Column: A quarterback driven league

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, right, speak at midfield after an NFL football game, early Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

If week one of the NFL proved anything, it is that quarterbacks run the league.  In 14 out of the 15 games that took place week one, the team that had the better quarterback came out on top.  Now, you might say there is no way Sam Bradford is better than Drew Brees or that Alex Smith is better than Tom Brady, but I believe they are.  

At least they were this week, because Bradford and Smith both achieved a higher QBR than their future Hall of Fame counterparts. The statistic of total quarterback rating, which is abbreviated as QBR, is a system used to grade the value and performance of a quarterback in a single game on a scale of zero to 100. QBR is considered one of the most accurate ways to grade a quarterback’s performance as a whole.   

This week showed that a quarterback’s performance is directly correlated to the success of their team.  As stated before, in 13 of the 14 games this weekend, the team that had the best-performing quarterback was victorious. The only outlier was the Titans’ Marcus Mariota, who had a slightly higher QBR than Derek Carr, however Carr’s Raiders came out victorious in a close game against the Titans.  Even in that scenario, Carr had a better day through the air. Mariota’s good day rushing, which included a touchdown, was the factor that gave him a QBR boost over Carr.  

What does all this mean? Let’s look at some examples.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to pull out an upset victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, and it largely had to do with the quarterbacks. Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, who looked like he might lose his job during the preseason, did not have a spectacular game by any means. He threw for only 125 yards and one touchdown which earned him a QBR of 57.4 for the day.

However, the Texans starting quarterback Tom Savage was absolutely destroyed by the Jaguars defense. Savage threw for 62 yards in 13 attempts and was sacked a whopping six times, which gave him a QBR in the single digits at 7.8. When Houston decided to make a change and put the rookie Deshaun Watson in the game, the team saw a slight improvement. Watson threw for 102 yards with one touchdown and one pick, as well as taking another four sacks.  His display earned him a QBR of 42.7, better than Savage but still below Bortles. With this difference in quarterback play it is no surprise the Jaguars pulled off this upset.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

In Sunday night’s game between the Cowboys and Giants, Dallas’ Dak Prescott put on a solid display, throwing for 268 yards and one touchdown as well as adding another 24 yards on the ground, which was good for a QBR of 69.6. His counterpart Eli Manning did not perform well at all. Manning threw for 220 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, amassing a QBR of 21.1, as the Giants scored just three points.

Manning did not have the worst quarterback performance of the week, but he definitely had one of the worst. The Giants offense relies heavily on wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., so because he sat out with an injury Sunday night, Manning and the Giants struggled. If Beckham played, the game certainly would have been closer and Eli would have had a better game, but it is the quarterback’s job to adjust, especially with quality receivers like Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard on the field.  But in the end, Manning failed to do so and the Giants lost their opener against their toughest division rivals.  

Joe Flacco did not have to do much to help the Ravens win their game against the Bengals, as Andy Dalton put forth one of the worst quarterback performances ever seen. Dalton threw for 170 yards, but threw four completions to the other team. He was also sacked five times, fumbling the ball on one sack and turning it over yet again. His five turnovers earned him a QBR of 0.7, one of the worst ever recorded. Flacco only achieved a QBR of 29.5, but it was enough as Dalton took away any chance the Bengals had at even scoring.

Of course, there are other factors that influence the outcome of a game, such as the strength of a defense, the running game or the weapons that the quarterback has around him.

However, a strong defense can be made to look weak with the right quarterback, and vice-versa. The running game is also only as effective as the passing game, because if the defense knows the quarterback under center has trouble playing quarterback, they can focus more on defending the run. The weapons a quarterback has around him can only affect him so much as well. It is the sign of a good quarterback like Aaron Rodgers if they can work with the pieces around them and make their teammates better.

Ultimately, everything is funneled through the quarterback position. If a team does not have the better of the two quarterbacks for that game, then it is very unlikely that they will be able to pull out a victory. Everything relies on the quarterback and that is just the nature of the game. Look for this trend to continue come week two.


Jorge Eckardt is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jorge.eckardt@uconn.edu.