Two Necessities In The NFL
Two things teams must have in order to be a consistently winning franchise in the NFL: A good Head Coach and a good quarterback.
Look at some of the teams in the last decade who have been or were consistently good:
The Indianapolis Colts - They have had the best QB, in Peyton Manning of the last 15 years; and former Head Coach Tony Dungy will be in in the Hall Of Fame. Oh, but of course Dungy is now working for NBC, but that's OK because Peyton is Bill Russell on the field, the ultimate Player Coach.
The New England Patriots – There hasn't been a better HC/QB combo in the new millennium than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
The Seattle Seahawks – QB Matt Hasselbeck was never the flashiest signal caller on the field, but he won football games. And when Mike Holmgren was coaching a healthy Hasselbeck, the Seahawks were more often than not in the Playoffs or even in the Super Bowl.
The Pittsburgh Steelers – History tells us when the Steelers have a good quarterback, then they will win a lot of football games. Going back to the first of three Head Coaches in Steeler history (Chuck Noll), the Steelers have always had a HC.
The New York Giants - People will say what they will about Eli Manning but there is no escaping the fact that the Giants would not have won Super Bowl 42 without him. And just as well he has established himself as a good NFL QB, posting career highs in 2009, including throwing of over 4,000 yards. HC Tom Coughlin has dodged his own critics, but in a different way than Eli (as Eli kept plugging away an eventually became a good QB, and yet still throws the occasional head scratching interception); as Coughlin changed up his coaching style a bit shortly into the 2007 season, becoming more of a players' coach and being a little more sympathetic to his players.
Now look at some talented teams that haven't quite put it together in recent years:
The Dallas Cowboys – Once Tony Romo debuted on a Monday night years ago against the hated New York football Giants, the QB position hasn't been a recurring problem for the Cowboys, however, the HC has been. Once Bill Parcells jumped ship, the Cowboys have been underachieving ever since.
The Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals have made the playoffs only twice since the Brown family drafted Carson Palmer to be their franchise QB with the No. 1 overall pick in 2003. In fact, the Bengals have had the same HC since then. Bengals HC Marvin Lewis and Palmer are tied at the hip and to a fault. For the last three seasons due to various injuries, Palmer hasn't had the same top-notch consistency, that he once had and teams need from their franchise QB. Lewis has had his problems as well, sometimes it's been the multitude of arrests and off-field trouble of his players and sometimes it's been the lack for skill of getting the best out of his players, as the two Playoff appearances in eight years will speak to that.
The San Francisco 49ers – Since 2007, the Niners have had enough talent to make the Playoffs, but have failed to do so since 2002. The Niners have been nothing but hype since then. Bringing in one of the biggest busts in NFL History, Alex Smith and just like with Palmer and Lewis, former Niner HC Mike Nolan was tied to the hip with Smith. He, along with former Niner GM Scot McCloughan, made one of the worst mistakes in NFL Draft history. Taking Smith over now Pro Bowler and great QB Aaron Rodgers (even though Rodgers was the hometown boy after playing his college ball at CAL). And the Niners are still paying for that mistake, even though they have some of the League's best players over the last few years, they haven't had a winning since '02. And since the second half of the '09 season the Niners have stuck with Smith to a fault as their QB, and in turn sabotaging their 2010 season. As current Niner HC Mike Singletary stuck with Smith (until Smith got injured in Week 7 of this season, as it took an shoulder injury to force Singletary take Smith out of the starting lineup), even though Smith is the worst starting QB of this season (Smith's record this season is 1-5, and that one win was a game the Niners did not score 20 points).
The Carolina Panthers – QB Jake Delhomme was a decent player in his prime, but in the last few years he's been awful. In a playoff game he even single-handedly cost his Panthers the game in the Divisional Round in 2008, committing 6 turnovers in the game. HC John Fox and GM Marty Hurney then gave Delhomme multi-year contract that was close to $50 million. Then after Delhomme ran up his interception total in the '09 season, the Panthers cut Delhomme in the off-season. Fox lost his team by sticking with Delhomme. And had Fox and Hurney selected a QB by the name of Joe Flacco instead of drafting a RB they didn't need in Jonathan Stewart (since DeAngelo Williams is a great football player and now a Pro Bowler), in the '08 Draft, they probably would have been in the Super Bowl. Instead, they haven't made the Playoffs since and are 1-7 this season.
The Oakland Raiders – Ever since Raiders owner Al Davis traded away Jon Gruden, the Raiders have been in a tailspin. Even though of late they have had some serious talent scattered amongst their roster. Bill Callahan (who is now the assistant head coach/offensive line coach with the Jets) got worked by Gruden in Super Bowl 37. The Raiders then years later selected a man who's not even in the NFL anymore in JaMarcus Russell, with the first selection in the 2007 Draft. And like their Bay Area rivals, the Raiders haven't had a winning record or been in the Playoffs since 2002. And with HC Tom Cable still unproven, along with two overlooked, but still talented QB's in Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell, the Raiders arrow may actually be pointing up.
You may be able to string a season or two together, with a good QB and a bad coach or visa versa, but you will not be able to maintain anything consistent in the NFL.
Even looking at the Ravens of 2000, Trent Dilfer was decent enough and at the time Brian Billick was one of the bright minds of coaching.
Then of course the best example is Joe Montanta the GOAT and Mr. Innovator himself Bill Walsh, forming a tandem that set up five Super Bowls in less than two decades.
The number 1 however is you must have a quarterback, because even a George Seifert or Tom Flores (who were OK coaches, decent at best) can be a part of a Super Bowl team as a HC, but if you have a Montanta, Steve Young, or even two-time Super Bowl Champion Jim Plunkett as your QB you can do some serious damage, if you have the a talented enough team.
But if you want to stay consistent in the NFL and be a good football team for a long while, you must have a trusted player under center and a savvy leader wearing the headset.