QB comes first (cont.)
Posted: Thursday October 11, 2007 12:08PM; Updated: Friday October 12, 2007 12:37AM
Having the right quarterback allows a coach and general manager to worry about other things, like stopping the run and creating a pass rush and building an offensive line.
With no need to worry about Brady, Bill Belichick can focus on all of those linebacking schemes.
And Peyton Manning? Tony Dungy says his quarterback came back from the Colts' Super Bowl season intent on elevating his completion percentage. From a career-high of 67.6 percent in 2004, it had dropped to 67.3 in 2005 and to 65.0 last season. Through five games this season, Manning has completed 69.7 percent of his throws.
With Manning the ultimate student and self-starter, Dungy, like Belichick, can tinker elsewhere, instructing a Colts team that is already plus-7 in takeaways/giveaways.
The difference between a team with superior quarterback play and a team with quarterback struggles may never have been more pronounced than in the early 1990s in the NFC West. From 1990 to 1998, as the Rams leaned on the inconsistent Jim Everett and the erratic Tony Banks, the 49ers beat the Rams 17 straight times, largely on the arms of Montana and Young.
When Kurt Warner took over as the Rams quarterback in 1999 -- the same year that Young played his final NFL game -- the Rams tore off six straight wins against the 49ers and won their first Super Bowl.
The Colts just aren't the Colts without Manning, New England isn't New England without Brady and the 49ers wouldn't have been nearly as successful without Montana and Young adding color to Walsh's Xs and Os.
While there are exceptions to every rule (poor Trent Dilfer), the NFL history books don't miss much when it comes to quarterbacks: Unitas, Namath, Staubach, Bradshaw, Elway, Aikman, and on and on it goes.
Manning and Brady are the league's top dogs now, and general managers and coaches are surely dreaming about the next great quarterbacks. There is a reason teams in the NFL draft have selected a quarterback with the first pick in six of the last seven years and eight of the last 10. As Mike Holmgren once said of the all-important quarterback: "He is the star."
Damon Hack has been covering the NFL for 10 years and joined Sports Illustrated in August. His stories will appear regularly in the magazine and on SI.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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