The NFL is a quarterback’s league, there’s not a player, writer, or fan who can disagree. But the notion that the quarterback must be the best player on your team, as suggested by Tampa Bay Times columnist Gary Shelton, is simply inaccurate.
I usually agree with just about everything Shelton says, and in the case of his most recent article, I agree with a majority of his points, but the over reaching message is off. Shelton says Josh Freeman must become the best player on the Buccaneers in order for the franchise to achieve what it wants.
His arguments are that the elite teams in the league are all headed by a quarterback that is the teams best player. And while this is true about many of the best teams, it’s simply not a requirement to have a successful team. Of the 12 teams who made the playoffs a year ago, the quarterback wasn’t the best player on six different teams (Cincinnati, Houston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Seattle, Minnesota).
Minnesota is a no-brainer. But it’s the other five that Shelton could probably argue with. Here’s my point. Teams win and lose because of their quarterback. Due to this, often times we focus a major portion of our attention of that particular players’ performance. When they win, we crown these guys in a big way, but when they lose we bury them. But just because they get most of the attention, and just because they get a good amount of the glory, does not automatically mean that player is the best, or even most important, player on the team.
Let me give an example. Matt Schaub in Houston has had an excellent defense, and have two elite playmakers on the offensive side (Arian Foster and Andre Johnson). When Houston wins a game and Schaub has four passing TD’s no one will stop short from saying he was the best player on that day. But when the Texans win 10-7 and Foster gets the lone TD, the glory usually goes to the defense and a little to Foster. That brings me to my point. Matt Schaub is the best player from time to time, but he needs his other pieces around him to play well to garner that honor. There are plenty of games in which Matt Schaub would not be considered the best player and yet the Texans still win. Without that defense, and without Andre or Arian, Schaub wouldn’t be nearly as successful. One can argue that he’s the best player on the roster, but that’s mainly because of his position. The fact is, quarterbacks don’t need to do much to be considered top man on the team, all they have to do is win, which is always heavily reliant on the rest of the roster.
That brings me to Josh Freeman. No, he’s not the best player on the roster. But he doesn’t need to be for this team to win. He simply has to be good enough to let the other stars shine. That’s exactly what Andy Dalton does with A.J. Green. Freeman needs to make sure he’s not getting in anyone else’s way. Don’t turn it over, don’t miss wide open guys, don’t do things that put the onus on you.
In doing so, there are so many weapons around #5 that he’ll look like a star himself. When the Bucs win 24-0 Freeman is the hero, when they lose 41-24 his two interceptions get magnified. Yet they scored the same amount in each game. He doesn’t need to be the best player, he just needs to aid the actual best players. He needs to get the ball in the hands of Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, he needs to put the defense in spots where they can get off the field, he needs to let Doug Martin and the offensive line do their thing.
Freeman will probably never be the true best player on the roster. Not while Jackson, Martin, and a healthy Darrelle Revis are still around, but he’ll get there by simply not making mistakes. There are two ways to build a great team, one is find the best quarterback and let him make the rest of your roster better, the other is to get great players and find a quarterback who can let them shine. I believe six of the 12 teams in the postseason, and both of the two Super Bowl teams, fall into the latter category.
Joe Flacco got his huge contract because he led some really good players to a title. There’s no doubt Josh Freeman can do the same, and he doesn’t have to outplay each and every one of them.
He just has to stay out of their way.