QB comes first
This year's top teams show blueprint for success
Posted: Thursday October 11, 2007 12:08PM; Updated: Friday October 12, 2007 12:37AM
Defense wins championships. That is the NFL bumper sticker that has survived so many cold winters, an ode to Nitschke and Mean Joe and the first L.T. It is a nod to frozen tundra and football in the trenches, a tip of the cap to the untamed spirit of the game.
But what truly keeps NFL owners and general managers up at night is not the search for the next great defensive tackle or cover corner.
This is still the league of the quarterback, perhaps now more than ever.
As Sunday's meeting between the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys draws nearer, it is instructive to see what the five teams with the highest winning percentage in the league have in common.
The Patriots (5-0) have Tom Brady. The Colts (5-0) have Peyton Manning. The Cowboys (5-0) have Tony Romo. The Packers (4-1) have Brett Favre. The Steelers (4-1) have Ben Roethlisberger.
There is a bagful of wins and Super Bowl trophies between them, not to mention the less tangible qualities of leadership and toughness. Find a franchise quarterback and, more often than not, you have a winning formula.
While Dan Marino proved that even a Hall of Fame quarterback does not guarantee a Super Bowl title, it still remains the shortest route to wins, championships and dynasties.
It is why Bill Walsh's San Francisco 49ers, even with Joe Montana, traded for Steve Young in the hopes of finding a successor who could sustain excellence. It is why former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi traded Philip Rivers and three draft picks for Eli Manning and a shot at those bloodlines. It is why the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb this year, even though they have Donovan McNabb, and why the Jets drafted Kellen Clemens last year, even though they have Chad Pennington. The search for quarterback greatness is a 24-hour business.