Would you rather have a team that goes 11-5 or better, but loses in the playoffs or, a team that barely scrapes by in the regular season and gets hot in the playoffs?
The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, allowing guys like Arian Foster and Victor Cruz to become super stars out of the clear blue. Undrafted phenoms aside, I’m here to argue my case when it comes to ranking the NFL’s golden boys; Quarterbacks.
Building the perfect quarterback:
First let’s compile skill sets and traits that every team lusts after in a quarterback. First and foremost is leadership, can he go out on the field in any situation and lead his team to believe they are the superior team? Can he pick his team up when they’re down and readjust their mindset? Leadership trumps any physical short-comings, best exemplified by the barely 6-foot Drew Brees.
Mental toughness; quarterbacks are marked men, 11 guys at any given time are doing all they can to stop him. This idea of mental toughness is immeasurable. This is on a personal level for the quarterback but the rest of his abilities emanate from this “epicenter”. His ability to trust his receivers to run proper routes and catch the ball in tight situations and to trust his lineman to pick up pass rushers allowing plays to develop and execute. Mental toughness is the “give me your best shot, then watch me get up smiling while I brush the dirt off” idea.
Loathe Losing; a quarterback must hate nothing more than losing. EVERY offensive snap (aside from gadgets and wildcat garbage) the quarterback has the ball in his hands. He is the orchestrator of the offense, directing his coach’s composition, even at times expanding and changing the notes, if you will. This idea is scary if your quarterback is complacent; a “good enough” mind state is a sin. The perfect quarterback wants nothing more than to win, and be the reason the team triumphs.
Football 24/7; this means that football is the priority when his team is fighting for a playoff berth, or in the middle of May when football is dormant. This could also be known as “student of the game”, always studying his competition becoming smarter and more savvy. The quarterback is a field general; he is in essence a coach as well as a player. The game is entrusted to your quarterback, hence why it’s the hardest position in all of sports. Having a quarterback that doesn’t do his homework is like allowing a med student to conduct open heart surgery. With the complexity of football on the NFL level, the quarterback must be a well-versed surgeon.
Clutch; John Elway, Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas etc… what do these guys have in common? The ability to FINISH games. You can have a 110 passer rating 30+ tds and 5000 yards a season but it’s about WHEN, not so much HOW OFTEN. Your quarterback needs to be at his best with 2 minutes left down by 4 points with a trip to the super bowl on the line. There are plenty of quarterbacks that put up phenomenal numbers, but who cares about gaudy numbers when you can’t deliver when it’s needed?
Physical Attributes; this is where we account his God-given talent and physical build. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about 6’5 220 with a huge arm and pin point accuracy but the most important physical attribute (which is naturally given, and near impossible to learn) is the release. A quarterbacks release decides all his passing abilities. (For those of you who don’t know, the release is how quick the quarterback goes from cocked to throwing, i.e. his throwing motion). This dictates how hard it is to sack the quarterback; obviously being able to deliver the ball in a hurry makes it harder to get to him. The release dictates placement of the ball, accuracy speed of the pass, and any other in flight attributes you can conceive.
How do you rank quarterbacks?
If you were to rank them based purely on the allure mentioned than the list would be skewed towards the blue-chip all-pro quarterbacks that everyone that knows. The quarterbacks in this group are obvious; Brady, Peyton, Rodgers, Brees, not in that order but those names are the ones that come to mind.
Let’s revisit my opening statement;” Would you rather have a team that goes 11-5 or better, but loses in the playoffs or, a team that barely scrapes by in the regular season and gets hot in the playoffs? “
This skews the list again, if you were to list the top quarterbacks based on their ABILITY TO WIN IN BIG GAMES, including SUPER BOWLS? Brady, Eli, Rodgers, Brees, Ben, Peyton. IN THAT ORDER, based on AMOUNT of rings, and most RECENT championship, as we said it’s a “what have you don’t for me lately” league.
Putting Eli ahead of Rodgers and Brees seems completely stupid, but would you rather have a guy that is a regular season monster, setting records then lose to the 7-9 Seahawks? (2010 playoffs Saints vs. Seahawks), or a guy that is severely underrated puts up very good regular season stats (Eli: 29 tds 16 ints, 4,933 yds and a career high 92.9 passer rating in 2011) gets his team in the back door of the playoffs, winning the TOUGHEST division in football with a 9-7 record then goes on to win his SECOND super bowl after 2 straight road wins against the 15-1 Packers and the 13-3 49ers?
We play and watch sports to file it down to TWO teams to go on and win championships, so if you want to sit here and tell me that a 15-1 regular season and one and done (2011 Packers), or a 14-2 season with a super bowl loss(2011 Patriots) is better than a 9-7 season with a super bowl win, I say enjoy setting your records and winning 15 regular season games. I’ll take a super bowl ring hands down.