NFL Blitz: A look around the league

The NFL is a passing league and a quarterback’s game. Look no further than 2011 when two passers — Drew Brees and Tom Brady — threw for more than 5,000 yards, breaking Dan Marino’s 27-year league record, and seven other quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 yards.

That’s why several teams rolled the dice in the off-season, either through free agency, trades or the draft to find quarterbacks who can lift their franchises to a Super Bowl.

The biggest blockbuster was Denver’s signing four-time league MVP Peyton Manning, who missed all of 2011 because of neck surgeries. Manning, 36, led the Indianapolis Colts to nine straight playoff appearances, three AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLI.

As Manning moved into the Mile High City, Tim Tebow, who miraculously led the Broncos to an AFC West title and wild-card playoff win, was shipped for fourth- and sixth-round draft picks to the New York Jets, although they appeared to be set at the position with Mark Sanchez.

The bottom feeders in the league found their quarterbacks of the future in the draft.

Indianapolis, with the first overall pick, seamlessly replaced Manning with Andrew Luck of Stanford, perhaps the most NFL-ready quarterback since Manning in 1998. Washington made the most daring move by giving St. Louis three first-round draft choices and a second-rounder for the right to select Robert Griffin III of Baylor with the second pick and immediately declared him the starter.

Miami and Cleveland also took big gambles with quarterbacks in the first round of the draft. The Dolphins selected Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M even though he started less than two years for the Aggies. And the Browns went the unconventional route when they selected 28-year old Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, who spent five years playing minor league baseball before embarking on his college football career.

It’s no coincidence the top six NFL jerseys sold during April 1 to June 30 on belong to quarterbacks, starting with Peyton Manning, followed by Griffin, Tebow, Luck, Eli Manning of the Super Bowl champion Giants and 2011 league MVP Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay.