Rise of the Quarterback Essay

Every season, the National Football League (NFL) has 32 teams all grinding out the 16 games for one of 12 playoff spots, which mearns a chance to be crowned Super Bowl champion. For many years, it seemed the same 12 teams were in these spots, while 20 other teams fell further and further behind in making a push to be a contender in a very difficult league. The last few years, however have been different as some teams have risen to new heights while others have fallen from the promise land to a ismal ending.

A number of factors contribute to why this is happening; the largest reason behind this is the play of their current quarterback or lack thereof. With quarterbacks coming out of college being more prepared to play in the NFL, some of the losing teams are able to select quarterbacks to turn around the franchise in a faster amount of time. Having an elite quarterback on an NFL team guarantees success year in and year out. Success in the NFL is truly defined by Super Bowl wins.

Every coach and owner knows that winning the Super Bowl every year is an nrealistic goal, so they hold players to the standards of wins during the regular season, reaching the playoffs, and wins during the playoffs. Even though reaching the playoffs get coaches and players only so far, with each team being a multimillion dollar business, owiners know that Super Bowl wins are what drive the business, so in absence of winning a Super Bowl finding a quarterback and face of the franchise can help endure some of the non -super bowl winning seasons.

To become an elite quarterback in this league it takes physical attributes, along with a mental toughness o endure hardships of knowing all blame and glory fall on the players’ shoulders. The quarterback has to be able to produce game changing statistics and wins all at the same time as being the face of the franchise. The quarterback position is seen as the leader or general on the field, he not only touches the ball every time on offense, out It Is also nls JOD to read a aeTense ana execute tne OTTenslve cooralnators plays to the best of his abilities.

Unlike many skilled positions in the NFL, the quarterback is the only one that does not rotate with another player to come in during a game nless the games are out of reach, and the coaches are substituting for the quarterback for fear of injury. The other time is if the team has consecutive losses or poor play from their quarterback then he may be benched. For example Kyle Orton was this year for the Denver Broncos, and the movement towards the future was put in place to see if Tim Tebow can live up to the hype that is surrounding him since the NFL combine.

The NFL combine is an event held every year in Indianapolis, where the NFL invites the top prospects from college football to perform a series of drills in ront of the 32 NFL teams in preparation for the NFL draft. At the combine all 32 teams send scouts that evaluate the pperformances of these prospects, and will determine if these players could help their respected teams either repeat the success of the prior year or help the team improve.

The NFL draft is a yearly process over a four day span in the selection of the top college prospects entrance into the NFL. The draft was initiated in 1936 with a reverse selection order, so that the worst team from the prior year would be selecting first, then the second worst team selects ext, and continues till all 32 teams have been selected (Berri, Simmons).

The reason the process was put in place was to try to even the playing field so that the worst teams would be able to select the best collegiate prospects declaring they are ready for the NFL. The scouts position can be one of the hardest front office positions in the NFL, because it is up to them to determine who they feel is ready to compete at the next level, and with the quarterback position being one of the most sought after, it becomes an even harder task when a team is resting their hopes on drafting omeone that can lead them to glory.

As in the newarticle The Quarterback Prediction Problem: Forecasting the Performance of College Quarterbacks Selected in the NFL Draft, “One fundamental challenge that arises in the quarterback prediction problem is how to quantify quarterback performance and thereby determine how “successful” a quarterbacks professional career will be,” (Schmicker, Vittorio, Wolfson). This quote shows that Just because a quarterback was successful in college, does not mean he will be successful in the NFL. For a quarterback to be successful in the NFL, he has to e able to handle the adversity of an NFL player.

Quarterbacks in college don’t see the same adversity as in the NFL this is why scouts have a hard time in determining if their teams select one of these young men with a high draft pick. In an interview with Mark Jackson, a former wide receiver of the Denver Broncos, his quote gives insight of why scouting and finding the right player can be hard,”Talent is commonplace in the NFL. If you are playing in the NFL or being drafted to the NFL, it’s assumed that you have “some” talent. What separates talented players from great players and hampions is one’s ability to consistently perform in all situations over time. This quote shows that handling adversity is key to a successful career for any player because adversity comes on and off the field and in all situations. An adverse situation for quarterbacks in the NFL is the demand of having the highest salary, and that goes for rookies coming into the league as well. So not only does an NFL quarterback face the scrutiny of thousands of fans cheering and booing them on every play, Just like a college quarterback but the large contracts they see put them in uarterback having a say.

This past season the average quarterback salary was $1,970,982 with the highest salary being $23 million going to Peyton Manning (Van Riper). This amount of money puts pressure on this position because of the need to play well, especially with this taking a large amount of money away from the salary cap. The salary cap is a league wide rule of where the yearly player salary cannot exceed a set amount; it was put in place to help smaller market teams, such as Jacksonville, and Buffalo to keep in contention with the larger markets like New York, Dallas, and Miami.

This last year the cap was set at $130 million (Yasinskas) so when a team has 17% of their money going into one player such as the Indianapolis Colts have with Peyton Manning, the Colts expect this player to be the face of the franchise and win games. For one team the investment for the future started in 2009 when the Detroit Lions selected Mathew Stafford with the number one overall pick in the draft and gave him a contract for $72 million over six years. Prior to Stafford the Detroit Lions were a laughing stock of the league, and a team that has had eight top ten icks over the last ten years.

Even though they were selecting in the top ten for many years the scouting department did a poor Job in evaluating college players, which led in turn to the front office selecting players that did not contribute to the success of the team, until the likes of Calvin Johnson, and Mathew Stafford. They have become a very talented duo of a quarterback and wide receiver. Through the success of the last couple of drafts, this season the Lions have gone from a bottom feeder team to a serious contender, all on the shoulders of quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Mathew Stafford was drafted in 2009 and has not seen a complete season due to injuries. This year is his first season where an injury has not been sustained and the season is only half over. This is also Stafford’s best year statistically speaking, which is helping the Lions keep pace at 6-2 with another great team the Green Bay Packers at 8-0 (NFL), led by arguably the best quarterback in the league right now Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is considered the best because of how he approaches the game; he is calm, collected and puts in the hard work to go out and compete each week.

He is also a gifted athlete physically and mentally. His arm strength allows him to launch a ball 60 yards down field, while adding speed and strength to escape pressure to keep plays alive. His mental toughness is what many believe makes him an elite quarterback, his mental toughness has been talked about since his debut in this league as this quotes was taken from an newarticle on yahoo sports, “consensus of NFL experts who have seen the California product shake off a draft-day plunge in 2005 (once considered a potential No. overall pick, he fell to the Packers in the 24th slot n the first round), emerge from Favre’s shadow and blossom into an efficient triggerman for one of the NFL’s most prolific and balanced offenses” (Bell). Knowing that a great quarterback is in their division the Lions opted for a ssimilar physical specimen to Rodgers by drafting Stafford. Detroit is now hoping to see ssimilar results as the Packers saw with Rodgers delivering their fourth super bowl win last year, while also being named the super bowl MVP. On the other hand is a team possibly starting to look towards the future in the Indianapolis Colts, who lost star quarterback

Peyton Manning for the year to a third neck injury in 19 months and have obviously lost their way without their leader on the field; going a dreadful 0-9 and look at n0101ng tne numDer one overall PICK In next years’ araTt Tor tne Tlrst time since drafting Manning first overall in 1998. Speculation now has risen that the Colts, because of Mannings’ injury will draft for the future, and take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who Mathew Crossman believes “to be the next great NFL quarterback” (Crossman) who is ready to take the reins of any team and lead them to glory.

The possible changing of guard in Indianapolis this shows how important the quarterback position is for any team in the NFL, even when the team is considered to have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time on the roster. Peyton is believed by many to be the greatest quarterback in history after his career is finished, with numerous records approaching his sights, and a Super Bowl win under his belt. When Indianapolis drafted Manning in 1998, they were a lot like the Lions, looking for the face of the franchise, and a quarterback that could lead them.

Manning did Just hat compiling a winning record ofa 141 wins to 67 losses, while leading the Colts to 11 postseasons in 13 years (NFL). Already seeing what the future could be like without Manning at the helm, the Colts know that drafting an heir apparen’t is the only way of being a perennial playoff team. Many teams wish they would only have to draft every 13 years for a new quarterback, it would make the lives of coaches and GMs much easier. With many teams not having a rising quarterback such as the Lions, and an elite quarterback such as the Colts, the case could be made that it oesn’t take Just an elite quarterback to win in the NFL.

The saying goes offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Mark Jackson played in 3 Super Bowls and played with John Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game and was quoted “It’s been said that offense can get you to the Super Bowl but DEFENSE wins Super Bowls and I’d have to agree. With that said, great offenses are always run by great QB’s; not great wideouts, not great running backs, not great linemen. There are about 60 plays in a game and about 12-15 that have a significant effect on the outcome. John was able to make plays after the ball was snapped and the original play had failed.

He was irreplaceable. ” To say that one man on a team of 53 men is irreplaceable shows the value of this one position. John Elway to Marks’ 3 Super Bowl playing teams was irreplaceable, as is Peyton Manning to the Colts, because this time last year the same 0-9 Colts were 6-3, and 9-0 in 2009 (NFL). As for the Lions their 6-2 record this year is following a 2-6 record in 2010 when Stafford only played in 3 games all year, and 0-16 the year prior to drafting Stafford, this clearly shows how mportant an elite quarterback is for a team.

Several years ago the NFL, didn’t have the look it has today, the quarterback was only a game manager not a game changer. Today though with the increasing amount of indoor stadiums that have been built to play a game in perfect weather, the passing game has become the principle in the NFL, and the running back which once was the elitist position has now become a position by committee, all while the quarterback has become the staple of almost all offenses. As seen with the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts the play of two ifferent quarterbacks greatly affected the outcome for not only this season but seasons to come.

With Stafford starting to become the leader the Lions were hoping for when drafting him number one in 2009 their franchise has become a perennial contender along with another division foe in the Packers. As for the Colts only time will tell, if Peyton returns from his neck injury the hopes are he will return to his hall Tame stature, or at least stlcK around to nelp guide tne Tuture 0T tne Inalanapolls Colts, in Andrew Luck. Either way the play of the quarterback is now the play of the NFL, and determines success year in and year out.

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