If you think about it the last decade the patriots, colts (with manning), ravens, and steelers have been running this conference. 7 Superbowl's combined since 2000, (pats 3, steelers 2, colts 1, ravens 1.) Now lets be honest. Brady and Manning are both still playing at very high levels but Manning will be 37 and Brady will be 36. Both of them could not get their teams to the superbowl this year. Historically it is rare for elite NFL QB's to play deep into their 30's. Elway retired at 37? Marino 37? Montana 36? Kelly 35? Yes I know Favre played into his 40's but he is not your typical pocket passing QB like brady, manning, marino. He is more of a street ball type player and it was still effective into his 40's but that is extremely rare. OK look, both Manning and Brady will still be playing at a high level for the next maybe 1-3 years if that? Every QB fades. Every QB gets old. Every QB winds down. It's inevitable. Brady and Manning can sit there all they want and talk about wanting to play into their 40's but the fact of the matter is both of them are coming to an end of their careers. Even if they both played past 38 I don't see them playing at an extremely high level. Not a high enough level to where I'm scared of them. Not mid 2000's level. No way. So in a few years both of them will be out of the picture. Now to the ravens and the steelers.
The Steelers defense is aging and they have some work to do. Harrison is done. Polamalu cant even get on the field. Kiesel is old. Hampton is old. Their LB's are getting old. Plain and simple that defense is not the dominating force they once were. Kevin Colbert is one of the best in the business so the steelers will be right back to where they were in the next few years but who knows where this transition period will lead them, there are question marks. Now the Ravens are obviously and elite team because their in the Superbowl but they have some issues moving forward as well. Ray Leiws is retiring and they will be losing the heart and soul of that team. A void will be left there once he retires. It wont be the same in the locker room for them, in the building. But once again ozzie newsome is one of the best in the business so this team isnt going anywhere. They have some age on Defense with ed reed and ray lewis, they have skill players on offense, but maybe, maybe this superbowl run was just an emotional ride? Either way they will have some question marks as well moving forward.
So my point is the landscape of the AFC that we grew to know the last decade (manning, brady, ray lewis, the steelers) it is changing. There is a window here for a team or two to step up and make an impact in the AFC. Is it the bengals? texans? colts? All I know is this offseason is one of the biggest in team history. With all this capspace and draft picks we have to nail this offseason. This could set us up for the next decade to establish ourselves as a legit contender in the AFC. I do believe we have our QB. I like Tannehill a lot, he is raw and will have growing pains but he is gonna be a good one. I like Philbin. I think he has a plan, he is well organized, he has structure. Now Ireland has to nail this offseason because in the next 2-3 years we will wake up with an AFC without Brady or Manning, would we have made all the right moves? Or will we be stuck in mediocrity. Now is the time, this offseason is HUGE!