Conventional wisdom asserts Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo needs a ring to be considered “elite.” Forget Romo’s career 95.6 passer rating (fifth best in league history); forget his career 7.9 yards per pass attempt (seventh best in league history); forget his career 100.7 quarterback rating in the fourth quarter and overtime (best in the NFL since 2000).
Conventional wisdom says that’s all irrelevant. Romo’s Cowboys have yet to win a Superbowl, so while Romo may have his strong points, he’s no Joe Flacco.
Conventional wisdom is a fluid thing, shaped largely by the “experts” in the national media. Today, the experts tell us that a starting quarterback needs a ring to be considered top tier. They tell us that a quarterback’s job is to win championships. Not long ago, they told us “defense wins championships.” Reconcile those two canards, if you dare.
Conventional wisdom says that the recent wave of NFL rule changes favoring offenses justify judging quarterbacks by simple wins and losses. It doesn’t matter that just two years ago the Giants won the Superbowl on the strength of a defense that held four playoff opponents (including Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady) to an average of 14.0 points per game.
The truth is always more complex than conventional wisdom, but that’s the point: Conventional wisdom is supposed to be simple. It’s a means for expert commentators to make sense of a messy world within the space of a two-minute TV segment. The complexities of nuanced analysis play only a marginal role in the ESPN era of sporting news.
The danger with conventional wisdom has always been that, once accepted, it halts the search for truth. Truth in the NFL, if anyone cares to continue that search, is this: So many things have to go right for a team to win the Superbowl, and so few of them are in the quarterback’s control.
Drew Brees has a ring, and he played well in Superbowl XLIV to get it. But what if the Colts recover that surprise onsides kick to start the third quarter? What if Tracy Porter doesn’t jump that slant for a 74-yard pick-six with just over three minutes to play in the game? Those plays were crucial to the Saints’ Superbowl win; Brees watched them from the sideline. Does he have his ring without them? Maybe…
Eli Manning has two rings, but in Eli’s 11 playoff starts, the Giants have lost every game in which the opponent scored 21 points or more.