Before Brian Billick donned a suit and hopped into a FOX broadcasting booth, he was coaching guys like Kyle Boller and Trent Dilfer as the Ravens head coach for the last nine years. Ironically, Billick's reputation as an offensive genius often took a back seat to his team's real strength: defense.
After winning Super Bowl XXXV with Trent Dilfer as their starting QB, Billick seemed to prove the old saying that while "offense wins games, defense wins championships". While the overt meaning of that mantra might make some people scratch their heads, in reality a statement closer to the truth is: "Football is a team sport."
People who are quick to establish the quarterback's importance within a team will point out that on every offensive play only two players are guaranteed to touch the ball: the Center and the QB.
However, a team's running game will have no positive or negative effect from the QB aside from the hand-off, and a passing game requires both the passer and the receiver to execute their jobs perfectly.
Tom Brady is indeed a fantastic QB, one of the absolute best at his position over the NFL's history, but in my mind he has lived and died by what the other 52 guys on his team have helped him achieve.
Need proof? Imagine Brady taking his snaps for the Miami Dolphins. That doesn't scream "16-0" as much, does it?
Even with Brady at full strength for the Patriots, you need look no farther than last February to determine how important a team's collective play can defeat a team with established stars and a Hall-of-Fame bound QB.
Don't get me wrong, Eli Manning isn't in the Trent Dilfer-league of QB's either, but how many of you picked him ahead of Brady in your fantasy drafts?
As for the Patriots' future this season? Some of that burden is indeed lying on Matt Cassel's shoulders, but most of it is going to depend on whether more injuries strike New England, or if their aging defense can pull together for another solid season, or if Laurence Maroney can be a featured back and shoulder the load on the ground.
As it stands right now, just as San Diego remains the favorite in the AFC West despite the loss of Merriman, New England is still the odds-on favorite to win the AFC East (sorry Bills fans), even with No. 12 out for the rest of the year.
And they should be. After all, one player got hurt. Not 53.