Quarterback: An American Sports Icon
Tom Brady’s season-ending knee injury may have brought the quarterback position under the spotlight once again, but the truth is that no position in professional sports carries so much expectation and is so important to the success of a team. You hear quarterbacks judged in terms of their ability to win games and their won/lost record. No other position in football carries that statistic through their career.
The quarterback is indeed the American sports icon. I am English (though a 25-year NFL addict, and a Raider fan for my sins!), and that’s what it truly is from the outside.
Other nations play soccer, hockey, and basketball, but America is the home of the quarterback. It is a position with which the world identifies America.
So why is a quarterback the most important player on any team? And why are they such a magnet to the press and public alike?
The reason that sets Brady and many great quarterbacks apart from other positions in professional sport is the demanding mental aspect of the game.
In most sports, physical attributes, such as speed or strength, are usually enough to become a superstar. For quarterbacks, just the physical aspect is never enough. In many cases, it isn’t even a requirement. That is unique in any such high-speed, contact sport.
Can anyone imagine Joe Namath as an athlete on his shaky knees? Or Ken Stabler? How about Philip Rivers with torn knee ligaments in last year's playoffs? LaDanian Tomlinson couldn’t play with a knee injury as a running back, but Rivers was able to play with one far more serious.
Because it is the mental aspect, not the physical one, that is important under centre, and the ability to check down receivers and make good decisions is far more important than a good 40 time or arm strength.
It takes a great mental toughness to keep focused on a receiver and let that ball go within a split-second of being taken off your feet by a 300-lbs. lineman. Far more toughness in fact, than it does to do the hitting itself. To read a defense, call the audible, and make the play goes beyond the physical.
Michael Vick was the fastest quarterback ever, and by far the best runner. In his last season, the Falcons were 32nd in passing offense. Ryan Leaf had a much bigger arm than Joe Montana. It didn’t make a lot of difference to his career path.
Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and all the great quarterbacks were also leaders on the field. Cool under pressure, smart and composed, with the respect of their teammates and even the opposition. That is a quarterback. You don’t build a team around a linebacker, or a tackle, or even a receiver. You build it around the guy under centre, the quarterback.
Have you ever heard the term 'The look of Eagles?'
It means someone who is a leader of men, someone who inspires those around them; a man whom others believe will take them on the road to victory. Where he leads, others follow.
That is the quarterback.
That is what sets those players apart.
The mental aspect, and the look of eagles. The eagle is America’s symbol to the rest of the world; so is the quarterback.