The Nobody Famous League got a jolt Monday night when John
Elway left the field with his right arm hanging like a gull's
broken wing. Hey, the Nolan Ryan of the two-minute offense is older
than most downtown Denver buildings, but he's still near the top of
the short list of NFL icons.
Despite a ruptured biceps tendon that probably would sideline a
Phillies pitcher until next February, Elway is miraculously
expected to be ready to open the season Aug. 31 against Kansas City.
And did I really write Aug. 31? Tell me it's a misprint, that
there's a chance the World Series will still be in progress when
the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys. I mean, play them for the
In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge has been painted three
times since Steve Young came to town as Joe Montana's backup.
And after the National Park Service stone masons finish the
literally monumental task of rehabbing Mount Rushmore, they can go
to work on the NFL's quartet of quarterback legends.
The first thing they will notice when they start patching those
crumbling monoliths is that Jim Kelly has slid off the mountain.
The surviving troika of Dan Marino, almost 36, Elway, 37, and
Young, almost 36, has survived a total of 40 NFL seasons.
The stars of the Nobody Famous League are getting old. And,
quickly, who's the No. 1 star in the league right now?
I'll bet there are 15 names floating around on that one. Brett
Favre? He's charismatic, only 27 and has a new Super Bowl ring.
Barry Sanders? Emmitt Smith? The league's premier runners are 29
and 28, respectively. Which in the context of NFL tailback
longevity has them stepping gingerly goalward on mid-30s wheels.
I'll bet some folks with a lot of midnight green in their
wardrobes said Ricky Watters. And why not? Just remember that
Ricky-please-lose-that-number turned 28 himself in April. That he
seems significantly younger than Smith or Sanders is a tribute to
his durability and multidimensional skills.
Some of you probably have caught on to the fact that the NFL is
turning into an over-30-league and mentioned young guns like
Jacksonville's Mark Brunell and Carolina's Kerry Collins as future
superstars. As fading icons like Marino, Elway and Young go
wheezing toward Canton, the only established QB in his prime with
star quality is the Cowboys' oft-concussed Troy Aikman. And the
Ache Man is staring at a 31st birthday in November. …