I am not a football expert. That’s right, I am the only one in all of North America. As an outsider looking in I’ve always been perplexed that it seemed to be a prerequisite that the most important player on a football team be the least athletic. I noticed that this was not the case at the high school and collegiate levels. It made perfect sense at those levels to put the ball in the hands of the best player as much as possible. I did not fully understand why this strategy did not apply to the pros; I mean other than the fact that they couldn’t throw.
Which led to my other confusion: why was running fast synonymous with not being a good thrower? Were they being overlooked, pigeonholed or did coaches just not understand how to use them? I think there is a valid argument that skills are often born out of necessity and an athletic player may rely on his athleticism to the detriment of development in other areas. Even if true, I think the last point is quickly becoming a vestige of the past, and players at the lower levels are developing those passing skills in spite of their athletic dominance. I don’t know if it is because of better coaching, more advanced college offenses, or the rise in amateur flag football tournaments. Who knows, maybe the proliferation of Madden video games was the reason. None of that matters now. Those are old arguments and discussions. Combo quarterbacks have arrived.
And please don’t tell me that Steve Young was an athletic quarterback. Sure, by comparison at best. If anything, Steve Young scratched the surface of what is possible when you have an athlete at quarterback, but I’m willing to bet you could put together Steve Young’s top 5 career running highlights and they don’t stack up to one season of some of the players we have seen in recent history; not even one game compared to Vick. Michael Vick is the standard bearer when it comes to athleticism at the quarterback position. He was my best wish come true. Jim Rome dubbed him “MJ in cleats,” and ever since that is what a superior athletic quarterback has represented to me; the ability of one player to not only dominate a game, but do it in a dynamic and unforgettable way. Vick has turned out to be a disappointment, but mostly for reasons that have little to do with the lack of effectiveness of a running quarterback and more to do with leadership and work ethic.
While Vick may have failed to lay the athletic quarterback debate to rest, he thankfully did not submarine the concept either. Finally, it appears my best hopes may finally coming to fruition. Colin Kaepernik’s
Superbowl MVP does not necessarily solidify the ascent of the running quarterback as there are questions that still need to be answered. Mainly, can they stay healthy enough to sustain the type of consistency needed at the quarterback position? It does, however, prove that a team can win reach a Superbowl with a running quarterback.
This is not a condemnation of the pocket passer. How could I after what Flacco did Sunday night, and what players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are still able to do? However, if an athletic quarterback can prove to be at least just as effective as a pocket passer, generally, fans will opt for the more athletic and exciting player. This is true even before a player has proven his championship mettle. This was true about MJ, Vick, Lebron, and most recently RGIII.