We are living in a new era of the NFL, full stop.
Tom Brady retiring sent a lot of folks down a sentimental wormhole of looking at where the game is as he’s stepping away from it and where it was when he began his career. Brady was an instrumental part of the NFL’s story over the last two decades, but his career is a good timeline to look at when trying to understand just how much the game has changed over the years.
When Brady entered the league, the game was largely defined by running backs with the vertical passing game still developing into what it would become. Remember the weird transitional hinge period where we all thought the Wildcat was the most revolutionary thing to ever happen?
It didn’t end up becoming as big a part of the game as it seemed it might at the time, but the idea of opening up an offense beyond what we’d seen before was exactly what would change the game forever.
Former Philadelphia Eagles star Brian Westbrook has watched the game change from when he was a running back to where it is now for guys like Miles Sanders.
“When you look at where the game has gone, it’s come a long way,” Westbrook said. “I played when guys were getting 20-30 carries a game, and that’s not happening anymore. Now you have a combination of guys.”
“Coaches like Andy [Reid] and Kyle Shanahan understand how to get their guys in space. With that you see some of these running backs — Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey — exploding with some of the things that they’re able to do,” Westbrook said. “Miles Sanders is a great example, over 1,200 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, he’s able to do a lot of different things and it’s because of the pass-catching ability that some of these offenses have.”
Imagine if someone like Westbrook was in an offense today, and how much more dangerous he’d be. LaDanian Tomlinson was an early example of what a running back might one day be capable of, and imagine if he was in his prime right now.
Guys like Derrick Henry are standouts because they almost feel like relics from the past — and even he is asked to catch some passes every game for the Titans.
Westbrook just missed the boat in terms of the era he played in, but Eagles fans still have fond memories of him dominating defenses in his day while also being able to fantasize about how much Prime Westbrook would be a game-wrecker in today’s game with the skills he had at his peak.
Brian Westbrook spoke on behalf of NFL All Day.