He’s the signal caller. The field general. The man under center. The quarterback is the lifeblood of most NFL offenses. And, to be honest, teams often live and die by the man taking snaps for the team.
To be completely frank, a lot of teams–perhaps we can say most teams, even–can’t win a Super Bowl without a good quarterback. Does it happen, yes of course. Brad Johnson and Brett Hostetler have Super Bowl rings as starting QBs of the winning team, but they’re the exceptions to the rule. The three most recent Super Bowl champions all featured prolifically great quarterbacks under center: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. The fact that those three men were able to lead their team to victory is not a coincidence: quarterbacks are the make or break factor of a team.
The first step in understanding why QBs are so important to a team’s success, we can examine some statistics. In any given game, a running back might touch about 20 percent of his team’s snaps, whether it’s via a handoff, a pitch play or a reception. The number drops to about 10 percent if you look towards wide receivers, who are usually targeted somewhere in the realm of six to 10 times per game, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll get their hands on all of the passes thrown their way. The quarterback, as you may well know, is one of two players that touches the football on every play (barring direct-snap plays, which are rare). The importance of the quarterback should be obvious.
The reason that a wide receiver may not, in fact, have the chance to snatch each and every pass sent spiraling their way can be traced back to the man throwing those passes in his direction. An inaccurate QB will miss his targets. An inaccurate QB will overshoot, undershoot or wildly miss passes that could result in turnovers. When you’re touching the ball on every play, mistakes are bound to happen–there’s a reason that interceptions are more common around the league than fumbles. Great quarterbacks don’t completely avoid making mistakes or taking risks, they’re just smart about the risks that they do take to minimize the chance of mistakes.
The quarterback is sometimes likened to the center fielder of a baseball game. There is a large degree of responsibility that needs to be taken up by a quarterback, he’s in charge of letting his teammates know where to be and when they have to be there. Like a center fielder charging a shallow fly ball to his left as the right fielder follows suit, he must take command and make the calls come crunch time. Leadership qualities are seldom more important on a football field than they are for a QB. He’s the one who calls the plays in the huddle, relays information, pumps up the rest of his team, and then executes.
Coming out of college, Robert Griffin III was supposed to be a superstar. Then, almost suddenly, he flopped. Many cite his lack of leadership ability as a prime reason for his team not getting behind him and making the charge up the NFC East standings that many expected them to. As many teams, the Redskins included, have come to find out, you live and die by your quarterback.