Many Detroit Lions fans subscribe to the “great quarterbacks win games” theory. Who has done it and how does Matthew Stafford stack up by comparison?
Detroit Lions fans hear the narrative from social media and all across the football world, some even from fellow Lions fans, “Great quarterbacks make their teams better.” Some would go further to say that, “Great quarterbacks win championships.”
This week we’ll look at the urban myth of the “great quarterback” theory and ask can one single player win a championship by himself, if they can, how close is the Detroit Lions’, Matthew Stafford?
As we set out to address this topic and discuss the most herculean efforts by one quarterback that have ever won a Super Bowl, it’s important to define exactly what we are looking for based on the idea that “great quarterbacks win championships.” For this to be true, for one man to put an entire team on his back and win an NFL championship, we have to set some parameters.
First and perhaps most obviously, he cannot have been on a team with a top defense, so we should rule out any Super Bowl winners whose team ranked in the top half of the NFL in defense, and who weren’t equally average or worse in the playoffs. Great defenses cover a multitude of sins by offenses.
Second, this also seems quite obvious, the quarterback can not have had a great cast of players around him, either. That means, no top receivers and no better-than-average running backs. His offensive line cannot be great. One man versus the elements, forcing his will onto his competition, making his marginal teammates look like competent football players while he hoists the Lombardi Trophy over his head!
Let’s look at these demi-gods that have dwelt among us mortals. Surely this has happened many times for fans to expect their quarterback alone to guide their team to a Super Bowl win? No one needs to do it the lazy way, building a quality roster, playing all three phases of the game, and supporting the quarterback with weapons, a run game, good special teams, and a defense that can stop opponents when it counts, right?
You may instantly recognize that this “Great QB” argument is a straw man fallacy. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been very good to great in many ways but bears the brunt of anger by jaded fans and others who want to attack the figurehead, without acknowledging his personal accomplishments and contributions to his team.
It’s easy to blame the team’s failures on the quarterback, he usually gets the most money and fame. No one has ever blamed Calvin Johnson or Barry Sanders for the championship drought that has lasted since 1957. As they shouldn’t, they’re just individual players.
Those rules just don’t apply to quarterbacks and we’re here to investigate the truth of the sentiment. Are there quarterbacks who have put a team on their back and won without any real help from their team? How close could one man get if the answer is, “No, a quarterback cannot win a Super Bowl without help.”