The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and it’s only becoming more so. The days and winning a Super Bowl with quarterbacks like Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer are long gone. It’s nice to have a really good team around your quarterback, but without a good signal caller, you are not going to win a Super Bowl.
The last 10 Super Bowl champions have featured Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Peyton Manning, and Russell Wilson. The two outliers are Nick Foles, he threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns in the Super Bowl, and Joe Flacco, who threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
Great quarterback play is a must for Super Bowl success.
But since we live in the age of so many great quarterbacks, what is the next most important position in football? If something is going to separate the many great quarterbacks in the league, what is it?
It’s Not Wide Receiver
Considering the money spent this past offseason, you would be forgiven for thinking that wide receiver is just behind quarterback as the most important position in the NFL. But you would be wrong.
Wide receiver is important, and the top predictor of NFL success, as determined by the stats wizards at Cold, Hard Football Facts, is Real Quarterback Rating, which is largely influenced by wide receiver play. Any type of rating system for quarterbacks ebbs and flows based on the players he has to throw to.
But in looking at another Cold, Hard Football Facts stat – Offensive Passer Rating – the Cowboys and Cardinals both finished in the top-10, and outside of CeeDee Lamb, no one else on either roster finished with 1,000 yards.
QB play and team success is not dependent on top wide receivers. Good wide receivers, yes. Great wide receivers are not necessary.
It’s Offensive Line
There are 15 wide receivers with contracts that average $20 million or more. There are just three offensive linemen averaging more than $20 million a season – Trent Williams, David Bakhtiari, and Laremy Tunsil.
The contracts don’t reflect it, but having a great offensive line is the most important part of a team behind the quarterback.
Sticking with the stats from Cold, Hard Football Facts, let’s look at Offensive Hog Index – a rating that combines rushing efficiency, negative pass plays allowed, and third down success.
The two best teams in the AFC, the Chiefs, and Bills, ranked first and second in Offensive Hog Index in 2021. The Eagles, a playoff team, were third, and the Cowboys, despite less than stellar play from their wide receivers, won the NFC East because they ranked fifth in Offensive Hog Index.
Other division champions in the top 10 included the Buccaneers and Packers.
The worst teams on the index were the Falcons, Texans, and Saints – teams that finished with a combined record of 20-31. The top three teams on the index finished the 2021 season with a record of 32-19.