Let’s get real: while defenses supposedly win championships, the last few years have been quarterback dominated. It’s not since 2003 that we’ve had a Super Bowl winner that didn’t tout a top-tier quarterback like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, a Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger. Sure, defenses showed up and helped out, but the overall vibe is that the league is all about the quartbacks.
So, what is going on in Indianapolis?
In the year that the Super Bowl will be played in Indy, Colts owner Jim Irsay has fired championship parts like General Manager Bill Polian (and his son) and Coach Jim Caldwell. The Colts are on the hook for $28 million if they keep Peyton Manning, and they’ve won the popularly titled “Suck for (Andrew) Luck” sweepstakes. So, are they clearing deadwood that think Manning is over the hill or are they (Irsay) preparing to jettison one of the greatest quarterbacks of the 21st century?
Yes, the San Francisco 49ers took down record-setting Brees, and the N.Y. Giants rudely dismantled the Green Bay Packers’ offense and Rodgers, but both Alex Smith (one-time #1 pick) and the little Manning have undeniable quarteback skills. Still, that leaves three defensive-minded teams (even if it seems like every game was about outscoring rather than actually stopping the other team) and the New England Patriots, to duke it out for the Super Bowl this season. And the memory of “The Catch” by David Tyree are sure to haunt the memories of anyone on the Pats team from 2007. So, it still remains to be seen if a QB will get it done or if a defense will get all of the credit.
So, is getting rid of the elder Manning really a good idea? Is Luck ready to rock’n'roll for 2012-3? Or do we think that for the QB-dominated league that Manning is still necessary? Does loyalty matter here or is it simply a question of taste and finances? It seems that’s going to be the same question of the offseason for New Orleans as they lose Gregg Williams and must decide on the price of keeping Brees. And Denver is certainly there, too, with the wildly popular (but unorthodox) Tim Tebow, who may or may not be their quarterback of the future.
Back to 2002, I’m marking Brad Johnson down as an elite quarterback, but he’s still better than Trent Dilfer (2001). Before that we’re back to a list like Brett Favre, John Elway, Kurt Warner, Troy Aikman… who most teams would probably take… now. So, in the last fifteen years, we’re talking about fourteen elite quarterback wins (10 actual players), and you want to convince me it’s not about who’s under center?
Certainly, San Francisco or New York will make the Super Bowl, and one might very well win. But aren’t the high-scoring Pats still the favorites? Vegas considers them 6/5 odds (up from 3/1 for one of the NFC teams), and it’s hard to bet against The Hoodie AKA Bill Belicheck. Grumble on about defense all you want, or even the lack of loyalty to Manning and Tebow, but it’s a quarterback’s league and the rest of us are just along for the ride.