Just a year ago, Cam Newton was in the middle of one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history, and Matthew Stafford was on his way to passing for more than 5,000 yards -- something only three other quarterbacks have done. Two years ago, Michael Vick was the comeback player of the year and an MVP candidate.
Oh, how times have changed.
This season, all three NFC quarterbacks are in the bottom third of the league in passer rating.
Newton's Superman celebration has been replaced by his awkward postgame news conferences, and the Panthers have an NFC-worst 1-6 record.
Stafford at times seems to forget he has one of the best receivers at his disposal. He has yet to complete a touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, and the Lions are in last place in the NFC North.
And Vick has become so turnover-prone he may lose his job to a rookie third-rounder. He has eight interceptions and nine fumbles, and the Eagles have lost three straight games and four of five.
It's just the nature of the NFL. While those passers were putting together some nice highlight reels, they also were giving opposing coaches material to work with.
How this group of passers quickly fizzled after unbelievable seasons is a testament to the difficulties of consistent quarterback play -- making the sustained success of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning even more impressive.
Newton, Stafford and Vick have proved they can have success in the league, but they need to find a way to counter the defensive adjustments.
Organizations covet franchise quarterbacks, but they don't often show great patience with them. It only takes a season or two of disappointment before front offices start thinking about going in a different direction. And finding the next great rookie passer has become the craze. Five first-year quarterbacks opened 2012 as starters.
With the playoffs seemingly out of the picture for Newton, Stafford and Vick, the future is now filled with more uncertainty than promise.
- Jeffrey Tomik