No Franchise QB? No Super Bowl!

By: Leigh Steinberg

ORIGINAL POST on Forbes.com

The quarterbacks in this weekends' NFL Conference Championship make crystal clear how necessary having a franchise quarterback is to get to the Super Bowl. All fans are aware of how quarterback- centric the NFL game has become, but the fact that arguably the best four quarterbacks in the game have taken their teams to the brink of this year's Super Bowl makes the point most vividly. Without a franchise quarterback at the helm, a team has no chance to succeed in the post-season.

It wasn't always this way. When I began representing athletes in 1975, NFL teams ran on first down, ran on second down, and sometimes ran on third down. The offensive game had run first, pass reluctantly mentality. Starting in the 90's Cowboy QB Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning won multiple Super Bowls, and the correlation between great quarterback play and winning the ultimate game was established. It beckoned back to the days when Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw won multiple Super Bowls along with the later dominance of Joe Montana.

What is the best chance of developing a franchise quarterback? Let's define a franchise quarterback as a player a team can win because of rather than with, who they can build around for the next 10-15 years, and who in critical situations can elevate his level of play to take a team to victory. This year, Atlanta's Matt Ryan, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, New England's Tom Brady and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger will be leading their teams this weekend. All except Tom Brady were first round draft picks.

A year ago Carolina's Cam Newton, Denver's Peyton Manning, Arizona's Carson Palmer and New England's Tom Brady were the final four quarterbacks. Newton, Manning and Palmer were all the first player in their draft picked overall. Again, only Tom Brady was the outlier. It starts to become clear that there are two routes to developing top quarterbacks. Players like Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Joe Montana were drafted in a lower round and developed behind proven quarterbacks. The surest guarantee of finding a franchise quarterback, however, comes by selecting a player in the first round, preferably at the top of the draft. The success of these prospects is somewhat determined by the presence of a solid offensive line, running game and defense, and needs careful nurturing--but the top of the first round produces the best chance for success.

Matt Ryan was ranked #1 in QB rating for the 2016 season, Tom Brady #2, Aaron Rodgers #4 and Ben Roethlisberger #11. It is clear that these players were a major reason that their teams were successful in the regular season. Quarterback is a position in which a player gets better the more he sees the field clearly and can read defenses. So it is not by chance that none of these quarterbacks are early in their career.

The quarterbacks in this weekends' NFL Conference Championship make crystal clear how necessary having a franchise quarterback is to get to the Super Bowl. All fans are aware of how quarterback- centric the NFL game has become, but the fact that arguably the best four quarterbacks in the game have taken their teams to the brink of this year's Super Bowl makes the point most vividly. Without a franchise quarterback at the helm, a team has no chance to succeed in the post-season.

It wasn't always this way. When I began representing athletes in 1975, NFL teams ran on first down, ran on second down, and sometimes ran on third down. The offensive game had run first, pass reluctantly mentality. Starting in the 90's Cowboy QB Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning won multiple Super Bowls, and the correlation between great quarterback play and winning the ultimate game was established. It beckoned back to the days when Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw won multiple Super Bowls along with the later dominance of Joe Montana.

What is the best chance of developing a franchise quarterback? Let's define a franchise quarterback as a player a team can win because of rather than with, who they can build around for the next 10-15 years, and who in critical situations can elevate his level of play to take a team to victory. This year, Atlanta's Matt Ryan, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, New England's Tom Brady and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger will be leading their teams this weekend. All except Tom Brady were first round draft picks.

A year ago Carolina's Cam Newton, Denver's Peyton Manning, Arizona's Carson Palmer and New England's Tom Brady were the final four quarterbacks. Newton, Manning and Palmer were all the first player in their draft picked overall. Again, only Tom Brady was the outlier. It starts to become clear that there are two routes to developing top quarterbacks. Players like Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Joe Montana were drafted in a lower round and developed behind proven quarterbacks. The surest guarantee of finding a franchise quarterback, however, comes by selecting a player in the first round, preferably at the top of the draft. The success of these prospects is somewhat determined by the presence of a solid offensive line, running game and defense, and needs careful nurturing--but the top of the first round produces the best chance for success.

Matt Ryan was ranked #1 in QB rating for the 2016 season, Tom Brady #2, Aaron Rodgers #4 and Ben Roethlisberger #11. It is clear that these players were a major reason that their teams were successful in the regular season. Quarterback is a position in which a player gets better the more he sees the field clearly and can read defenses. So it is not by chance that none of these quarterbacks are early in their career.

Football is a team game and offense, defense and special teams all need outstanding players performing at their peak to insure victory. However, there is a special premium at the quarterback position. Many of these playoff games have come down to a final drive. Under extreme pressure and adversity, the question is which quarterback can tune out external distractions, adopt a quiet mind, and elevate their level of performance to achieve success. Franchise quarterbacks do this and are best found at the top of the draft.