Earlier tonight, a question was brought before me:
"Is a quarterback the most important position in football?"
My first response was "no". After all, plenty of quality teams mete out wins with questionable players under center. And plenty of teams put a stud under center only to watch their win total barely budge.
Do you need a Pro Bowl QB to win - or even attend - a Super Bowl? No. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens, who won with Trent Dilfer as their QB. Or ask the Bears, who sent Rex Grossman to the Big Dance.
But then I thought about it.
And I began thinking "yes, yes it is".
After all, no other position really carries the impact of that of the QB position. Many teams prefer a running back committee. As long as your stars aren't injured, you're not going to panic when the wide receivers go bye-bye.
But when your quarterback is injured? Well, that's not good.
It's never good to lose a quarterback for any reason. Want an example? How about Atlanta a year ago? They had three different starting quarterbacks throughout the season, and they went 4-12. And that's largely because they had to retool after the loss of Michael Vick. For better or worse, he was the forefront of that team - the leader.
What do winning teams usually have? Consistency. And that includes consistency at the quarterback position. Let's put it this way - you wouldn't want to come to an office every week and find entirely new employees each time, would you? How long would you stay at that job? I'll bet the answer is "not very".
For even more examples, look at the winningest teams of days past - the Patriots and the Colts. A huge part of that winning formula is consistent quarterback play. You play Peyton Manning and Tom Brady because you know that they're going to be out there every day. And look at 2007's 12 playoff teams (Cowboys, Packers, Bucs, Seahawks, Giants, Eagles; Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Steelers, Titans, Jaguars).
What did they have going for them? Consistency at the QB position. Tony Romo, Brett Favre, Jeff Garcia, Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Vince Young, and David Garrard. Guys you knew would be out there (usually) every Sunday. Guys you could put a team behind.
Now let's look at the bottom five teams. Miami, St. Louis, Atlanta, Oakland, and Kansas City. What did they have in common other than the top five picks? Inconsistent QB play. St. Louis was motivated by injury, but every single one of those teams saw at least two different starting QBs throughout the year.
It goes back to my office example: if the leader keeps changing, there's no one you can get behind. And the team leader concept is unique to football, honestly. In baseball, hockey, and basketball, there's no one "alpha position". Sure, if Kobe Bryant goes down, the Lakers will probably panic. But they're not going to say "Oh, no! We lost our guard!" If Sidney Crosby goes down, the Penguins will have a heart attack. But they're not going to say "Oh no! We lost our center!" That concept is one unique to football.
And the quarterback is a demanding position. You have to lead your team. You can't just show up and play. Everything runs through you. You're constantly reading the defense. Are they putting eight guys in the box when you're running? Then it's the QB's job to talk with the coach. Are they dropped deep into coverage? Same deal.
So now, the question for the Patriots is "do they recover"? And I say yes. They've got too much talent to ignore. Brady's loss will be very visible, don't get me wrong. But the Patriots have a strong bunch of players. They've got two of the best wide receivers in the game today, they've got a staunch O-line, they've got a great group of linebackers - really, all the pieces are in place. Also, Matt Cassel may well be the next Tom Brady or Tony Romo - after all, it was an injury to Drew Bledsoe that forced Brady himself into action. By next year, we could be wondering what the Pats are going to do with Brady (which will make for some interesting articles).
Some people had the Pats penciled in for the Super Bowl - but I didn't. They have an absolutely monstrous schedule - Pittsburgh, Indy, San Diego, Seattle, and two games each with both a strong-looking Buffalo team and a solid-looking Jets team. I say this year, the AFC belongs to the San Diego Chargers.
So, to sum up - Brady will be missed. The QB is vital. And San Diego will win the AFC.
And that's the way it is.