The NFL’s value of the quarterback position given the rise of superstars, the new defensive rules that protect their safety, and the passing revolution has never been higher. The amount of superstars that have carried the team going into the year felt astronomical, and the faces of the league made certain teams feel like immediate contenders based off of their name alone. We immediately saw Tom Brady returning to the Bucs, Aaron Rodgers after back-to-back MVPs, Russell Wilson getting a new start in Denver, Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford back on Super Bowl rosters, Lamar Jackson with a healthy roster, or even Derek Carr getting college best friend Davante Adams reunited in Las Vegas. There is not a more valuable position in sports, thus, having the best translates to wins, right?
Here’s a list of quarterbacks that have the same amount of wins or more than the quarterbacks just listed:
- Zach Wilson
- Geno Smith
- Daniel Jones
- Kirk Cousins
- Jalen Hurts
- Cooper Rush
- Jimmy Garoppolo
- Marcus Mariota
- Mac Jones/Bailey Zappe
With all due respect to those quarterbacks, it feels absolutely odd seeing teams quarterbacked with players we thought could potentially be at the bottom of the barrel of the league in regards to QB index in the same conversation as the faces of the sport that have defined the passing game for the past generation. There is parity in the sport right now, with the worst quarterbacking play being able to competently remain scrappy with the superstars, but it also has to do with the passing yards per game being down at a historic plummet in the last 16 years.
We often determine if a team can win a Super Bowl based off of if they have “the guy,” at quarterback, and that hasn’t been the case so far in translation to winning thus far. There is a surplus of middling teams that have been frisky by finding to win in a variety of ways, and the powerhouses have had flaws exposed beyond the quarterback position that have made them more vulnerable than we expected.
The Rams have had a middling offense thus far because they now have a depleted offensive line and possibly the worst run game balance in football at 31st in the league with only 70.5 yards per game. The Packers have struggled getting any momentum going on offense, their defense has disappointed, and they now have losses to the Jets and Giants in back-to-back weeks. The Joe Burrow “offensive line is fixed” story over the offseason may have been a myth as he’s still running for his life. And then in Denver, is there a LESS fun offense to watch than the one that Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett are running, the one where they average a league-worst 15 PPG and have their home crowd mocking them?
In the past, you wouldn’t want to bet against any of these offenses because of their strength alone. We’re seeing a revolution this year where teams with quarterbacks we thought were either middling or near the bottom are merely minimizing mistakes and playing smart football in their coaching schemes that it’s been enough to keep them competitive and throw punches at the powerhouses.
The Falcons have 3 wins against the Niners, Browns, and Seahawks- Marcus Mariota only threw the ball 14, 19, and 20 times in those games, but they dominated the time of possession and ran the ball down the oppositions’ throats and limited the dumb-dumb plays the previous turnover machine quarterbacks of old would make.
The Jets went from looking like they could be on pace for a disastrous season that started with the corpse of Joe Flacco chucking the ball 50 times in an immobile scheme to having Zach Wilson lead an offense that has been 6th-best in play action passes and the young core ground game of Breece Hall and Michael Carter has skyrocketed, along with their defense averaging in the top 10 in yards per game allowed. Their close wins that felt magical against the Browns and Steelers now feel more dignified, getting a resounding win in Lambeau and outplaying the Packers.
Even the Giants, with maybe the most-decimated receiving corps in years with players with names you might find in Madden when they’re auto-created to fill the roster, are 5-1 and buzzing under new Head Coach Brian Daboll. Merely by not fumbling and throwing the ball away at a consistent rate (averaging 1.24 turnovers per game in his career), they’ve been able to not make the dumb mistakes that have been soul-crushing in the past. They now have the opportunity for a healthy Saquon Barkley to function behind a dominant offensive line and a defense that only allows 18.8 points per game, and require the 2nd-lowest passing yards per game to win 5 out of 6 in the process! Daboll simply being the CEO of their operation, being competent and bringing the good vibes and a winning culture, have turned an organization that has been a laughing stock in recent memory around.
The beginning of the season, with quarterbacks getting into a rhythm with their position groups, and the mere reality of superstar talent ultimately trumping all, may bring us back to a grounded reality. However, thus far, coaching systems and having a balanced roster has made this season one of the most topsy-turvy and unpredictable seasons in recent memory. Being further along in the season will give the experienced superstars opportunities to be team leaders and fix their mistakes, but the real question is can the teams with subpar quarterback play that minimizes errors keep up this magic in a league where passing is king?
NFL teams used to be able to drive any vehicle to the finish line as long as their driver, the quarterback, was elite. That hasn’t been the case in 2022- the sum of the parts, the vehicle, has been worth more in order to throw some surprise haymakers into the win column so far.