Why NFL Teams Don't Really Need Elite QBs to Win Championships

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Why NFL Teams Don't Really Need Elite QBs to Win Championships

Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. John Elway. Joe Montana. All are so-called "elite" quarterbacks, and all possess at least one Super Bowl ring.

Over the years, however, the idea of the "elite" quarterback with a Super Bowl ring has been so closely associated in NFL minds that the two have become a monster of erroneous thought. That thought? Only teams with an elite-level quarterback can win a Super Bowl.

We—and the league itself—have become so pass-crazed that it seems obvious to heavily favor the teams with the top quarterback talent when making annual Super Bowl predictions and to completely dismiss those teams we feel are lacking at quarterback. Even teams with "good" quarterbacks are often ignored because only the best and brightest under center can be associated with the Lombardi trophy. 

This isn't the case, though. Teams can—and do—win Super Bowls without the benefit of a Brady or (the elder) Manning running the offense. While the presence of a quarterback of their caliber certainly helps, it's not necessary. All manner of quarterbacks can find themselves with a Super Bowl ring on their finger—like Trent Dilfer, for example.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Peyton Manning has one Super Bowl ring; his brother Eli has two. Does that make Eli better than Peyton, and again, why does it matter?

Football is, after all, a team sport. Reducing it down to the quarterback position is, frankly, disrespectful to every player who contributed to the season, especially if it ends with a Super Bowl win. Just as disproportionate blame and credit gets placed upon a quarterback for a team's wins and losses, disproportionate emphasis is given on the quarterback position when it comes to what makes a Super Bowl-caliber roster. 

That's not to say that quarterback isn't an important position, because it is, and in the last three decades has become even more integral to a team's success thanks to offense-friendly (and mostly passing-friendly) rules regarding both quarterbacks and wide receivers. A bad quarterback (in the relative sense; even the "worst" NFL starting quarterback is quite good) can hurt a team's win-loss record, yes, but a good quarterback who is not necessarily elite is more than capable of helping his team win games.

Despite the hefty payday, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn't "elite," even though his team is coming off of a Super Bowl win and a playoff run that saw Flacco play some of the best football of his career. And Flacco doesn't need to be elite, either. The New York Giants' Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings, one more than his rather legendary brother, but that doesn't make him elite. And, like Flacco, he doesn't need to be elite. 

James Harrison's 100-yard touchdown return of an interception had as much to do with the Steelers winning the Super Bowl as Ben Roethlisberger.

Flacco is good, very good. So is the younger Manning. So are Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Matt Schaub and a host of other quarterbacks who play on Super Bowl-capable teams. Sure, a Super Bowl win is generally a hallmark of "eliteness" (Dan Marino aside), but "eliteness" doesn't mean Super Bowls are in that quarterback's future, guaranteed. 

Further, if all it took for a Super Bowl win was Tom Brady, then wouldn't the Patriots have picked up a few more Lombardi trophies since the 2007-2008 season? Shouldn't Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have more than one Super Bowl victory apiece? And what was Colin Kaepernick doing taking the field at the Superdome in February—who does he think he is, Joe Montana?

While we may clamor over the aerial work of the great masters of quarterbacking, what a team really needs is an accurate passer at every level of the field, one who has a completion percentage ideally greater than 60 and more touchdowns than interceptions. He can be a "field general" or a "game manager;" no particular style matters, just the results.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
It wasn't just quarterback Colin Kaepernick that got the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl—it was the fact that the Niners were one of the most well-rounded, well-balanced teams in the NFL.

Those results involve a lot more people than just the one throwing the passes. There are the other members of the offense—linemen, who get little credit for the work they do as it is, receivers, running backs, tight ends—as well as the defense, special teams and even coaching decisions that influence what happens to a team throughout the season and in the playoffs. There is also luck to consider, as well as timing and injuries.

A lot goes into a team making it to and winning the Super Bowl, and the quarterback is a mere part of it—he just happens to be one of the most visible parts. 

If we're going to continue to associate the word "elite" with Super Bowl wins, it should describe the team, not just one player of one position. Being a complete team that takes advantage of its opportunities at the right time does far more for its Super Bowl chances than simply possessing one future Hall of Fame quarterback. Being that kind of team requires a good quarterback, yes, but little more out of the position. 

Otherwise, we'd need 32 Tom Bradys, and that's simply not a possibility. 

 

 

 

 

 

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