Sunday, February 7, 2021

Coaches and Quarterbacks

The Super Bowl this year presented the interesting question as to whether it was more important to have a great coach or a great quarterback.

Two great quarterbacks were in the game. Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

The 43-year old Brady is a marvel. If playing at that age is not an indication of that by itself, consider that this Super Bowl was Brady's tenth in 21 years in the NFL.  That is an astounding statistic. Brady has actually been to the Super Bowl in half of the years he has been a starter.

To put that in better perspective, Brady has more Super Bowl appearances than the Browns, Lions, Jaguars, Texans, Cardinals, Titans, Chargers, Panthers, Falcons and Bengals---COMBINED.

When I was growing up there were two NFL icons that I thought were ancient---George Blanda and Y.A. Tittle.

Compare how Brady looks today compared to those two.

Tom Brady at age 43

This is Blanda in 1970 at age age 43. He was still playing some quarterback that year. However, he was a placekicker until the age of 48.

George Blanda at age 43 in 1970.

This is Y.A. Tittle in 1964 at age 38 after he had been sacked in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the last season that Tittle played for the New York Giants. This photo remains one of the most iconic images in NFL history.

Y.A. Tittle at age 38
Credit: Dozier/Mobley AP

Brady is the definition of greatness.

Tom Brady has stated he intends to play until age 45. I see no evidence he should hang it up.

Patrick Mahomes is only age 25. He has been in the NFL for four seasons but only attempted one pass in his rookie season. He has now been in the Super Bowl for two consecutive seasons.

Mahomes has a pretty good start on greatness. However, Tom Brady showed tonight he is the Super one.

The two coaches in the game, Andy Reid of Kansas City and Bruce Arians of Tampa Bay, also have what I believe is a hallmark of a great coach---the ability to take over a team and within one or two years turn the fortunes of a team totally around.

Andy Reid took over as the head coach of Kansas City in 2013 after the Chiefs had finished with the NFL's worst record in 2012 at 2-14. In his first season he led the Chiefs to a nine straight wins to start the season before finishing 11-5 and gaining a wild card spot in the playoffs.

In Reid's first head coaching position in the NFL, at Philadelphia, he took over a team that went 3-13 in 1998. Reid had the Eagles in the playoffs with a 11-5 record in 2000.

Bruce Arians was hired as the offensive coordinator at Indianapolis in 2012 on the staff of new head coach Chuck Pagano. The Colts were just coming off a 2-14 season. Shortly into the season Pagano had to step aside from his duties due to a leukemia diagnosis. Arians was named interim head coach and led the Colts to a 9-3 record as head coach. The Colts made the playoffs and Arians became the only interim coach to ever be named NFL Coach of the Year.

Arians was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. Arizona had finished 5-11 in 2012. Arians went 10-6 in his first and then 11-5 in 2014 and 13-3 in 2015.

Arians took over a Tampa Bay team that had gone 5-11 before he was hired and in two seasons he had the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.

Both the coaches in this year's Super Bowl have demonstrated great coaching with two teams in the NFL. These guys are not flukes.

However, which would you rather have? A great coach or a great quarterback?

That question has been asked by many people over the years.

For example, was Bill Belichick or Tom Brady more important to the success of the New England Patriots over the years?

Looking at the results of this year you would have to say that Tom Brady was more important than Belichick.

New England was 7-9 this year without Brady. That is the worst record for the Patriots since Brady's rookie season of 2000 when he attempted only three passes the entire year. You can't put that record on Tom.

It is important to remember that Belichick was also fired from his first NFL head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns where he was 36-44 over five seasons before being fired. His quarterbacks in Cleveland, which included Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde, were not Tom Brady.

It also should probably not come as a surprise that the NFL coaches with the longest tenure in their positions also have enjoyed having great quarterbacks playing for them.

Consider this list.


Belichick with Brady.

Sean Payton with Drew Brees.

Mike Tomlin with Ben Roethlisberger.

John Harbaugh with Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson.

Pete Carroll with Russell Wilson.

Andy Reid with Patrick Mahomes. In addition, Reid had Donavan McNabb as his quarterback for 11 seasons when he was in Philadelphia. Three years after McNabb retired Reid was 4-12 with the Eagles and his contract was not renewed. Michael Vick was no McNabb.

There is also a pretty good correlation regarding the top coaching salaries in the NFL and having a top notch quarterback. These salaries are also undoubtedly a function of past record and tenure in the job. Of course, those won/lost records are also dependent on having the right guy pulling the trigger behind center.

Jon Gruden is the outlier here but he had to be enticed back into coaching and his past coaching record was impressive.



Do you want a great coach or a great quarterback?

I want the great quarterback.

Is it possible for any coach to be great without a great quarterback?

It is not likely.

Bill Belichick was sitting at home this year. Bruce Arians was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy tonight.

Bruce Arians did a great job this year. However, he is likely would have been at home as well this year if Tom Brady was not his quarterback.

Tom Brady proves again why he is super and why his coaches do a great job.

What is left of any debate between coach and quarterback when Tom Brady is the guy?

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