How the Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees injuries will shake up the NFL

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When Jon Gruden was still an ESPN broadcaster and not a sentient meme, he would attend team practices across the league. He did so with the sole focus of studying how different teams prepared and developed their quarterbacks. Before a Colts’ Monday night game, Gruden was struck by how then-Indianapolis quarterback and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning took each snap in practice. Curious, Gruden sidled up to the offensive coordinator Tom Moore and asked him why the Colts didn’t rotate the snaps to prepare Manning’s backup, as is custom. “Fellas, if ‘18’ goes down, we’re fucked,” Moore replied. “And we don’t practice fucked.”

There is no injury in sports as impactful as that of losing a franchise quarterback. Nowhere is that sentiment felt more today than in Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Both teams will have to do without two of the sport’s biggest stars for the foreseeable future, the soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees.

Roethlisberger is done for the season with an elbow injury and Brees will miss a minimum of six weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb. The injuries transform the playoff picture in the AFC and NFC.

Neither team is used to this situation. Brees has missed a total of one game to injury in his entire career. Roethlisberger has been the subject of lionizing and mocking in equal measure for the propensity with which he’s spent time on the sidelines, though he has only missed 15 starts to injury despite his reputation.

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