As may of you have seen, Bewsaf wrote a nice post titledKansas City Chiefs Franchise Turnaround: The Job's Not Done.
If you haven't checked it out, then I suggest that you do so. Many who were involved in that post are aware that it took a slight turn off topic. But the topic was very interesting. So interesting that I felt it deserved it's own post. All stats were from Pro Football Reference, NFL.com, ESPN.com, and my memory. Let's jump.
The topic was about a NFL team having to have a top 5 or elite QB in order to be a SB caliber team. I have to give props to Brsrkr, MN, Ups, Jaywalk3er, and some other posters for what I thought was a great discussion devoid of irrational rants.
Some posters feel as though an elite QB is necessary for a SB caliber team. I for one disagree.
I believe that Elite QB's are created. Can anyone be an Elite QB you ask? Well, let's start by defining what we are discussing. Now this might come as a shock, but there is no dictionary definition of an Elite QB. So let's just start with the definition of the word "Elite".
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of the adjective form of "Elite" is : "representing the most choice or select; best."
So an elite QB could be defined as the most choice, select, or the best. We for the most part determine the "best" QB by stats, SB visits, SB wins, and overall playoff success.
All righty. Now that we have that out of the way, I say again that I don't believe that you have to have a top 5 or Elite QB to be a Superbowl caliber team. I believe that we need top 5 or elite QB PLAY. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that there is no such thing as an Elite QB, but I believe that Elite QB's are created in large part by system. And by system I mean the front office, play calling, and surrounding players.
There are definitely traits that you would like a QB to have such as arm strength, accuracy, pocket presence, and common sense. But outside of common sense (because we all know it aint that common), there is not a huge discrepancy in the NFL as far as those other attributes are concerned.
Let's take accuracy for example. I threw a football not too long ago for the first time in years. Saying it was awful would be the understatement of the year. I might have missed a car. In the NFL, the gap between an accurate QB and a non accurate QB is not that big. It seems like it in the game, but in most cases, it's as simple as being able to get a ball into the hands vs getting it into a catchable vicinity. That is the accuracy Gap of a NFL QB. When I think Accuracy, Brees, P. Manning, Brady, and Rodgers come to mind because they can hit a moving receiver in the hands. The opposite end of the spectrum? Tyler Palko. I know he is not a starter, but he was possibly the most inaccurate QB I have ever seen (Yes, even worse than Tebow). When you have a QB with accuracy issues, you need receivers who can go and get the ball. When accuracy is really high, you can use receivers who may be smaller and prefer the ball be in a particular spot.
And Arm strength? I don't know for sure, and there is no way to prove this statement. But from watching many games, I would bet that there is no QB in the league who can't make a 50 yard throw. And I don't know if anyone today can make a 70 yard throw (Cam Newton Maybe?). I would wager that most QB's fall into the 55-65 yard range. Ten yards is a decent difference in distance, but it is no deal breaker at that point. A team won't likely get many 50 + yard shots in a game. If you have a QB with a weak arm, you don't want to put him in a position where he has to throw lots of deep balls and has to thread the needle very often. And if he has a cannon, get him a serious deep threat, and let him take his shots.
Pocket presence is a little different, but there still is not a huge gap. The best is probably P.Manning, Brady, or Brees. Neither of them is a great runner, so they kind of have to have good pocket presence. The other side is Alex Smith. He not only led the league in times sacked, but he did it with a small amount of attempts for a starter who played the whole season. If a QB's pocket presence is bad, then get him all day to pass by putting some hogs up front, or put him in an offense with spreads and bootlegs.
Ok, I can hear some of you now...."but you keep naming the same QB's. They must be the Elite ones." I won't argue with that. But my point is that the system, or the position these players are put in makes a huge difference. This is the reason I can still believe in Cassel to a certain degree. I don't believe that he has consistently been put in a position to win.
In 2008, Cassel had a good year. A year good enough to land him a full time starting gig. The thing that baffled me the most was I saw many of those games, and Cassel made some really nice throws. I'm sure many remember the throw to Moss in the endzone. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was Moss, but that play was on Cassel. When Moss turned around, the ball was in the only spot it could have been in in order to make the play. But when Cassel got to KC, he looked like a shell of what we saw in NE. That is until his Pro Bowl Season in 2010. What were the differences between 2008 and every other year except for 2010? Cassel didn't have enough toys. 2011 was a little different because we didn't have the offseason, but he was still missing his security blanket (Moeaki) and the line still had a few holes.
Ok Cassel haters, let me say it for you .."Stop making excuses for Cassel!!"
Now that we have that out of the way, we can move forward. What some call excuses, I call reality. When looking at the attributes I listed above, it's no secret that some QBs are better in certain areas than others. But at the NFL level, I don't believe the skill sets are so far apart that a solid players weaknesses can't be compensated for. Based on the abilities of most QB's in the NFL, I believe that a players attributes play a small role in his ability to be a top 5 producing QB (or any other position for that matter).
I believe that the "Elite" QB's are for the most part considered elite due to their overall systems and support. What a good organization will do is look at a player and figure out what needs to happen to make a player a top 5 player. Let's take a look at a QB who seemed elite a few years back.
Daunte Culpepper. In 2004 he was 2nd only to Peyton Manning in several categories. He looked like he was the next big thing. Then in 2005, he looked.....well.....awful. He got hurt after playing about 7 games, but he was no where near the same QB. What happened? Randy Moss went to Oakland. Daunte Culpepper was a very strong armed QB who excelled at the deep ball. That was his strength. After Moss left, he had no true deep threats. A QB who excelled at the deep ball was left with a stable of guys like Travis Taylor. If you are like me, you saw that name and said who? Well he was the teams new leading receiver.
Let's look at someone else. How about Tim Tebow. Now I really like the kid, but I don't know that there is anyone on earth who would consider him an elite QB at this point in his career. But he was successful as a QB. Is Tebow a better QB than Matt Hasselbeck?.....Jake Locker?..........Jay Cutler?......Philip Rivers? He is if you judge by playoff wins last year. I mean he not only went to the playoffs, but they won a game. Why? Because Denver was smart enough to realize that they would have to put him in a position to win. *Spoiler alert* Even though Tebow is a QB, passing is not his strength. But he is a heck of a runner. So the Broncos converted to a run team, and even brought in the triple option because that is where his strength was. It got them a win in the playoffs.
Ok. So Tebow is not a huge point in my argument that QB's are mostly created. Time for me to pull the ace from my sleeve. Kurt Warner. Kurt is my Ace because he is one of the few QB's who went from Elite, to washed up, and back to Elite again (the argument could be made for Brett Favre also). In the late 90's early 2000's, Kurt Warner was the leader of the "The Greatest Show on Turf". And they were great. I always thought he was one of the most accurate QB's I had ever seen. Where he put the ball was a thing of beauty. Receivers running full speed seemed like they never had to slow down to catch one of his ba..... passes (let's keep this professional). Then in 2004 he went to the NY Giants, and frankly, he looked like a 4 hit wonder. He was a very pedestrian Kurt Warner. He was 5-4 as a starter before Eli took over. New York had Jeremy Shockey, an aging Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. A far cry from Issac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Marshall Faulk. And the Giants O-line sucked.
But then in 2005 he went to Arizona. And in the 2008 season, after having been a backup to Matt Leinart, he took the Cardinals to the SB. What was the difference? A decent line, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and our own Steve Breaston.
So the point is is better presented in a question using Kurt Warner as an example. Is Kurt Elite?, and if he is did he make the team more so than the team made him?
Let's look at 1 more example. Eli Manning. Eli is the perfect example of a statistically mediocre QB who has won 2 SB. In 2007 he didn't play very well until the playoffs. His stats? Definitely not elite. But the bottom line is that he was put into a position to win. When he took over for Warner in 2004, his stats proved that the Giants were not built for a QB to succeed. I know he was a rookie, but his stat line (per NFL.com) was
|2004||New York Giants||9||197||95||48.2||21.9||1,043||5.3||115.9||6||3.0||9||4.6||52||11||4||13||83||55.4|
So in 2005 they picked up a new toy for Eli......Plaxico Burress in his prime. The Giants then continued to build around Eli ny buffing up the o-line and getting even more toys.. Even though the Giants willed their way through the playoffs in 07, they were built for Eli to succeed in 2011. The kid has won 2 SB in the last 4 years, but very few truly consider him an Elite QB. I personally believe the biggest factor between Eli and Peyton were the situations they were initially put into. What if Peyton had receivers who weren't where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there? What if he had an OC or front office who wouldn't let him run his own offense? Those are the things he needs to be successful.
Haley was indeed bringing in some toys to help Cassel, but his perceived playcall system was a joke. For years we had a garbage line and 1 good receiver. And the defense for the most part was not doing anything to help. Haley, Muir, or whoever was actually calling the plays did not put our players in the best positions for success. If Daboli can get Elite production out of Cassel, then we can win a SB with Cassel.
It is the teams job to use what you do best and make you comfortable enough to win. The teams that are the best at making their QB's comfortable and utilizing their strengths are usually the teams with the top QB play. And this is true for all players. Steve Smith was thought to be washed up until the Panthers put him in a position to be successful by getting him a QB who could get him the ball. It doesn't matter how "Elite" a player is if he is in a horrible position. A QB needs an o-line, some control, and someone to catch the ball. The better that situation, the better the QB. You could put an ok QB into a great situation and he will likely have some success. But if you put a great QB in an awful situation, he won't be great for very long. Cassel did pretty well in Brady's 2008 position. Brady would possibly be out of the league if he was put into Cassel's 2009 position.
There are indeed great QBs, but I believe the system is what can make a player Elite or a dud.