Pro football is such an ironic sport, isn’t it? On one hand, it’s arguably the sport that places the greatest emphasis on teamwork, yet on the other hand, a team’s success is usually determined largely by the performance of one player: the quarterback.
The NFL has always been a quarterback-driven league, and that seems the case more today than ever before, given how teams are moving through the air at astounding rates. But is there a downside to placing so much emphasis on the quarterback?
In New England, the Patriots are still licking their wounds from a stunning 34-31 Week 3 defeat at the hands of the Bills. If we learned anything from this game, it’s that Tom Brady must be on his game for the Patriots to escape victorious; if he’s not—like he wasn’t in Buffalo—then New England is going to struggle.
They’re certainly not winning because of their defense. Although I told Pats fans not to worry about the defense’s porous start a few weeks ago, it may be time to change that tune. Through three games, they’re dead last in yards surrendered. They may improve as the season progresses, or they may not—I’m officially leaning towards the latter.
If you look at all of the elite defenses in the NFL (not that there are many these days), they each have that one “stud” defender. The Jets have Darrelle Revis; the Packers Clay Matthews; the Steelers James Harrison and Troy Polamalu; the Ravens Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.
And who’s the stud defender on the Patriots? Maybe Jerod Mayo or Vince Wilfork? Even so, not many are putting those two in the same class as a James Harrison or a Darelle Revis. Basically, the pressure’s on Brady to play like Superman every week. Because when he doesn’t—like against Buffalo or the Jets in last season’s playoffs—the Patriots usually run into a block of kryptonite.
In Philadelphia, the Eagles spent the offseason trying to alleviate pressure off Michael Vick by bringing together a dream team of defense. But at this point it’s painfully clear that the Eagles are two totally different teams when Vick is and isn’t in the game.
When Vick is healthy, the Eagles look very impressive, much like they did the opening game. But when he’s sidelined, suddenly Philadelphia is average offensively and surprisingly sloppy and undisciplined defensively.
After seeing what’s transpiring for the Patriots and Eagles, it’s evident that maybe too much pressure is being placed on certain quarterbacks to cover for teams with some fatal flaws. The Colts are now paying the price for putting it all on Peyton Manning’s neck for years.
Now the Pats and Eagles may pay the price in 2011 for putting it all on Brady and Vick.