Successful NFL teams have true franchise players on their rosters.
Take one look at the best teams in the league, and you'll see they all have an elite centerpiece to build around. The New England Patriots have quarterback Tom Brady, the Green Bay Packers have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Minnesota Vikings have running back Adrian Peterson, and the San Francisco 49ers have inside linebacker Patrick Willis.
While every NFL franchise has a "franchise" player, not all of them are truly franchise players. Today we're going to break down what really defines a true franchise player.
Making Others Better
True franchise players need to be able to make the other players around them better. They need to be able to lift less-talented players to the same level that they play at.
No player represents this aspect quite like Tom Brady. When Brady won his three Super Bowls, he did it with a less-than-spectacular group of receivers. During those three seasons, Brady's main receivers were Troy Brown, David Patten, David Givens and Deion Branch.
Over the course of Jerry Rice's career, he had 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns. Rice alone had more receiving yards and touchdowns and nearly as many receptions of all of Brady's main receivers during his Super Bowls.
That just shows how good Brady is at making others around him better. Just imagine what he could have done with the receivers that Peyton Manning or Joe Montana had over the course of their careers.
The first thing Riddle said is that a true franchise player needs to be irreplaceable. A backup quarterback, running back or wide receiver shouldn't be able to step in and duplicate the type of impact that a true franchise player has on the game.
Take Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers as an example. During a game against the New Orleans Saints last year, Rodgers had to step out of the game briefly due to getting hit in the eye.
The short video to the right shows what happened when backup quarterback Graham Harrell took his first-ever snap in the NFL. Rodgers steps out of the game with the Packers on the goal line, and Harrell fumbles the ball away.
Another example would be what happened to the Indianapolis Colts when quarterback Peyton Manning was injured for the entire 2011 season. During Manning's entire career there, the worst record the Colts ever had was 3-13, and that was during his rookie season.
As you can see in the chart below, only one other time did Manning have a losing season after his rookie season.
However, in 2011, the Colts went 2-14 and were easily the worst team in the NFL.
They turned things around last year because of a quarterback named Andrew Luck, who is well on his way to becoming a true franchise player. Without Luck, it'd be easy to see the Colts once again sporting one of the worst records in the league.
A true franchise player simply can't be replaced by any old player on the roster.
Loved By Fans
Finally, a true franchise player needs to be loved by the fans.
No matter how talented a player may be, if he isn't loved by the fans of that city then he can't be considered a true franchise player. If the Baltimore Ravens' fans hadn't accepted Ray Lewis as their own, he never would have been the franchise player that he was.
True franchise players need the support and love of the fanbase that they play for. Without it, they are nothing more than a regular player on the roster.
By making others around them better, becoming irreplaceable and being loved by fans, a great football player can become a true franchise player. He'll forever be remembered by the team he played for, and the fans will never stop cheering for him.