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Does winning make Alex Smith a good quarterback?

NFL: Super Bowl LI-NFL Honors Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I’m assuming you’ve been handed the information in the table below on several occasions.

NFL Regular Season Quarterback Wins in the Past Three Years

Player Wins
Player Wins
Tom Brady 35
Aaron Rodgers 32
Russell Wilson 32
Alex Smith 30
Ben Roethlisberger 28
Matthew Stafford 27
Andy Dalton 26
Cam Newton 26
Carson Palmer 25
Matt Ryan 25

Alex Smith has the fourth most wins of NFL starting quarterbacks in the last three seasons. From this many may state the following:

Alex Smith is a good quarterback. He is a good quarterback because he wins.

The assumption is that Alex Smith is a good quarterback because he wins football games.

We’ve gone over this time and time again. We’ve seen the stats shoved in our faces countless times. But none of these numbers actually leads towards a conclusion about whether or not quarterback wins are synonymous with good quarterbacking.

So I’m here to answer the following question once and for all: Is a winning quarterback a good quarterback?

Some semantics...

Semantics entails the study of the meaning of words. Our goal is to find out what is meant or implied by the following statement:

Alex Smith is a good quarterback. He is a good quarterback because he wins.

I want to focus specifically on the second sentence.

He is a good quarterback because he wins.

To form a logical argument, we need to simplify this statement and find out exactly what it means. The above statement means the following:

All winning quarterbacks are good quarterbacks.

So the question must follow: Is it true that all winning quarterbacks are good quarterbacks?

Proof by Contradiction

A standard logical means of proving whether or not a claim is true is to put it through a Proof by Contradiction. Proof by Contradiction’s goal is to build the negation of a claim, and prove that item true of false. If the negation is true, then the original idea is false. If the negation is false, then the original could be true.

The reasoning behind a Proof by Contradiction is that an item cannot be simultaneously true and false. For instance, the lamp in your living room can’t be both off and on at the same time; this presents a logical contradiction.

Using this information we need to negate the statement “All winning quarterbacks are good quarterbacks.” The negation is:

There exists a winning quarterback who is not a good quarterback.

The question is not about whether or not a winning quarterback is good; the question is whether or not there has been a bad quarterback who won a lot of games.

What is a bad quarterback?

So now we know what we must prove, we need to know exactly what a “not good” quarterback is.

I paused for a moment to think of a way to quantify this, but then I remembered I was a Chiefs fan and had a plethora of “not good” quarterbacks to draw from. In about half a second I decided Matt Cassel would be the perfect example.

Of course we all know 2010 Matt Cassel wasn’t exactly terrible. So I decided I’d use 2009 Matt Cassel as our baseline. 2009 Matt Cassel had a quarterback rating of 69.9. So our goal will be to find winning quarterbacks over the course of NFL history who had a quarterback rating similar to 2009 Matt Cassel.

If you feel 2009 Matt Cassel was a good quarterback then I don’t know what to say other than I will pray for you.

Bad quarterbacks who won

Going through NFL quarterback career data I found the following quarterbacks who had winning records and won a lot of games, but had ratings similar to 2009 Matt Cassel.

Quarterback Wins Losses Rating
Quarterback Wins Losses Rating
Steve Grogan 75 60 69.6
Terry Bradshaw 107 51 70.9
Jay Schroeder 61 38 71.7

How dare you say Terry Bradshaw is a bad quarterback?!?!!! He is in the Hall of Fame and won four Super Bowls!

My response: His quarterback rating is awfully close to 2009 Matt Cassel’s. Matt Cassel may have won four Super Bowls with the Steel Curtain as his defense.

Steve Grogan was a quarterback for the Patriots from 1975 to 1990. He is the purest form of a bad quarterback who won a lot of games. I never saw Grogan play so I’d be really interested to know from a commenter how he won so many games and played for 15 years.

The final quarterback, Jay Schroeder, played in the NFL from 1985 to 1994. He was a bit of a journeyman as he played for the Redskins, Raiders, Bengals, and Cardinals.

Strangely enough Schroeder led two different teams to 12-4 records (Redskins and Raiders), but never latched on as a consistent starter. I would also be interested to hear about Schroeder’s story in the comments.

Proving the Contradiction

Since we proved that bad quarterbacks who also win games exist, the following can be said thanks to Proof by Contradiction logic:

Just because a quarterback wins a lot of games, does not mean they are a good quarterback.

More precisely we can say: Not all winning quarterbacks are good quarterbacks.


Using Proof by Contradiction logic we were able to prove the statement “All winning quarterbacks are good quarterbacks” is patently false. Using quarterback wins as a metric to prove the “goodness” of a quarterback is false reasoning and false logic.

However, if you said “Most winning quarterbacks are good quarterbacks.” then we’d have an entirely different conversation on our hands. You have to love semantics....

So, does winning make Alex Smith a good quarterback? The answer is no, it does not.

When arguing whether or not a quarterback is good, we should focus on what makes that quarterback a winner; not the wins themselves.

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