The quarterback is by far the most valuable player on the team. This is shown through the contracts that quarterbacks receive as well as through the draft. Kirk Cousins became the first player in NFL history to sign a fully guaranteed contract, while Aaron Rodgers is currently the highest paid player in the NFL. For a brief time, Jimmy Garoppolo was the highest paid player in the NFL even though he only had seven career starts up to that point. If you look back at the last twenty NFL drafts, a QB has been selected with the #1 pick fourteen times. Clearly teams value this position the most as they consistently use the #1 pick to draft them. Teams believe that a good QB can take an okay team to a great team, which is why teams seek them out. The 2017 season showed just how valuable that position is.
In 2017, there were a few notable QBs who went down with injuries. One notable injury was Aaron Rodgers. Before 2017, the Green Bay Packers had made the playoffs for eight start years as well as winning the Super Bowl in 2010. The Packers entered their week six matchup against the Minnesota Vikings with a 4-1 record. Five minutes into this game, Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone after taking a late hit, which caused him to miss just about the rest of the season. Rodgers tried to return in week fifteen vs the Carolina Panthers, but it was clear that he was not fully healthy, so the Packers shut him down for the last two weeks. With Rodgers at the helm, the Packers looked like a playoff team, but they finished 7-9 with a 3-8 record without a healthy Rodgers. It was worth noting that the combined records of the teams that the Packers beat without Rodgers was 10-38. This included an overtime win against the winless Cleveland Browns. In week one of this season, the Packers played the Chicago Bears, and it looked like Rodgers had a serious injury that would make him miss quite a bit of time. With Rodgers out, the Bears dominated the Packers and took a commanding lead. All hope looked lost without Rodgers leading the offense, but that all changed when Rodgers came out of the locker room showing no signs of pain. He started the second half and injected new life into the Packers leading them to a week one comeback win. The Packers looked hopeless without Rodgers, but Rodgers is good enough to take an okay team to a great team.
Unlike the Packers, the Houston Texans might not have been playoff bound in 2017, but it looked like they had the MVP frontrunner leading their team. Deshaun Watson blew away the competition in his rookie season. He looked like he was going to win OROY and be a contender for the MVP until he went down with an ACL tear. Through seven games, Watson threw for 19 touchdowns. The Texans went 3-4 under Watson and might have made a play for one of the wild card spots in the AFC. The Texans went on to go 1-8 without Watson, and they finished at the very bottom of the NFL with a 4-12 record. Watson had the potential to take the Texans to an 8-8 or 9-7 record, which would have been right on the cusp of the playoffs.
Both Rodgers and Watson were pretty big injuries, but an injury that went overlooked was Ryan Tannehill’s injury. Tannehill actually played an important part in the Miami Dolphin’s success. While he might not be on the same level as Aaron Rodgers, he does fit his team’s scheme and helps them win. The Dolphins made it to the playoffs with a 10-6 record under Tannehill in 2016. Tannehill does have the talent to take Miami to the playoffs. To start this season, he has led the Dolphins to a 3-0 start. Tannehill missed the entirety of the 2017 season causing Miami to go 6-10. The Dolphins brought in Jay Cutler, for 2017, to try to remain competitive, but Cutler was not a good fit for the Dolphins offense. Cutler kept Miami two games under .500 but could not get to that next level to elevate them to a playoff team.
One guy missing from this list is Andrew Luck. Luck had a pretty good start to his NFL career, but he started to slump and miss time, including the entirety of last year, once injuries persisted. What is different about Luck’s case is that the Colts were not a playoff team even if their QB was healthy. The Colts have not done a good job of filling holes in the team through the draft. Luck is not at the level where he can carry a bad team to the playoffs. The Colts will need to improve their team if they want Andrew Luck to bring them back to the playoffs. Even with a healthy QB, the Colts will most likely be unable to finish higher than 6-10 than this year.
The injuries to Rodgers, Watson, and Tannehill completely changed the landscape of their teams. There was one outlier in the 2017 season, though. Carson Wentz went down with an injury in week fourteen, but that did not stop his team. The Philadelphia Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl and backup QB Nick Foles went on to win the Super Bowl MVP. This example of a team losing their QB was clearly an outlier. Every once in a while, a back up QB will be able to take over and lead a team to victories. Tom Brady stepped in for Drew Bledsoe and won the Patriots a Super Bowl. Another factor is that the Eagles were already a great team without Wentz. They had a pretty well-balanced team already in place. The Eagles had a sturdy offensive line with a good running back corps behind it. There were some great pass rushers in the front seven, as well as some lock down defenders in the secondary. The Eagles were clearly a great team without a strong QB. Wentz obviously played fantastic that season, but he did not make or break the team. Aaron Rodgers clearly changed the competitiveness of his team while on the field.
The QB is the most valuable player on the field. He can change the whole dynamic of a team just by being on the field. 2017 showed that playoff caliber teams fell to the bottom of their divisions. When you look at the San Francisco 49ers, you see that they just lost Garoppolo for the year. This is a season altering injury as the 49ers will most likely tank for a high draft to get Garoppolo some help. They just locked up Garoppolo long term as he is their franchise guy, so they are not interested in bringing in a QB to compete at this moment. They are already a tad beat up with injuries, so the 49ers will pack it in and start prepping for next season. They still have a young roster, so their window to win is still big. With Garoppolo, the 49ers would have a chance to compete for the wildcard, but they stand no chance without him. Without a solid QB, you are doomed. If you want to win in the NFL, you need a good QB. Teams spends lots of money and draft picks on QBs because a good QB can completely transform your team and turn them into contenders.