Now that the 2012 NFL playoffs are in full swing, we pose the question: How crucial is it to have an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl championship?
Going back through the history of prior Super Bowl winners, the old axiom was that if you combined a strong running offense with a dominating defense, that was the winning formula to produce a championship team. But as the NFL has evolved into a pass-happy league, and the game is now driven by quarterbacks, can a team still win it all with just an average quarterback?
The Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals proved on Saturday that the answer to that is a resounding "no." Joe Webb and Andy Dalton proved that they aren't the answer. Two of the talented rookie stud quarterbacks from the draft class of 2012, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, have already tasted defeat in the playoffs.
What about the eight remaining teams left in the postseason? How many non-elite quarterbacks still have a chance to emerge as Super Bowl champions?
The eight final starting quarterbacks include Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco), Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay), Russell Wilson (Seattle), Matt Ryan (Atlanta), Tom Brady (New England), Peyton Manning (Denver), Matt Schaub (Houston) and Joe Flacco (Baltimore).
Out of this group, you could arguably say that the only elite quarterbacks that remain in the running for Super Bowl XLVII are Brady, Manning and Rodgers.
The other five quarterbacks have not been crowned with elite status as of yet, except perhaps in the minds of their own fanbases. A Super Bowl victory would certainly go a long way towards lifting the profiles of the other five quarterbacks towards elite status.
When you look at the list of Super Bowl-winning teams, there are some examples of teams that won with an average or below-average starting quarterback. Let's review all the winning Super Bowl quarterbacks since 1990.
Here is a rundown of the last 10 different starting quarterbacks that won a Super Bowl title. Eli Manning (N.Y. Giants), Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay), Drew Brees (New Orleans), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh), Peyton Manning (Indianapolis), Tom Brady (New England), Brad Johnson (Tampa Bay), Trent Dilfer (Baltimore), Kurt Warner (St. Louis) and John Elway (Denver).
From this group, you could arguably state that every QB is elite with the exception of Johnson and Dilfer. Clearly those are the two quarterbacks that stick out from the group like a sore thumb.
Going back to 1990, the next group of six different quarterbacks that won Super Bowls includes Brett Favre (Green Bay), Troy Aikman (Dallas), Steve Young (San Francisco), Mark Rypien (Washington), Jeff Hostetler (N.Y. Giants) and Joe Montana (San Francisco).
Most of the quarterbacks in this group are elite, with two exceptions. That would be Rypien and Hostetler. Rypien was an above-average quarterback, but I wouldn't classify him as elite. Hostetler's situation was unique, as he was pressed into service due to an injury to Giants starter Phil Simms.
So out of the last 16 different quarterbacks that won the Super Bowl, we can consider four of them as anywhere from above average or maybe even below average. That amounts to 25 percent, while the remaining 75 percent could arguably be considered as elite quarterbacks.
If you like those odds of trying to win it all with a non-elite quarterback, that is why you see such a high percentage of general managers and head coaches getting fired.
When you count the multiple Super Bowl trophies (1990-present) for Brady, Eli Manning, Elway, Roethlisberger and Aikman, that tips the scales even more in favor of requiring an elite quarterback to win the Super Bowl. That changes the odds to 82.7 percent for teams with an elite quarterback, 17.3 for teams sporting an average quarterback.
Based on those odds, the teams that would appear to have the greatest chance to win Super Bowl XLVII are the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. For Atlanta, Houston, Baltimore, Seattle and San Francisco, they have to believe that their overall team strengths will be good enough to win.
For our eight final starting quarterbacks, the 2012 postseason games will help to define their place in history and how they will be remembered for their performances when the entire season was on the line.