Just about every NFL coach and player would endorse the idea that "it doesn't matter how you win, as long as you somehow get the win." This is the stance they must take.
After all, you can't argue with a win. If you try, you might appear as if you care more about pretty things such as stats, style, and flash. No sensible pro football player wants to be caught dead putting personal stats over team.
Despite all of this posturing, the reality is obvious.
It does matter how you win.
It matters a lot.
In football, "ugly" is a common term to describe a mostly defensive football contest. These types of games are usually low scoring and frustrate and confuse fans on both sides.
But where are "ugly" games most often found?
Perhaps both teams have a good defense which can shut down most other teams' offenses?
Perhaps both teams have bad offenses which struggle against any defense?
Or perhaps a team plays every game ugly?
If "ugliness" follows a particular team around, then that particular team most likely has a good defense because they always seem to slow down the other team's offense.
On the other hand, if that same team never wins a game "pretty," then that team obviously has problems on offense too.
So, a team that wins "ugly" is most likely a team with a good defense and a not-so-great offense, because if they had a good offense, they would win and lose many more "pretty" games.
A "pretty" football game is generally considered to be a game with a lot of successful passing on both sides of the ball.
Both teams dance around the field, and when the music stops, whomever made the last trip to the end zone goes home happy.
It is pretty much the opposite of "ugly."
A "good" team is almost always a team that has a history of winning games. Almost always, this history is "recent."
But what are the most common traits of winning teams?
Let's try this: Take the top five players (whomever you think they are) at every position: QBs, RBs, LBs, etc.
How good is the team they are on? Are they a winning team or a losing team?
So let's just cut to the chase. The top QBs almost always play on good teams. The same thing cannot always be said of any of the other positions, most notably RB.
There are some very good running backs in the NFL who play on bad teams.
Over the last few years of losing, 49er fans have become well acquainted with one of them.
Obviously, there are also top running backs who play on good teams, but I'm sure it can be agreed that simply having a top running back does not mean you have a top team.
The most ideal example of this in NFL history is, of course, Barry Sanders. He spent many tough years on a losing team.
Sanders was one of the top running backs to ever play, yet even he was not good enough to turn a bad team into a good team.
Throw the Ball, Not the Game
The greatest quarterbacks ever to play have a large collection of Super Bowl rings.
The greatest running backs ever to play have fewer.
It's just the nature of the game.
A perfect pass cannot be defended. 49er fans have seen this occur many times (cough, cough).
A perfect run can be defended, because you can't outrun everybody.
However, a typical forward pass can outrun any defender who has ever played the game. Combine this with the fact that a perfectly thrown ball can be placed into any receiver's hands anywhere on the field at any given time.
Not every quarterback can throw the perfect pass of course, but even an imperfect pass will keep a defense on its heals and guessing.
Without an effective passing attack, every win is ugly and every loss is hideous.