About a week ago, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks came up with an arbitrary list of the top-10 NFL rosters, in terms of overall talent. The caveat? Brooks omitted the quarterback position from the list, creating a bit of a stir.
On the list, Brooks has the Seattle Seahawks, this year's seemingly hot team, the Buffalo Bills, and a handful of others. Oddly enough, no AFC North teams made the list, even though the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are almost annually in the playoffs of late. The guys over at SB Nation's Baltimore Beatdown also seemed to take issue with that omission. In fact, Brooks' list only contains four 2014 playoff squads--the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Seahawks.
In fairness to Brooks, five other teams on the list were close to making the playoffs in 2014, but the leaving out of so many other playoff teams begs questioning. Given that a dozen teams make the playoffs every year, you would think most of the teams to make the playoffs last season would be on this list. There are a couple of exceptions, but if those teams mostly stay intact and gained some pieces in the draft, why wouldn't they make the cut?
One such example could be the Indianapolis Colts. When most look at that roster, there is talent, but with Brooks' rule of leaving out quarterbacks, Indy gets substantially weaker. Without Andrew Luck, one could argue the Colts are a 4-6 win team.
That's also what makes the omission of the Bengals nonsensical. The prevailing opinion among fans and NFL pundits is the Bengals have made the playoffs the past four seasons because of overall talent on the roster. That same opinion contains the sentiment that it's the quarterback position that is "holding the team back". If you're in that camp, then you would have to be asking yourself why they didn't make the cut.
Bengals fans did get a small dose of reality last season after starters went down due to injury. Even though the team still scraped together 10 and a half wins, the feeling that some positions have strong depth was nixed. With some activity in free agency and a seemingly solid draft class, the Bengals hope to have repaired some of those issues.
If you're not in either of those camps, you could just say "whatever" and realize it's an arbitrary list intended to create conversations like this before Training Camp kicks off.
For the last 10 years, it wouldn't be a Bengals’ offseason if there wasn't some question centered on the team's quarterback situation and/or which players at the position got their team a Lombardi Trophy. I received one this week from a Twitter follower.
As was also pointed out to Dan via Twitter, Cincy Jungle's BALCO Blue Bombers wrote a comprehensive write-up on Super Bowl-Winning quarterbacks back in February. As you look through the list BALCO provided, many Hall of Fame players litter the list. The other thing you notice is those Hall of Fame quarterbacks tend to win Super Bowls in streaks.
Here is one part of the summary of BALCO's post:
According to Football Perspective, of the 105 QBs who have started at least three playoff games during the Super Bowl era, Dalton is ranked 102nd out of 105 in ANY/A value. (It excludes this year's playoff game, but including it would not change the ranking of 102.) According to FiveThirtyEight, of the 180 total "principal" QBs from every NFL playoff game since 1970, Dalton is ranked 179th out of 180 based on his ANY/A+. (This analysis does include all four playoff games.)
Based on the playoffs, ANY/A+ would say that the chances of Dalton being a Super Bowl-winning QB are virtually impossible. Objectively, Dalton is one of the worst QBs in playoff history. His playoff performance is vastly worse than that of any SB-winning quarterbacks, let alone that of most playoff-participating quarterbacks. The worst SB-winning QB of all time, Trent Dilfer, has a career playoff ANY/A nearly twice that of Dalton's. And that includes poor playoff games from Dilfer's time in Tampa Bay, not just his Super Bowl run with the Ravens.
The issue lies in what one considers "serviceable" and how one classifies "elite". Obviously, names like Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien and Doug Williams don't jump out as "elite" players. Even more obvious is that names like John Elway, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Joe Montana are "elite".
There also might be a sub-group, if one wants to talk semantics: quarterbacks who became elite simply because they won the big game. Joe Flacco is kind of a case in point in this regard. At times, Flacco can look pedestrian in the regular season, relying on a high-quality defense in the fall and early winter. However, Flacco's play in January has propelled him into the discussion of "elite quarterbacks". One might consider Eli Manning of the same ilk.
Basically, it comes down to a few things for a Super Bowl win, which most fans already know. One top-tier quarterback can hide the limitations of a weak roster and push for a championship, or teams can ride a great defense and the running game can win it all--even in this era. BALCO's list proves both of these to be the case in NFL history. One other common thread is elite coaching.
Overall player health and a little bit of luck play into winning a championship too. If the question is directed specifically at the Bengals, a simple answer is that they need to take the high-quality regular season play that we've seen in stretches over the past three seasons and translate it to the postseason. As we all know by now, the amount of remaining chances for this group of coaches and players to make a deep playoff run is dangerously low.
There have been a number of recent twists and turns in the health of Leah Still, daughter of Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still. After getting great news about her cancer going into remission in March, little Leah experienced a setback in recent days, but a Tuesday update said she is beginning to bounce back again.
Though most of my reporting on the subject have been primarily news updates, the ups and downs with this story obviously has had me thinking about the situation since it became public last year during Training Camp. The team’s support and the rest of the NFL's support for Devon and Leah has been nothing short of amazing.
Lately, the daily stresses and worries of life have been bogging me down, if I may be so open. Anxieties of what life is bringing next, home ownership, daily routines and other trivial matters plague the mind. Then, I began thinking of the Still’s.
Every once in a while, people need a good groin kick back to reality. Unfortunately, those groin kicks usually come with heart-wrenching stories like Leah's and happen fewer and farther between than they should. Everyone needs a reminder about what's truly important and Leah's bravery throughout this journey should be the lamplight to show the way.
So, this is a call to action from this writer. Do something awesome for Father's Day, which is rapidly approaching, with whatever semblance of family you might have. Go have a couple of drinks with a friend that you haven't seen for a while after work. Take your sons, daughters, nieces and/or nephews for some frozen yogurt and have some laughs. Or, go take a solo jog and check out the greatness of nature.
As cheesy as it may sound, re-assess your priorities. Work is just work, but family and friends are just that. Savor some fun moments and fond memories and keep the Still’s in your thoughts and prayers.