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Team, QB of the decade


The media has focused on a couple of interesting storylines for this Sunday's AFC title game between Indianapolis and New England – the Colts' great offense against the Patriots' great defense, and a Colts win would produce the first black head coach in the Super Bowl – but those are shallow previews of a weekend that offers much more intrigue.

How about these storylines?

• With a win over the Colts, the Patriots would have an opportunity to get a major leg up on "team of the decade." The Patriots already have one Super Bowl title in their pocket from the 21st century. Another Super Bowl title – which would be their second in the last three years – would give rise to the possibility the Patriots could become a dynasty.

It could happen. The Patriots have a young cast of players, including fourth-year quarterback Tom Brady. And the Patriots are loaded with extra draft picks.

Coach Bill Belichick has his team in position to be at the top of the league for the next several years, and though the Patriots don't overwhelm their opponents as past teams of the decade have, they nonetheless are winning at the same high percentage.

Dynasty? Isn't the free agency/salary cap era of the NFL supposed to forbid dominance? We'll see.

Meanwhile, there's another and even more interesting storyline for this weekend. It involves Brady, Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb. Which one will become the "quarterback of the decade?"

Others might argue that Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and Brett Favre shouldn't be ignored, but the fact of the matter is that Brady, Manning and McNabb represent the three top candidates … and all three are just entering their prime years.

What? Quarterback of the decade? Is that important?

Oh, yeah, quarterbacks are every bit as identifiable with their times as teams are. Consider the last four quarterbacks of the decade: Troy Aikman in the 1990s, Joe Montana in the '80s, Terry Bradshaw in the '70s and Bart Starr in the '60s. You don't think of those years without thinking of those quarterbacks.

Who will it be for these 10 years? Manning has all of the numbers but needs to win the big one. McNabb is the modern prototype, and Rush Limbaugh brought McNabb's name to the front, but McNabb has yet to win the big one either. Brady will never throw for Manning-like numbers – it's defense first under Belichick – but Brady has a Super Bowl title and a reputation for being the best overtime quarterback and one of the best crunch-time quarterbacks in modern history.

A healthy Vick will undoubtedly make a major run at the "decade" distinction, but one from the Brady-Manning-McNabb trio will take a major step toward that title in this postseason.

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