Gunslingers Can Only Carry You So Far: Franchises Are Bigger Than Just Quarterbacks

When you think of a franchise player, you think of an athlete who is not simply the best player on his team, but a player that the team can build its "franchise" around for the foreseeable future. The misunderstanding that a franchise player is only "the best player on a team" disregards the fact that an inordinately bad team will undoubtedly still employ a player with superior skills, relative to his team.

There seems to be a lot of arguing about the impact of a franchise quarterback and his importance to the team among experts and analysts. Everyone seems to think that a franchise quarterback is necessary to win championships. I agree to a certain extent, but let’s not get all caught up in this quarterback mystique. Let’s look at who people argue is the best quarterback in the game. Peyton Manning has been without a doubt the most consistent, dynamic quarterback of his generation. Manning, however, only has won one Super Bowl in his career.

If you look across the league, the quarterback position is important, but good teams have two things in common: they run the ball and they play good defense. No disrespect to the quarterback position, but teams that have won the Super Bowl have all had very good running attacks in the big game. Look at the one Super Bowl that Manning won. It was a game dominated by Dominic Rhodes. Even when you look at some of the elite quarterbacks that won the championship, they were all matched with some great running backs and great defenses.

Let’s take it back a few more years and look at the Brett Favre era. Favre, in all of his greatness, won but only one Super Bowl. One … and he got that one because he had a monster in the backfield in Dorsey Levens and a defense that was led by “the Minister” Reggie White. (Too many times people often overlook this.)

Some would argue that Tom Brady is the exception, but that would also be a misnomer. The one year that the Patriots were dominant and pass-happy, they went undefeated during the regular season, but they got beat in the big game due to their lack of ability to run the ball and control the game after they got a lead. In fact, the only years the Patriots were able to close the deal they had big-time runners on the field. They have lost their last two Super Bowls due to their lack of a running game. They were beaten by the Giants both times. The Giants have the recipe of running the ball and playing hard-nosed defense.

Naturally there are going to be some exceptions to the rule, but it’s interesting to watch teams position themselves to get a franchise quarterback. Watching teams like Chicago mortgage a few picks and players to get a guy like Jay Cutler, or even watching a team like the Jets deface itself and look desperate to bring in a guy like Tim Tebow, you can rest assured that teams would love to have themselves a franchise quarterback. You would think that these teams would have figured out that a good defense and a solid running game is enough to get you close. Then you solidify the passing game.

If you take a look at the Ravens, Steelers and Giants, they get close or win it year after year and they do it with defense and running the ball.  Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback, but he is great because he doesn’t hurt his team. When the Steelers played last season and the year before with backup quarterbacks, they still got production because Steeler football at the time was smash-mouth football, which means they are going to run, and they are going to play defense.

Others have fallen short as Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Donovan McNabb and others considered to be franchise quarterbacks have yet to make it happen. If you look at each of them, with the exception of Rivers, they have struggled in the running game. Unfortunately for Rivers, his best running back couldn’t stay healthy when it mattered most.

Now as the NFL season starts to unfold, a lot of pressure falls on the new-era quarterback and all eyes will be on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Both guys are great talents, but they could be well-served with a solid running game behind them. Having a gunslinger is nice, but having someone who can get it done on the ground means a lot more. Seriously the formula is out there. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how in the hell did Trent Dilfer win a Super Bowl?

Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!

9 Replies to “Gunslingers Can Only Carry You So Far: Franchises Are Bigger Than Just Quarterbacks”

  1. Quarterbacks are the centerpiece of every team. They carry the responsibility that others will not. Runningbacks don't always have to deal with the highs and the lows when a team is winning and losing. Maybe at some point teams will stop praising the gunslinger and start looking at total team success. This is an interesting post though as it counters the thoughts of many who feel the quarterback will determine the success of a team.

    1. Its interesting how some teams can't win without one and how others thrive because of one. Jay Cutler of the Bears comes to mind, Roethlisberger too. Interesting read indeed by Joe.

  2. I agree with this to a certain extent as well ... but no matter you slice it, quarterback is still the most important position on the field. Now, football is the ultimate team game, so the quarterback certainly doesn't have to be your best player or even a franchise player, but no other player has to make a decision with the precious pill the way the quarterback does. When you control where the ball goes, your job immediately because the most visible and vital, even if you need 10 other guys helping you out every play.

    Certainly interesting to see teams always chase that franchise guy under center, sometimes neglecting other aspects of the team. As you point out, there's a whole lot more to a team than the QB.

    1. I agree Rev. The qb is important but sometimes teams blow things out of proportion for something that they already have looking for the latest and greatest.

  3. Great article and it shows why it takes a full team effort to be successful, but trust me having that franchise/clutch QB does make winning that much more easier. Do you think the Giants would have had the same outcome with Sanchez at the helm, no sirs. I say no because at the end of the day there were moments throughout the championship journey, that the Giantes, in spite of a good running game or defense needed Eli to step up and he was able to which made being successful that much easier to achieve.

    1. I couldn't agree more with your analysis. But think of the great feats that Eli pulled off. The David Tyree catch. The Plaxico Catch. The Mario Manningham catch. Those were all a product of the person on the receiving end turning water into wine. However one could argue that those throws were put in a place where only the receiver could catch it. That being true, then its a dual relationship that produced the result. But you are right about one thing, everyone can't make that play or that throw. But I wouldn't call David Tyree or Mario Manningham franchise players either.

      1. As someone who has watched Eli up close in the last six+ years, I can tell you that the most important part of his maturation - other than his improved footwork in '11 - was the rapport he develops with every receiver, fullback and tight end on the roster. So speaking to that point, the dual relationship is vital. While the veteran Plaxico helped Eli gain confidence with deep throws (and many forget that Burress had to adjust his own game b/c of a bum ankle that season), it was still early in the younger Manning's career. The same can be said for Amani Toomer, who aided with possession receptions, especially on the sideline. Both were there as Eli had to grow up, but what we've seen with many others since came from guys that came having to catch up to Eli. The other Steve Smith (for other reasons, sure) isn't the same WR. Kevin Boss isn't the same TE.

        Yet, Hakeem Nicks - someone who isn't even six-foot, but has the hands of a taller man - answered the overdone "Who replaces Plax?" emphatically. Victor Cruz - whose arrival was delayed a year because he was hurt in '10 (and what an arrival in '11) - replaced Toomer and thensome (Smith was the heir apparent, originally). It took a while for Eli to trust a TE last year, but even without Ballard, he has the tools to make it work. It goes back to that dual relationship... and a most underrated offensive line.

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