When being a true fan of any sport, one has to develop various criteria that they use to judge the performance of players and use those judgments as their base foundations for how they view the sporting world around them.
Opinions are subjective and human beings are flawed. Never will we as a whole manage to adopt any one philosophy as being the official blueprint for our own individual analysis.
That being said, there have been a great many fans of the National Football League who have managed to adopt certain incorrect philosophies that have warped their minds into judging football players by false criteria.
Being a frequent debater of "who is better" and "what is more impressive" debates have exposed to me a plethora of misconceptions that many NFL fans have adopted which prevents them from correctly being able judge certain things in an unbiased fashion.
I don't expect to change anybody's mind because I'm certain that those who have come to adopt these misconceptions are firm believers that my logic is inherently flawed and would rather attack my own personal convictions than be able to adequately defend their own.
I will begin with some of the most infamous trains of thought that frequently pop up when speaking to the typical incognizant fan.
1) "He might not play pretty but he's a winner."
I heard this statement made on the radio today in reference to Ben Roethlisberger. I personally think that Ben is a good quarterback but I believe the comment is a reference to the fact that his numbers are not flashy and he often makes mistakes yet is still able to win like he did during Super Bowl XLIII.
First of all, the statement to me really just means that the player mentioned often makes mistakes but his team is good enough to fight through that and come up with the win. In that case, it's not that his performance was exceptionally valuable but it should be rather viewed that he plays for a team who can make up for the difference and still win.
People are often incapable of separating team accolades from individual contributions because all they see is the man holding the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season. They would like to credit an individual who was only a part of being the best team in the league as possibly being one of the finest at his position. In terms of Ben Roethlisberger, players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are a great deal ahead of him in the individual talent category regardless of how many Super Bowls Ben has won.
2) "He saves his best games for the end of the year."
I've hear this comment directed towards Tom Brady. I believe this is due to his track record of typically producing at an average level during the regular season but playing his best games either at the end of the year or at the end of a game.
Let me make this point clear, no player "saves up" his best performances because there is no such thing. To believe that you are to admit to believing that such a player intentionally performed less well at an earlier point but intentionally stepped on the gas and played better when he so chose.
This doesn't happen.
Often times you see a player like Tom Brady not put up great numbers in the postseason (although he certainly has on some occasions) but has managed to come through at the end of the game and set up a winning score.
It just becomes easier to remember the heroic efforts and ignore the prior abundance of mediocrity because all most people care about is the finish. Look at Brady's performance in Super Bowl XXXVI, he was 16 of 27 for 145 yards and one touchdown pass. That by any standard was a pretty mediocre performance. Yet people look at Brady's heroic drive down the field in the final minutes to set up a game-winning field goal and so he wins Super Bowl MVP honors and is looked upon as having a better game the he really did.
3) "He always comes through in the clutch."
It is true that there are certain players who do not allow the pressure of the moment affect their performance. Although it can sometimes be fair to call their performance "clutch," most people do not understand the concept in comparison to prior production.
What I mean is this.
Let's say a quarterback throws three touchdown passes and one interception. His three touchdown passes came in the first half but his one interception came on what could have been a game-winning drive. This quarterback is often labeled as a "choker."
Another quarterback also throws three touchdown passes and one interception. His one interception came during the first quarter, two of his three touchdown passes come during the middle of the game but his final touchdown pass happens to be the game-winning drive. We call this quarterback "clutch," don't we?
What most people fail to recognize is that in this scenario is that both quarterbacks produced identically. A touchdown counts as a touchdown whether it's in the first quarter or in overtime. Both quarterbacks would have contributed the same amount but one would be looked upon as the hero and the other as the choke-artist.
This train of logic is inherently stupid.
People get so caught up in the heroics that they fail to realize that both players did the same thing but their respective team's performance was the factor in determining winning or losing.
Had the "choking" quarterback's defense held the opposition to only three points you would say he played a good game. It's idiotic to view the performance of a player differently just because of the outcome that was decided by both teams as a whole.
There is certainly a value for a player who does not get nervous during critical times but if you are objectively comparing the production of two players who produced in identical fashion, there is no need to label the loser as the choker and the winner as the hero.
4) "He never manages to win the big games."
This is a statement that I've heard regarding Peyton Manning this year. His average postseason record of 7-8 has led many to believe that he somehow has the inability to win "big games." What managed to escape many people is what the exact definition of a "big game" actually is.
When the Colts fell to 3-4 this season, every game that followed had the potential to decide the fate of their season. In actuality, losing one or two of the remaining nine games down the stretch would have eliminated them from playoff contention essentially ending their season.
Basically, every one of the nine games they won down the stretch carried just as much significance as a playoff game. True, winning them did not advance them through the playoffs but losing any of them would have prevented them from even having a chance to play during January.
Manning led the Colts to big victories over the Patriots, Steelers, Chargers and Titans. Why are any of those victories not viewed as "big games?" Just because the Peyton-hating congregation dictates such?
It seems that it's only a "big game" if Peyton loses and if he happens to win a "big game" there is always some sort of excuse. Why is it when you look at every playoff victory the colts had in 2003, none of those were "big games" but the game only became "big" when he lost to New England?
It's easy to say that any postseason defeat was the loss of a "big game" but only one team wins the Super Bowl every year. Wouldn't that mean that there are 11 quarterbacks who lost a "big game" every year?
Again, it's the inability for people to separate team accolades from individual talent. The best "teams" advance when it's very realistic to see that often the best "individuals" lose along the way.
Those are just some of the most common misconceptions that many NFL fans have come to adopt. Again, I'm not attempting to change anyone's mind but I do feel that these misconceptions should be exposed for each individual to consider when noticing that frequency in which they are used.