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Recent QB trend introduces cap theory


The glitzy teams are gone.

Back in October, the St. Louis Rams were being credited for having the greatest offense in the history of the NFL. A lot of good it did the Rams.

How about the Minnesota Vikings? How do you stop Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Robert Smith and Daunte Culpepper? Apparently, you wait until late in the season when the games really count.

Consider the quarterbacks who will not play in Super Bowl XXXV. Neither Kurt Warner nor Peyton Manning won a playoff game. Brett Favre, Drew Bledsoe and Mark Brunell didn't even make the playoffs.

What's happened to the old axiom? "The best teams have the best quarterbacks." Not this season. Now, the best teams have the best supporting casts.

Once upon a time, the Super Bowl was a game that pitted quarterbacks who were certain to make the Hall of Fame: Bart Starr vs. Len Dawson, Joe Namath vs. Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese vs. Fran Tarkenton, Terry Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach, Dan Marino vs. Joe Montana, etc. This year's big game pits Trent Dilfer against Kerry Collins. Imagine that, two quarterbacks whose careers were on the scrap heap in recent years. And, this, on the heels of last year's big game, which pitted Warner, who came to the Rams from the Arena Football League, against Tennessee's Steve McNair, who many believe will never achieve true quarterback status.

What has happened to the quarterback position? The fact that Warner was able to achieve what he did a season ago would seem to support the fact that you don't have to have a "Hall of Fame" quarterback to win the Super Bowl these days.

Once upon a time, you did. Consider these facts:

• The first 10 Super Bowls played were each won by quarterbacks who would be named to the Hall of Fame.

• Only nine Super Bowls have not been won by quarterbacks who are currently in the Hall of Fame or are certain to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre and John Elway are certain Hall of Famers.

• Twenty-one of the 34 Super Bowls played have been won by eight quarterbacks: Starr, Staubach, Griese, Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, Montana, Aikman and Elway.

Clearly, the Super Bowl was the private domain of the game's great quarterbacks, and usually the losing quarterback was as big a star in the league as the winning quarterback was. Don't forget, Tarkenton and Jim Kelly have a combined eight Super Bowl losses.

Alright, so what does it all mean? Well, two years may constitute a trend, but logic would say that trend is just a passing fad, and that it's still a good idea to have a great quarterback on your team.

Nevertheless, we have to keep an eye on this issue, because the pro football environment is very different than it was when Bradshaw and Montana were claiming four Super Bowl titles each. This is the day and age of the salary cap, and everything from the past would seem to have been thrown out the window.

These days, to have a great quarterback on your roster means having to commit a whopping percentage of your salary cap to one player, and that automatically weakens your team at every other position.

The question the Giants and Ravens pose to us is this: Is it a better idea to have a quarterback who doesn't eat up the cap, which allows a team to develop a stronger supporting cast?

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