Matt Ryan put the Falcons up 24 on the Packers and nobody thought the game was over. Why? Because the Packers had the best quarterback in the sport not named Brady.
The AFC Championship game was played by two quarterbacks with 6 Super Bowl rings and 9 Super Bowl appearances – more appearances in the Terrific Title than every other quarterback in the league combined.
Let me make something clear, Bears fans. “With the third pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Johnathan Allen, defensive end, Alabama” is not going to put the 2017 edition of the Bears into the postseason. The Jets have two of the best defensive ends in the game. Aaron Donald is a game-changing defensive lineman. Geno Atkins. Gerald McCoy. Ndamukong Suh. You know what those teams are all doing on Thursday April 27th? Picking shortly after the Bears. Sturdy defensive linemen are nice and all but they don’t move the needle. Pass rushers do. Playmakers on offense do. And, most importantly, quarterbacks do.
Before free agency, quarterbacks didn’t have to be great to win titles. They could be Jim McMahon or Mark Rypien or Doug Williams or Jeff Hostetler because the money was there to build a great team AROUND the position. Those days are a distant memory.
But Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have distorted the “franchise quarterback” conversation in the other direction because over the course of their careers, their divisions NEVER FEATURED ANOTHER GREAT QUARTERBACK. (Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is better than anything Brady and Manning ever consistently faced in the AFC East and South.) That’s why they are in the playoffs every year, with two of the three having limited success in the tournament. The other franchise-type guys: Eli, Flacco, Brees, Ryan, Rivers…etc. guarantee their teams nothing due to one primary factor: competition.
Still, the the information doesn’t lie. Since the 2000 season, the Super Bowl champion quarterbacks:
Dilfer (with historic defense)
Brad Johnson (with historic defense)
Russell Wilson (with historic defense)
Brady / Matt Ryan
You don’t need a great quarterback to win the Super Bowl. But it sure as hell helps if you don’t have a great, great defense.
Bears fans seem to want it all. They don’t mind trading for Jimmy Garoppolo but they don’t want to trade too much or pay Jimmy G the going rate for a starter in the league. (The going rate now being below what the much maligned Jay Cutler makes.) They’re intrigued by Deshaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky but, you know, not with the third pick. (As if quarterbacks are sliding in drafts these days and not being OVER-drafted every single year.)
There is no such thing as a price too high, a risk too great, when it comes to acquiring a potential franchise quarterback. Who gives a shit about the third pick in the draft? Who gives a shit about more picks down the line? Yes, those picks can help build the foundation of a successful organization but without the quarterback, you better have a hit rate of about 100% and nobody has a hit rate even approaching 80%. The reward for getting the quarterback decision correct is sustained, long-term competitiveness. And for an organization like the modern Chicago Bears, that is the holy grail.
John Elways are hard to come by. But just because they are hard to come by shouldn’t deter an organization like the Chicago Bears from doing everything in their power to find one. If Ryan Pace identifies the guy, he should go get him. And pay whatever the freight.