggest that at least one of those players will get there. Burrow would be the best bet to make that happen, especially if the Bengals can get him some help while he’s still on his rookie deal.
But in the short term? Yeah, it’s hard to see it happening anytime soon.
Look at the group of SEC quarterbacks who could potentially play in a Super Bowl. Including Cam Newton, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen and Matthew Stafford, 5 SEC players started their team’s last regular-season games. Prescott and Burrow suffered devastating season-ending injuries for non-Playoff teams, Allen filled in for Burrow while Newton and Lock could easily be replaced as their team’s starter in 2021.
It certainly isn’t Burrow’s Bengals who appear to be on a fast track to the Super Bowl. At best, they’re years from surrounding their quarterback with a playoff-caliber roster. Even if Prescott returns to Dallas with a rich new contract, it’ll be with a franchise that hasn’t been to a conference title game since 1995.
If we were having this conversation 2 weeks ago and Stafford’s name came up, that conversation would’ve started and ended with the words “Detroit Lions.” But now that Stafford is with the Los Angeles Rams, he represents the best chance for an SEC quarterback to reach the Super Bowl in the near future.
To recap, that means the best chance to see an SEC quarterback starting in the Super Bowl anytime soon is Stafford, AKA the guy with an 0-3 career record in the playoffs. That’s, um, not promising. That’s not a shot fired at the 33-year-old quarterback, who endured 12 long years in Detroit.
Again, I agree with the masses that he’s in a much better spot now than at any point in his NFL career:
Best day for Matthew Stafford since whenever this happened pic.twitter.com/8IF1oKs9Rc
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) January 31, 2021
Even with Stafford off to greener pastures on the West Coast, the lack of stable franchises surrounding SEC quarterbacks suggests the drought will continue. Look at Tagovailoa, who just missed out on the playoffs as a rookie with the Dolphins. As recently as last week, Tagovailoa was quoted as saying he was “not too sure” about his future in Miami. Yeah, I wouldn’t be either if I heard rumors that I could be on the way out a year removed from being a top-5 pick.
The interesting thing is that 2020 was incredibly kind to SEC quarterbacks. Tagovailoa went No. 5 overall and Burrow went No. 1. The SEC also watched Jones and Trask both be named Heisman Trophy finalists. On the surface, one would think that SEC quarterbacks are getting ready to take over the league. Maybe they will and this is just reactionary thinking to a disappointing end to 2020 for a bunch of former SEC signal-callers.
But the SEC’s Super Bowl quarterback drought nearly coincided with another 5-year drought. That is, from 2015-19, the SEC didn’t produce a single first-round quarterback. That’s perhaps at the root of why the prospects seem so limited.
Well, and the fact that Manning retired at the end of the 2015 season. Peyton and Eli Manning made a combined 6 Super Bowls in a 10-year stretch.
I know what you’re thinking — don’t forget about Arch Manning! My bad. I forgot about the kid who can’t even be drafted until 2026 because he’s a sophomore in high school. He’s barely old enough to drive (I think?) and he’s not even committed to an SEC school yet, but sure, Arch Manning is going to end this SEC quarterback in the Super Bowl drought. Dream big.
What’s clear is that for at least another few years, the SEC doesn’t have anyone who appears to be on the verge of competing for titles on an annual basis.
If there’s a wild card in this situation, it’s Jones. Who knows what type of situation he could walk into once he hears his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft. Unlike Burrow or Tagovailoa, Jones could go to teams like the Patriots, Steelers or Colts, all of whom are ready to win at that level. Between Jones, Trask and then even potential 2022 NFL Draft entries like JT Daniels and Matt Corral, there are so many unknowns that await.
But as of today, yeah, there’s no end in sight for the SEC’s quarterback drought on the biggest Sunday of the year.