By Richard Fischer
There’s a sentiment around the National Football League that you need an elite or near-elite quarterback to compete for Super Bowl championships.
That’s well and good and tough to argue. Just look at the active quarterbacks flashing rings. However, it only tells half the story.
It doesn’t recognize that most of those elite or near-elite quarterbacks who won Super Bowls did so before they were paid like elite signal callers.
Since the biggest party in New Orleans Feb. 2010, only one of the last four Super Bowl winning quarterbacks exceeded double digit millions in salary the year his team triumphed.
In a salary cap league, saving money at the quarterback position – a spot where salaries have boomed in recent years like no other place on the field – allows teams to spend more money elsewhere to better and deepen their rosters. With big – and I mean BIG – money quarterbacks, the rest of your roster takes a hit. It’s simple economics.
When Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season, Rodgers made $6.5 million. Of course, he then signed a huge money deal and despite his exploits, Green Bay hasn’t been back since.
When Joe Flacco’s Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII following the 2012 season, Flacco made $8 million. Like Rodgers, he was soon rewarded with a huge money deal, and Baltimore missed the postseason last year.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson followed Flacco atop the mountain, winning Super Bowl XLVIII following the 2013 season. Wilson made a measly $681,000 last season, and the fact that he’s only making $817,000 next year places Seattle in prime contention to keep its roster stacked and compete for a repeat.
The only exception to this resent rule of low-cost quarterbacks going to Disney World was Eli Manning, who made $14.1 million when he led the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLVI following the 2011 season. However, the G-Men were 9-7 in the regular season and just simply got hot at the right time. No one would have placed New York in the conversation of best teams in the league entering the playoffs.
And this trend is seeping into players who haven’t achieved a great deal of postseason success, let alone taken their team to a Super Bowl.
Chicago’s Jay Cutler ($18.5 million next season), Atlanta’s Matt Ryan ($17.5 million next season), Detroit’s Matthew Stafford ($15.8 million next season) and Dallas’ Tony Romo ($11.8 million next season before going up to laughable levels if you’re a Cowboys hater) are all secured financially for the rest of their lives due to their respective teams choosing the lesser of what they considered two evils – overpaying a quarterback who has shown he can get you close instead of losing him and starting from scratch.
Of course, you’d be hard pressed to find a Saints fan who isn’t on board with New Orleans paying Drew Brees next to whatever he wanted to keep him in black and gold. Since winning the Super Bowl while being paid a shade under $13 million, Brees inked a 5-year $100 million contract that will expire after the 2016 season. It pays him $18.4 million next year.
You feel good about your team if Ryan, Cutler, Stafford or Romo is your quarterback. Those guys aren’t elite, but they’re close and paid like it.
You feel great about your team if Brees is your quarterback. He is elite.
But that feeling comes at the cost of signing other players that could help your team win.
Bottom line, if you have Drew Brees, you have a chance.