Over the years, there have been many quarterbacks that have been showered with the “E” word. The word elite has been used for many quarterbacks after they have a good throw, drive, quarter, half or game. And immediately when that happens, the debate ensues. For example, the most recent debate was on the contract of Russell Wilson. It was talked about how the Seahawks quarterback wanted a bigtime deal that would make him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. Now he did not get that deal, but the discussion about him leading up to that deal was an interesting one. Some used his record in his first three years as the main argument for him being an elite quarterback that needed to be paid like one. And on the flipside, there were others that pointed to the running game he had with Marshawn Lynch and that ferocious defense as keys to him being able to do what he did. That debate, even though he has signed his contract, still goes on to this day and Russell is not the only quarterback to endure it. But in having this debate and throwing the word elite out so loosely, the word has been diluted over time. Whether you agree on Russell Wilson or some of the other quarterbacks in the NFL is completely up to you. But one thing that is definitely true is elite does not describe every quarterback that is out there in the NFL. Although it falls short of many quarterbacks, there is one word that begins with an e that fits many quarterbacks for their prospective teams.
Russell Wilson fits what Seattle needs out of a quarterback. He is a smart quarterback who makes plays with his feet, arm and his head. But he is also a perfect fit for what Seattle does because he does not take many chances and uses his running game and his defense. If you look at any other quarterback that does what Russell does, you would not call what he does elite, you would call it essential. Russell is a very talented quarterback and he may very well be elite to many, but there is no doubt that he is one of the key factors that is essential to the success of the Seahawks. And without him, the Seahawks would not have made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. But Russell is not the only quarterback that can fit in the essential category in the NFL. There are many that are essential quarterbacks in the NFL. The systems many quarterbacks play in, along with their talents, make them look as great as they do. But if you were to place some quarterbacks in other systems, there is no guarantees that they would succeed. In fact, some may look like a fish out of water.
For example, take a look at Cam Newton and the system he plays in. They grind it out at all times and they really don’t allow Cam to air it out. And for the system he plays in, Cam is great for them. The Panthers, with that combination of defense and ball control, have been in the playoffs two years in a row. And even though the last playoff appearance was with a subpar record, they still made it there keeping within their identity. But let’s take the play of Cam Newton and put him in an offense that airs it out every week like the Denver Broncos. Even though Cam Newton is talented and can make things happen, there is no guarantees that he would be successful in an offense that he is not used to running. And Cam putting the ball in the air 35-40 times may not best suit his talents. Many quarterbacks like Cam Newton play in systems that fit what they do and are successful at doing what they do. And because of those quarterbacks staying within the system and doing what they do, the team benefits from the success. The system, much like the players that play in it, go hand in hand. And without the essential pieces, the system crafted would not work.
There are only a three quarterbacks in the NFL right now that you can plug in any lineup and expect success. Their names are Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Those three are elite quarterbacks and there is no question there. But outside of these three, there are many quarterbacks that are just essential pieces to the grand scheme of things. There is nothing wrong with being an essential quarterback for a team. It means that you both fit each other and that you are a successful pairing. So instead of throwing the word elite around like every quarterback has that type of ability, you may want to sub that word for essential, as in his ability being essential for that team.