Before the term quarterback guru was ever popularized, there lived a very clever man named Sidney, (or as he was more readily known), "Sid" Gilman.
He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1911, paced his environs to the ripe age of 92 and in a near century of spirited existence impacted the game of professional football as few others have ever contemplated.
He once said, “The competition...the type of football. Wide open, putting it in the air. That’s the fascination. In college football, the big play is not the pass. In pro football, it is. The talent in the pros is so outstanding—the wide receivers, the quarterbacks. That’s the fun, when you take the ball and move it down the field with talented people."
Gilman was the head coach of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams from 1955 to 1959. He had only middling success there, in 1960 made the switch to the AFL's San Diego Chargers and it was in this swingin', So Cal environment that Sid the Kid eventually found a mobile, strong armed quarterback named John Hadl and a legendary wide out borne of extraordinary speed and grace named Lance Alworth.
Those three men, Hadl, Alworth and Gilman, would ultimately come to change the game of professional football forever.
It wasn't so much that they invented the the big strike, but more so prevailed upon its frequency. Gilman was the first to fully incorporate the motion game into his attacking schemes, creating endless mismatches with stay-at-home defenses, and in San Diego his teams won in the kind of thrilling fashion that prompted the rest of the AFL to prop up their own systems similarly.
From there the league's fast growing, fan-friendly reputation for playing a brand of football not seen in the more conventional NFL was born and this as much as anything came to prompt the merger between the two professional leagues.
Of course that piece of now almost ancient history notwithstanding it's defense that wins championships!
At least that's what many a purist will say, and when you look back on endless examples extending from Lombardi's Packers through the ultra impressive vagaries of Miami's "No Name D," Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain," the Raiders' "Black Hole," Cowboy defensive sides led by both Tom Landry and Jimmie Johnson, Ronnie Lott's 49ers, the Lawrence Taylor led Giants, the '86 Bears, the 2001 Ravens, numerous versions of Belichick's Patriots—well, of course the point is well made.
Rarely has a championship been won by simply outscoring the opposition in all encompassing offensive affair, but by the same token, with the possible exception of the Ditka/Ryan '86 Bears, you don't win with 21 players on the field either.
Whether the man over center is an all-time great—a Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana or Tom Brady—or just a chucker who gets hot at that quintessential time—a Doug Williams, Trent Dilfer or Eli Manning, for example—championship teams require a pilot, and that pilot generally speaking plays the quarterback position.
This year's NFL playoffs bring us a particular list of impressive players at the all important helm position.
So without further adieu we begin at the bottom of that 12-man pile.