WASHINGTON — Quarterbacks have once again stolen other football players’ thunder. Even though Week 2 featured injuries to prominent players like Adrian Peterson and Demarcus Ware, two teams enter Week 3 down to their 3rd-string QB: New England and Cleveland.
There couldn’t be a greater difference between these two teams. The Patriots lost Jimmy Garoppolo to a shoulder injury and turned a three touchdown lead over to Jacoby Brissett. The rookie took a couple of sacks, but was an efficient 6-of-9 passing for 92 yards. Of course, that’s not as difficult a task when you’re perhaps the most stable organization in NFL history playing against a “meh” Dolphins team you usually beat.
Then there’s the Browns. Cody Kessler better take out insurance on his left shoulder because those are apparently at grave risk in Cleveland: He’s in line to be the Browns’ fifth different starting QB in as many regular season games because Josh McCown hurt his non-throwing shoulder in a heartbreaking home loss to the Ravens just a week after Robert Griffin III was lost for the season due to his own banged up non-throwing shoulder. (There’s also the matter of Cleveland breaking in their 26th different QBs since their 1999 reboot — and not having a Tom Brady on standby chomping at the bit to return from suspension.)
Even before the Brady suspension, the Patriots have demonstrated the ability to adequately compensate for his loss. When Brady missed almost all of the 2008 season with a knee injury, the Pats still managed to win 11 games with Matt Cassell (who has won exactly 11 games elsewhere in his last five seasons combined). Hell, Brady became a household name because he played like a champ when he filled in for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001.
Green Bay is another franchise that can withstand loss. The Packers put 17 players on injured reserve in 2010 and would not have held it together enough to win a Super Bowl had they not drafted well and kept Aaron Rodgers upright (however, he did miss a game but saw his backup Matt Flynn go for over 400 yards and 5 TDs in his stead).
Teams like the Packers (currently with Rodgers supplanting Brett Favre) and the 49ers (historically with the Joe Montana/Steve Young/Jeff Garcia run of the 1980s-1990s) have gone an entire generation with stability at the game’s most important position. Most recently, the Vikings made a gamble that Sam Bradford could solidify a talented Minnesota offense with Teddy Bridgewater on the mend from a devastating knee injury — and so far, they appear to still be a legit playoff contender.
It’s all about the infrastructure. Minnesota has one of the best offensive minds in football, Norv Turner, running that unit. That’s how Bradford can effectively run an offense two weeks after learning it. Green Bay has been a factory for head coaches specializing in offense. That’s how the Pack get the most out of a non-entity like Flynn in relief of Rodgers and develop a turnover prone gunslinger like Favre into a Hall of Famer. And it’s also how New England can plug and play virtually any QB and still be a playoff contender.
We can barely remember the time here in Washington when the Redskins were one of those select franchises. From castoffs to late round picks, Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different QBs. More recently, the Skins haven’t had any such luck despite throwing multiple first round picks at the position. Why? They can’t decide on a long-term direction, let alone an identity.
There’s no exact science to properly selecting a quarterback, but the best way to win until you’re fortunate enough to find one is building a roster to properly buoy him up when times get rough. That’s why the present day Redskins are failing Kirk Cousins; asking a guy to win you games with a bounty of receiving options, but no help from the defense or running game is brazenly arrogant.
Whether it’s luck or football’s version of the secret sauce, all we know is this: Teams with depth at QB have a chance at championship glory. Teams that don’t get to be home for the holidays.
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