The Trend-Fast Model for Winning the Super Bowl

There is no one model for winning the NFL. If Seattle could draft "great offensive line" or "great defense", I would be all for it. Seattle can't. It can draft a great quarterback. That's one model for success that's persisted. Starting with Bart Starr and on through Peyton Manning (but probably not Eli), 27 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are Hall of Fame inductees or future Hall of Fame inductees (Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady). Of the remaining 15, nine were taken in the first round. The final six are Ken Stabler, Jeff Hostetler, Joe Theisman, Mark Rypien, Brad Johnson and Kurt Warner. Warner may yet be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The 1970 Colts actually used a Hall of Fame inductee, Johnny Unitas, and a first round pick, Earl Morrall, to win Super Bowl V. The only Super Bowl winning quarterback not elected to at least one Pro Bowl is Doug Williams. Eli Manning has not yet played in a Pro Bowl, but will in 2009. Election to the Pro Bowl is not entirely merit based, but elected quarterbacks are at least above average. The worst starting quarterback for a Super Bowl winning team is probably Trent Dilfer. Dilfer was selected sixth overall in the 1994 draft.

It's the most trend-fast rule in sports: Great NFL teams have great NFL quarterbacks. Teams that wish to consistently compete and therefore have the best chance at an NFL title are teams with top talent at the most demanding, essential and rarefied position in the NFL. Seattle's rise to prominence matches Matt Hasselbeck's own emergence. Not Walter Jones. Seattle was 6-5 in the games Hasselbeck received the majority of snaps in 2002, Haselbeck's first great season. From that time on, Seattle won, and when Hasselbeck was at his best (2003 (5.7 ANY/A), 2005 6.6 (ANY/A), 2007 (5.9 ANY/A)) so was Seattle (33-15). Attaining Hasselbeck was the single greatest move of Mike Holmgren's career as a GM. Coach Holmgren ranks among the greatest developers of quarterback talent in the history of the NFL. The chance Seattle can duplicate that feat, is well...

If I ran a strict comparison, Super Bowl starter to Super Bowl starter, the number of first round + Hall of Fame quarterbacks would dwarf the number of first round + Hall of Fame left tackles. The mandatory top talent on the blind side trend started in the early eighties. Many think it's already outdated. The rise of zone blitzes means blitzes can come from any point on the line. A liability at any line position is exploitable. But for the sake of equity, let's compare starters at left tackle for every Super Bowl champion since 1981--Lawrence Taylor's rookie season.

HOF: Gary Zimmerman

1st: Jimbo Covert, Eric Moore, Jim Lachey, Harris Barton, Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden, Tarik Glenn

2nd: Bubba Paris, Bubba Paris, Bruce Wilkerson, Matt Light, Matt Light, Matt Light, Marvel Smith

3rd: Roman Oben

4th: Dan Audick, Steve Wallace

5th: David Diehl

8th: Brad Benson

11th: Bruce E. Davis

Undrafted: Joe Jacoby, Joe Jacoby, Mark Tuinei, Mark Tuinei, Mark Tuinei, Tony Jones

Twenty seven player seasons, but only eight combined first round picks and Hall of Fame inductees. Zimmerman was a first round pick and the two possible additions to the Hall of Fame, Pace and Ogden, are both first round picks. Pace and Ogden are considered among the best offensive tackles of their generation, but neither has played for consistently good teams or even consistently good offenses. The greatest offensive line of this era and maybe all time, the 90s Dallas Cowboys, featured an undrafted free agent at left tackle, Mark Tuinei. Tuinei was a very good offensive tackle but, arguably, the Cowboys worst starting offensive linemen. Their best offensive lineman was a left guard, Nate Newton.

Seattle needs talent on its offensive line. Above all, it needs a left guard. Assuming Seattle re-signs Ray Willis, it has starting talent at left and right tackle. As Mike Sando points out, Sean Locklear's recently signed five year, 32 million dollar contract features escalators for playing at least half his snaps at left tackle. That's not a coincidence, nor is it a coincidence that Locklear has seen regular snaps at left tackle during practice. Locklear isn't Walter Jones, but playing beside Nate Newton, he could be Mark Tuinei. Seattle needs talent on offensive line. It does not need a great left tackle. Not even should it want the greatest offensive line of all time.

The NFL is nothing if not trendy, and with each successful trend, fans across the country want their team to follow suit. Trends don't win championships, talent does. With their first pick in the 2009 draft, Seattle should take the best available talent. It's not certain that will be a quarterback, but quarterback is so disproportionately important to a team's success, and has been for 42 years, that an above average quarterback is better "talent" than all but the greatest offensive linemen. An above average quarterback is better talent than all but the greatest players at any other position, too. And teams that want win Super Bowls don't send Seneca Wallace to the show. That's not a trend, that's the history of the NFL.

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