The quarterback has rightfully been proclaimed as the most important position in football because they touch the ball on every offensive play. Because of that, media and fans praise quarterbacks when their teams win and crucify them when they lose. However, we put too much focus on winning when it comes to judging quarterbacks.
In other sports such as basketball, one player can dominate both on offense and defense and single-handedly win a game. Football, though, is the ultimate team sport. Even a quarterback cannot win by himself because there are simply too many factors that determine the success of a football team.
For example this past week, Drew Brees threw for 439 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks while completing over 80% of his passes. He helped his team put up 40 points on the Buccaneers, but still lost the game because of an atrocious defensive effort and a fumble by the Saints’ backup running back. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers led a 20 point comeback against the Bears. However, on the final drive, he threw a ball that fell right through a cornerback’s hands. Even his game-winning touchdown was one where Randall Cobb caught a 10-yard slant and took it 70 yards to the house.
Underrated vs Overrated Quarterbacks
Some quarterbacks don’t get the credit they deserve because they haven’t won championships or don’t make the playoffs every year. Since they don’t win as much as others, people don’t think of them as highly when they truly are great. On the other hand, quarterbacks who have great supporting casts and/or coaches that help them win get rated higher. This is true for quarterbacks in the league right now as well as those from previous eras.
Eli Manning vs Philip Rivers
One clear example showing over-reliance on winning to determine quarterback quality is the comparison between Eli and Rivers. These two have been connected since their teams swapped them during round one of the 2004 NFL Draft. Simply because he has two Super Bowl rings, people consider Eli a surefire Hall of Famer. Philip Rivers is borderline HOF but underrated because although he has the stats and production year in and year out, he has never gone to the Super Bowl.
This is a perfect example of how people put too much priority on winning. Eli had a dominant defensive line both times he won the championship, a defensive line that twice helped hold Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to under 20 points. Overall, he has had a solid but unspectacular career, including having led the NFL in interceptions three times.
Rivers has a higher completion percentage, yards per game, TD-INT ratio and passer rating than Manning and even Ben Roethlisberger. But just because Manning and Big Ben had better supporting casts which allowed them to win multiple championships, media and fans consider them better than Rivers.
Dak Prescott vs Carson Wentz
In 2016, Wentz came in as the number two overall pick while Prescott entered the league as a fourth-round pick. Dak had a superior offensive line and running back that season, allowing his team to win 13 games and take the number one seed. Wentz had more trouble and a worse supporting cast. While the Philadelphia Eagles had many close games, they ended up with a 7-9 record.
Prescott received MVP votes because he was the quarterback of a very successful team. People proclaimed he was already better than Wentz and 2016 number one overall pick Jared Goff simply because he was on a better team. Football aficionados could tell that Wentz was more talented and Prescott was mostly a tough game manager. Still, many gave Dak the edge because of bias toward team success.
The next season, Prescott lost a few of his teammates for various reasons, leading to a decline in his efficiency and the Cowboys’ success. Wentz on the other hand, broke out with a tremendous season, taking his team to the number one seed and becoming the favorite for MVP before tearing his ACL in Week 14. Now, the general consensus is that Wentz is obviously a better quarterback than Prescott.
Judge QB’s by their performance, not wins
There are so many factors that go toward determining who wins football games and NFL championships. A quarterback has to depend on his defense to hold the opposing team to fewer points. He also has to depend on his offensive line to give him time to throw and his receivers to catch the ball and make plays. In addition, a solid run game benefits the quarterback by forcing defenses to take some attention off the passing attack.
All of this says that quarterbacks are dependent on the rest of their team just like any other position. Other players like running backs and defensive ends are judged on their production, not their team’s success. Likewise, we should judge quarterbacks based on how they play individually, not how their teams perform as a whole.
Featured image by CBS Sports
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