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Quarterback Vinny Testaverde and how NFL athleticism has changed over time

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Lou Capozzola-USA TODAY Sports

About two decades ago the New York Jets trotted out a 35 year old Quarterback named Vinny Testaverde. Testaverde was a Jets legend of sorts because of when he played QB and the success of the teams he played with, but had a rather uninspiring career on the whole.

I was born in 1995, so I have a vague recollection of Vinny’s tenure as a Jet. From what I remember he was a pretty statue-esque figure who made his money delivering the ball from the pocket. A quick look at his statistical profile seems to support that narrative as he ran a total of 430 times across 214 starts, which amounts to about 2 carries per game. Beyond that, he wasn’t too effective when he ran with an career average of 3.8 yards per carry. For the Jets? His average was an even more paltry 2.2 yards per carry, which is typically what we’d call “not good.”

So why am I writing about Vinny Testaverde in April 2023? Well because it turns out that my perception of Vinny could not have been more wrong. No, as it turns out, Vinny Testaverde was once a TOP-TIER athlete among QBs, which shocked me to my very core.

So what gives? Was Vinny some kind of secret super athlete? Was he Lamar Jackson in a time that didn’t appreciate his gifts? To put it lightly, “no.”

Basically, what this all means is that when Vinny’s combine happened in 1987 he was a certified super athlete among QBs because the average QB was an even worse athlete than he was. However, the game has changed such that he’d now be a 80th percentile or so athlete among all of the QBs that came before and after him. Based on what we know about averages, this means he would be considerably below an 80th percentile athlete among all of the QBs that came after him, such as those drafted this season.

Now, with that said, none of this has much to do with Vinny’s ability to play quarterback. It does however highlight an important change in how QB athleticism has changed over time. While a QB like Vinny could once have been the most athletic QB in the QB room, he’s now more likely to be the 3rd or the 4th. Is it important? Probably not, but I do think it highlights just how athletic the modern day NFL player is compared to their predecessors.

But what do you think? Was anybody else shocked by this?