The New Kings of the NFL Featured on a Regional Four-Cover Series of This Week’s SI 2013 NFL Preview

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s 2013 NFL Preview—on newsstands now—breaks down the 2013 NFL season with 68 pages of scouting reports chock full of analysis, stats and conference power rankings for all 32 teams, as well as the annual predictions from editor and SI senior writer Peter King. Click here to see King’s 2013 predictions.

Four young quarterbacks who enjoyed breakout seasons in 2012 – Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson – are featured on a regional four-cover series of this week’s SI. Each of “The New Kings” calls to mind a Super Bowl champion. Jenny Vrentas writes on why RG3 is like John Elway; Robert Klemko tells you why Luck is like Peyton Manning; Austin Murphy describes why Kaepernick is like Steve Young; and Jim Trotter writes about why Wilson is like Drew Brees.

WHY RG3 = JOHN ELWAY BY JENNY VRENTAS (PAGE 49)“If you’ve got a guy who’s got the talented arm and he can make off-scheduled plays—that gives you a chance to win Super Bowls,” says Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, referring to John Elway (who he won two Super Bowls with in Denver) and his current quarterback, Robert Griffin III. While Griffin’s speed makes him unique among quarterbacks, Vrentas says “he is more than a runner just as Elway was more than a passer.”

Dan Reeves, the Broncos’ coach for the first decade of Elway’s career, sees a similarity in how RG3, like Elway, can scramble, keep an eye downfield and connect on a big pass play. As Elway got older, he came to rely much more on his arm than on his legs. “That’s going to be one of the key things with RG3: Is he going to be able to make that transition?” Reeves says. “He’s fortunate to have a coach that’s had that experience.”


COV0902woodstock.LO.inddAfter replacing alltime great Colts quarterback Peyton Manning last year and leading his team to an improbable playoff berth, it’s inevitable that Andrew Luck would draw comparisons to Manning. Klemko writes, “Luck has the arm strength that Manning, now the Broncos’ QB, once boasted, and the same obsession with preparation. But there’s one way in which he’s very different.”

Manning was known to foster tension in practice and be very hard on his teammates. Luck is a different breed. “In practice, he has fun,” says Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who has played with both quarterbacks. “He’s like a big kid out there playing Pee Wee football.” While he is honored to be compared to Manning, Luck does not think he should be after only one season in the NFL. “Peyton set the bar for being a quarterback,” Luck says, “and certainly for being a quarterback in this town. But I do not live in Peyton Manning’s world. I feel like the media has made me out to be more like him than I really am.”


COV0902merced.kaep.lo.inddColin Kaepernick, a native of Wisconsin, grew up idolizing Brett Favre and admired his supreme self-assurance and inclination to attack. And while Kaepernick’s allegiance remained with Favre and the Packers when his family moved to California when he was four, he became aware of and intrigued by the play of 49ers quarterback Steve Young. “He was different from most quarterbacks, as far as the scrambling, what he was able to do with his legs,” Kaepernick says. “And he went out and won games.” Murphy says he has far more in common with Young than Favre: “Both played in the Western Athletic Conference (Young at BYU, Kaepernick at Nevada); both wound up with the Niners; both became embroiled in quarterback controversies that ended with each rival being traded to the Chiefs (Joe Montana in1993, Alex Smith last March).”

Kaepernick has not had to endure the same trials as Young, who took 10 seasons to make it to the Super Bowl. Yet his rapid rise has not altered his work ethic. “He’s had an outstanding off-season,” Jim Harbaugh says. “Top-notch.” “During OTAs I’d get here pretty early,” says wide receiver Kyle Williams. “This is before our workouts. I see this guy out on the field running 200-yard sprints. Kap works harder than everybody.”

“If you don’t do that,” explains Kaepernick, “people aren’t gonna respect you as a leader, they’re not gonna want to follow you, because you’re not putting in the same work they are.”


COV0902merced.wilson.lo.inddEver since he was a teenager second-year Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has admired Drew Brees. Wilson saw a lot of himself in the Saints’ star – a player who refused to accept critic’s contention that he was too short.  As Trotter writes, “He thinks, throws, talks, prepares and generally carries himself like the former Super Bowl MVP, who is as classy as he is talented.”

When the two quarterbacks met at last year’s Pro Bowl, Brees helped Wilson correct a flaw in his footwork. Yet for all of their similarities, Brees sees a major difference. “He’s more talented than I am,” Brees says. “He’s more athletic. He grasped the NFL game at a faster pace than I did. He has not only great leadership qualities, great charisma, but also the It factor that you look for in a young quarterback. I couldn’t be more impressed. You watch the road he traveled, and you’re happy for him and root for him.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 130 other followers