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History says the Broncos' starting QB matters . . . a lot

Ken Pomponio Avatar
April 1, 2016

 

Just happened to catch a Denver TV station sportscast earlier this week, and the anchor wrapped things up with a feature commentary on why your Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback for 2016 “doesn’t matter.”

In the least.

This sports anchor – I’ll spare the unsolicited plug, but (key hint here) he does employ certain props that rhyme with the word “hobbledeads” – made it a point to inform his viewers that he actually believes any QB from Mark Sanchez to rookie Paxton Lynch to John Elway (that’s the soon-to-be-56-year-old John Elway) could line up under center starting Sept. 8 and the Orange & Blue will wind up right back in the thick of the race for the Super Bowl LI crown thanks to their all-world defense.

Couldn’t have disagreed more – on the quarterback part, that is, as the Denver ‘D’ should be quite formidable again – and Broncos Country needs to take heed as well.

The Broncos’ 2016 starting QB – whether he’s veteran acquired in a trade, a first-round rookie or simply a bridge starter if the current circumstances don’t allow Elway and Co. to line up their man this offseason – does matter.

Quite a bit, as a matter of fact, if you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to your NFL history.

Let’s start with that all-world Broncos’ defense, which led the league in sacks and fewest total and fewest passing yards allowed this past regular season and was much better during the team’s three-game postseason mark to the Lombardi Trophy platform in Santa Clara.

That dominating playoff stretch earned Von Miller’s crew well-deserved comparisons to the greatest defenses in Super Bowl history. But let’s take a quick look at five of the most recent defenses in that very conversation and extrapolate things beyond those special Super seasons:

1985 Chicago Bears

Regular-season record: 18-1

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 1, 1

Following season record: 14-3 (lost in divisional round of playoffs)

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 1, 1

Next Super Bowl won: Still waiting

2000 Baltimore Ravens

Final record: 16-4

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 1, 2

Following season record: 11-7 (lost in divisional round)

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 4, 2

Next Super Bowl won: 2012

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Final record: 15-4

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 1, 1

Following season record: 7-9 (missed playoffs)

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 4, 5

Next Super Bowl won: Still waiting

2008 Pittsburgh Steelers

Final record: 15-4

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 1, 1

Following season record: 9-7 (missed playoffs)

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 12, 5

Next Super Bowl won: Still waiting

2013 Seattle Seahawks

Final record: 16-3

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 1, 1

Following season record: 14-5 (lost Super Bowl)

League ranks in points, total yards allowed: 1, 1

Next Super Bowl won: Still waiting

 

Notice a trend here?

We can glean several from this nuts-and-bolts data, but I’ll sum things up this way: The defenses for these defending Super Bowl champs still were rather formidable those follow-up seasons, but that still wasn’t enough to snare a follow-up Lombardi. In other words, it was a one-trick, one-title pony.

And the quarterback play – ranging from Jim McMahon’s injury-shortened season with the ’86 Bears to Russell Wilson’s ill-timed, last-minute end zone interception in Super Bowl XLIX – typically wound up playing significant roles in the denied repeats.

So there’s that angle.

Now, here’s the complete list of the eight teams who have managed to win back-to-back Super Bowls:

  • 1966-67 Green Bay Packers
  • 1972-73 Miami Dolphins
  • 1974-75 Steelers
  • 1978-79 Steelers
  • 1988-89 San Francisco 49ers
  • 1992-93 Dallas Cowboys
  • 1997-98 Broncos
  • 2003-04 New England Patriots

If you can name each franchise’s starting QB, you’ll quickly notice a trend here as well. (Hint: It has something to do with an existing bust – or an eventual bust – in a certain building in Canton, Ohio).

Now, sure, some of these teams possessed strong – and even great – defenses, top-notch head coaches and impressive all-around rosters, but the common denominator is that all eight repeat champs had a Hall-of-Fame – or a future Hall-of-Famer – QB under center.

No exceptions.

So Broncos Country (including our smiling Mr. Nobbleschmead), still think the quarterback doesn’t matter?

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