You hear it all the time in the NFL, it’s turned into a passing league and to compete you have to have a great quarterback. Without it, your dreams of getting anywhere near the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season is slim to non-existent. But what is the definition of a great quarterback? And why do so many teams stick with a good QB when it might only take them so far?
Looking back at the past five Super Bowl champions, only two have bona-fide, widely-recognised top-tier passers (Aaron Rodgers at Green Bay and Drew Brees at New Orleans). Two others are two-time champions (Big Ben at Pittsburgh and Eli Manning at New York Giants) whilst the other is seen by most as a second-tier above average QB (Joe Flacco at Baltimore).
During all their Super Bowl runs, in the regular season at least, none of them were particularly spectacular statistically. It was one of Ben Roethlisberger’s worst seasons based on figures, for most it was their least attempts and average completion percentages with relatively average TD-INT records compared to their other seasons in the league.
What links them together is their work in the post-season, where between the five quarterbacks and their combined 18 play-off games, they threw just 4 interceptions. Ball security is a huge factor in American Football and when it comes to the crunch, the ones who want to win it all have to keep the ball safe.
So if you want that style of play and you don’t want to risk drafting what could be a dud, you pick up a game manager like Alex Smith at Kansas City, right? Where he throws 4 TD’s and no interceptions in his first play-off game as a Chief, surely he came out on top?
That’s where the world of statistics being the dominating factor end. Even though Smith played well even without star running back Jamaal Charles, the QB who threw 3 interceptions, Andrew Luck, managed to lead his Indianapolis Colts to a 45-44 victory.
And that’s exactly why it’s a conundrum and you can’t rely simply on football instinct or statistics alone. Can a great QB win a Super Bowl? Of course, but he still needs the right weapons, line and a defence that can help keep him on the field. Can an average QB win a Super Bowl? Yes, as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, has other options like a running game or a great defence that can carry the team if needs must.
Every team is looking to solve the puzzle and win a championship, which is why the NFL is so loved. Any team can do a quick turnaround and compete the next year and when it gets to play-off time, throw the book out of the window. Because if wild card weekend taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected in the NFL.