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Super Bowl LII the Final Nail in the Coffin for the “QB Wins” Contingent

Quarterback wins are not a stat. They never have been.

Sure, you’ll see rankings of “quarterback wins” pop up on on-screen graphics during football games. Or perhaps they’ll be the subject of a rousing, manufactured debate between a pair of talking screaming heads on morning sports radio/television.

But ultimately, they are a near-useless metric for evaluating the quality of the player or his performances. And Super Bowl LII once again provided us with overwhelming evidence of that fact.

First and foremost, all the credit in the world to Nick Foles for playing his heart out over the last month and a half and for putting together a performance in the Super Bowl that got him a well-earned game MVP award, and to the Eagles as a whole for some inspired football throughout the entire season.

But this article is about the Patriots and Tom Brady, who is, for my money, the greatest to ever play the position.

Packers fans across the nation had to be having horrible flashbacks during the game on Sunday, as Tom Brady put together a ridiculous stat line (503 yards, three TDs, an out-of-this-world 10.5 yards per attempt) and brought his team back from behind in the fourth quarter, only to have his defense give a performance that ranks among the all-time worst in a Super Bowl (613 total yards allowed, 41 points allowed, 8.7 yards per attempt allowed to Nick Foles).

Cheeseheads, you’ve seen this story over and over again. Tom Brady was marvelous, and bears no fault for this loss. By now, we as Packer fans are more than familiar with the concept of an MVP quarterback playing out of his mind, only to be completely let down by a shockingly awful postseason defensive performance.

For Patriots fans, however, this is an entirely new concept. In Tom Brady’s entire career, the Patriots had previously given up 33 or more points just once in a postseason game. After Sunday, the Patriots are now 0-2 in such games.

In seven Packers playoff losses under Aaron Rodgers, the defense has given up an average of more than 36 points per game.

Heck, Aaron Rodgers once led the offense to 45 points in a playoff game, and the Packers still lost.

It is unthinkable that Dom Capers managed to hold on to his job as long as he did, because under him the Packers were routinely playing playoff football with only one half of the team actually appearing to be in the building.

It’s easy for Patriots diehards to talk up QB wins as a stat, because their quarterback has not been routinely put in near-impossible positions by his defense for the bulk of his career. Perhaps they will rethink those arguments in the wake of this game.

Again, I would argue Tom Brady is the greatest to ever play the position, and there are plenty of metrics beyond wins one can use to form a convincing argument. But football is the ultimate team sport. There is no denying that Brady has had the benefit of much better defensive play for the vast majority of his career than many of the other greatest QBs who have suited up.

A top-flight QB will cover for a whole lot of faults, but one player alone cannot win a championship. It takes 53 guys coming together and doing their jobs… and a little bit of luck on the side. It’s incredibly hard to accomplish.

We’ll see if the Packers are able to right the ship in 2018.


Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (36) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

Ultimate team sport.
No doubt.

buddrow53's picture

It is unthinkable that Dom Capers managed to hold on to his job as long as he did.

Its mind boggling that us fans can see this for years yet MM sticks with him for so long.

Imo this has been a terrible waste of Arods performances. The dude has been stellar for years and because MM ego/stubborness w/o addressing the defense doesnt make sense.

TT made the D a priority in the way he drafted and it did not payoff. The good news is the D has plenty of good players. Pettine just needs to let their instincts take over,less thinking more reacting.

Savage57's picture

Probably MM's biggest indictment as a head coach. As a former executive, if I'd have had a unit which consistently performed as poorly the Packers defense, yet all I did to correct the problem was come out in defense of the VP or manager and accept "we're going to do more of what's not working, but harder" as their turnaround plan, I would have fired, and deservedly so.

What a waste of potential for the last half-dozen years. Inexcusable really, and were I the Packers brain trust, ample evidence of the need for a change at the highest level of coaching and a clear call for competent leadership at the position.

EdsLaces's picture

Can we please stop blaming Dom ? Yeah he got stale, but the players are what suck. Good players make good plays and bad players make bad ones ...period. If any old man in an office is to blame, it's Ted.

D.D. Driver's picture

Well... except when Ted's shitty players went to other teams, the became probowlers... except for that.

dobber's picture

Only in the last couple years. Prior to that, we used to take pride in the fact that the Packers' castoffs rarely played up to their GB levels in other places.

Colin_C's picture

Agree with the article 100% (except maybe Brady being the GOAT). Though I think it has to be pointed out that each year it seems less and less like "defense wins championship". This season, defense won division titles. But the vaulted vikings defense gave up 38 points at a critical point and the highly praised Eagles D gave up over 500 passing yards in the Super Bowl. Now, of course I still think defense is extremely important (Jacksonville almost rode their's all the way up), but looking ahead to the 2018 season, it'll be easier to take our offense from good to great, that the defense from bad to good. With the addition of a couple of high-octane players around 12, we could be a top 3 offense, especially with Philbin back. No matter how good our D is under Pettine, I'll always trust Aaron more to win games for us. That said, it's about darn time he had a halfway decent defense to help him out!

John Kirk's picture

Foles didn't fumble or drop his pass. He obviously isn't the better QB but it doesn't mean he wasn't the better QB for one night which is all that matters.

There is no one path to victory which is why defense wins Championships has never been true.

You can be better in every area but if you aren't for that one night you aren't going to win. You could be better in every area but one, but if the other team is close to as good in all the others and you can win one considerably, you can win one game.

Packers are better at QB vs. every other team and many by a lot but it doesn't matter if the rest of the areas we're not like defense. If the D gets better, and we win a SB many will wrongly say defense wins. I just hope we're better everywhere and we win another.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

It took 41 points to win that game!!! Over 1000 yards of offense. Over 70 points of offense combined. Now somebody played a little defense, not much, but just enough. I suppose it was the Eagles.

Dontworrygopackers's picture

love me some aaron rodgers! I've only been a green bay fan since the days of the magic man(majowski for u young bucks), so things have been pretty good. but i got say watching brady cry because he didn't win made me realize the reason why he is the goat and favre and rodgers are just great quarterbacks. u can't underestimate the importance of leadership. if jullis peppers catches that pass in seattle there is no meltdown we win 38-7. my point would be if arod gave half a shit as brady dom capers would be the head coach of the lions

Dontworrygopackers's picture

i imagine starr would catch my drift

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I got what you're trying to say. Not sure I entirely agree, but I don't discount it. Thumbs up x 2.

Edit: I do think AR desperately wants to win, and to improve his own game. I believe that competitive spirit is very important.

Handsback's picture

Wow, 1st off Brady isn't the GOAT. He's been great, but until you really do your research on why Otto Graham, and Bart Starr, Johnny U won when they played....then come back with an argument.
We are witnessing a passing game set-up by the NFL. In todays game heck even Broadway Joe would be considered the GOAT if he had any mobility in his knees.
I know this won't be popular, but do you remember in the 2nd NFC play-off game against the 49ers. Kap would slide out against the Packers D for a first down one after another. Usually there was a LB chasing him and it was UDFA who was limping while chasing him. Why were they playing him? Because he was all they had left. Same 2 seasons ago against Atlanta, we had a UDFA CB who ran a 4.6 forty on Atlant's best WR. Why, because it was all they had left.
Everyone wants to blame Capers and frankly his system was too predictable, but if you are asking Gunter to cover JJ...then you aren't winning that football game. I bring this up because Rodgers didn't win those games when the defense didn't have anybody left to throw out on the field. In fact there have been many playoff games that Rodgers hasn't really played that well.
It's still a team sport and if you don't have a Rodgers or a Brady it's tough to win. That said....the Eagles showed you could win w/o one.

Razer's picture

... Kap would slide out against the Packers D for a first down one after another. Usually there was a LB chasing him and it was UDFA who was limping while chasing him. Why were they playing him? Because he was all they had left. Same 2 seasons ago against Atlanta, we had a UDFA CB who ran a 4.6 forty on Atlant's best WR. Why, because it was all they had left...

Thanks for the reminder Handsback. Your examples do highlight the key points behind this team's failure to compete with the best. First and foremost, we have not been healthy enough. Other than 2014, we don't have starters in the big games. Secondly, we don't have enough talented or experienced depth to cover the eventual need to cover injuries. Dom surely had his hands tied by the 3rd rate guys that Ted stocked the team with. Let's hope that Gutekunst doesn't follow the template of previous management.

flackcatcher's picture

Yeah, agree with you and razor. After last year Dom's time had come. But from 2013-2016 the man and his staff was unreal. Outside of 2014, he never had a healthy defense. The 2015 defense carried that packers team after the offensive implosion that year. 2013 the missed Hyde intercept on Kap and the no secondary 2016 (all safety package which became nitro next year.) As the Eagles proved, it 's a team game. At all levels.

56 Packfan's picture

That was the game against the Niners that the Packers could have won if Hyde had not dropped a (tough) interception. I think it was the same game where Bush (?) could have sacked Kaepernick on the same drive if he had not jumped. Eventually, the FG got us. Life is complicated. Lots of luck involved on the road to the Super Bowl. We got unlucky quite a few times. Even back to 4th and 26.

flackcatcher's picture

(Nods Head in agreement......)

Nick Perry's picture

"In seven Packers playoff losses under Aaron Rodgers, the defense has given up an average of more than 36 points per game."

Wow that's really a depressing stat. Even worse McCarthy was to damn stubborn to fire Capers and Thompson who's job was to oversee the entire organization allowed Capers to stay long enough to even get 7 losses that average 36 points.

Hopefully McCarthy has learned he can NEVER wait 7 years again before pulling the plug, not even close. At least they've tucked Thompson off in a corner doing what they say he does best even though his draft picks recently haven't showed it.

HankScorpio's picture

The average pts allowed may be depressing but it is somewhat misleading. 3 of the 7 losses have seen the opposition win with a score in the 20s.

That's not to say I think the defense was fine or getting rid of Capers was unwarranted. It was perfectly justified a few years back. On balance, the defense was in need of a new voice and new leadership. I'm just saying that of those 7 playoff losses, not every one falls on the defense alone.

billybobton's picture

keep in mind the average also got a huge plus when ATL pulled a mercy killing in the playoff game, they could easily have scored 60

HankScorpio's picture

All they needed was 22 for the win. That''s not "could have" either.

My point is that an improved defense is not going to be some magical cure to the Packers playoff woes. Those woes have gone much deeper than a leaky defense.

David Aures's picture

Mark my words Aaron Rodgers is the GOAT. As a quarterback as a whole who would you want under center. Someone that cant scramble when their line breaks down(just accurate pocket passer)Tom Brady. Or someone that can do everything (throw on the run, accurate pocket passer, scramble when things break down). Aaron Rodgers.

Im not taking anything away from Brady. He is a Damn good quarterback. But if you look at all around better QB (GOAT) Aaron Rodgers easily would be IMO.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

You're giving Brady no credit for what's between the ears. Nothing for pre-snap reads and audibles. IDK if it is McDaniels, Belicheat, or Brady, but he doesn't seem to have to make great throws that often even when playing a truly good defense. Brady is a guy who is content to pound the rock 37 times to Blount in a game or run it just 4 times all game: whatever works.

Whatever works isn't the mantra in GB, IMO.

croatpackfan's picture

The most important game Packers lost was the 2014 NFCCG.

That game was not lost on D. It was lost on offense and inability to score TD when they had chances...

What you can expect more from D than to make 6 TO and keep opponent scoreless for the first half. And with average starting position for offense in opponent territory...

Still, mosat of you are spitting on D. This is joke. That was D at the finest. So, D never wins the game. You need productive offense to be able to score points.

I will reveal to you all one big, big secret. Think about it! THE TEAM THAT SCORES MORE POINTS ALWAYS WINS...

EDIT: A team that allows a few points does not always win...

HankScorpio's picture

QB wins is like any other stat...something to consider but not the be-all, end-all. QB is considered the most important position for a good reason. He sets the tone for the offense and defines offensive capability in the vast majority of cases. What the Eagles did with a backup QB is the exception, not the rule.

Certainly a part of Brady's greatness is his cool under pressure and ability to lead his team to come back wins. That is part of the job description. And what gets Brady in the conversation for GOAT. Every team wants a QB that can perform at the end of games when the pressure is at its highest.

Lphill's picture

Watch replays of the Super Bowl , Patriot receivers pushing off defenders before making a catch , the Hail Mary play at the end watch in slow motion , a lot of contact before the throw , one Patriot receiver thrown to the ground , seems the NFL did all it could to help patriots but it wasn't enough , I am happy for the Eagles but I think the officiating has to be questioned and it already has been on some sports shows. Watch it again .

Razer's picture

There was a lot of contact throughout the game. On the last play alone, a Patriot's WR got side-swiped while running down field, Gronk pushed off a defender and the scrum was a battle. Frankly, it was the best officiating of the season. The refs let them play and did little to influence the outcome. Let's face it, something can be called on any given play, usually at the expense of the defender. This was a balanced match and the refs let them slug it out. It was one of the best Super Bowls of all time.

dobber's picture

"It was one of the best Super Bowls of all time."

I can think of at least 4 that I liked better... ;)

snowdog's picture

Just let them play . The officials did .

D.D. Driver's picture

How many of the think pieces are we going to be subjected to? It was one game. Yet, everyone acts like there were some grand new revelations.

"This is why you need a great back-up quarterback!" Well, yeah, *this* year the Eagles won with a back-up quarterback. The last time a back-up QB won was 28 years ago. This is almost never the thing that separates a champion from a loser.

"It's all about being aggressive!" Forgetting that when Pederson had the opportunity to go for a first down and seal the victory instead of giving the ball back to Brady--he ran three straight times (including right before the 2 minute warning when the clock would have stopped anyway). For those with a short memory, it is the same strategy that McCarthy was ridiculed for.

It's a Rorschach test. You see whatever you want to see which is also the exact same thing you believed before you watched the game.

Here is what I believed before the game and still believe now: to win the Super Bowl you need an overall very good team with some excellent players, you need solid coaching, some good luck, and you need to finish the game having scored more points than the other team.

Razer's picture

The TKstinator said ... it is the ultimate team sport ... and that is a fundamental truth of the best team winning. I'll add that having playmakers making plays is the difference when you get down to the big games. Neither of these teams are in a position to win it all if their stud QB's don't make a ton of plays to keep drives alive or throw/catch TD passes. And when all the chips are on the line Philly collaspes the pocket and strips Brady of the ball. Stars making plays.

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers making big plays on big stages but then it drops off rather quickly. I can't think of too many Clay Matthew's "spill it" moments these last years. Ted hasn't got enough playmakers for this defense and, as a result, we aren't making the big plays. If I look at the secondary and linebackers, I am not sure who would seal the deal for this defense when it really mattered. Micah Hyde was the last guy who made the stop that mattered in the crunch. TT didn't even keep the guy.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"Quarterback wins are not a stat. They never have been."

What? Sure they are. They are just not a very useful one.

"All models are wrong, but some are useful" George Box

Lphill's picture

This was not a great Super Bowl it was the no defense Super Bowl I am happy for the Eagles but they don't scare me moving forward I would expect Rodgers to exploit their weaknesses on defense .

Point Packer's picture

“It is unthinkable that Dom Capers managed to hold on to his job as long as he did, because under him the Packers were routinely playing playoff football with only one half of the team actually appearing to be in the building.”

Truer words have never been spoken. And yet the Packers sports media and most of the bloggers on this website (sorry folks) didn’t call for his head till THIS YEAR. A fact I never and still don’t understand. He should have been gone after 2012. However, he inexplicably held on. Don’t understand. Never will.

billybobton's picture

Point Packer is exactly correct. If we could pull the comments from the year we would see the 'brains' and 'writers' here all in the cheerleader for capon group, never wanting accountability and unable to see the truth

dobber's picture

"all in the cheerleader for capon group"

I would cheer for a capon that was breaded and deep fried...

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