This is a guest post from T.J. McCreight. McCreight has worked as a scout, director of pro personnel, director of college scouting, and a player personnel executive across multiple NFL teams.
If you asked 100 NFL executives, head coaches, and scouts what is the most important position on a football field, ALL 100 would say it is the quarterback. Of the last 31 Super Bowl winning teams, 27 of the quarterbacks (several duplicates) are either Hall of Famers, future Hall of Famers, or have a strong argument to be Hall of Famers.
The four that are less likely to wear gold jackets are Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Joe Flacco, and Nick Foles. None were 99th percentile athletes compared to the rest of the players on the field. Two of them were not starters to begin the season. All four teams had strong special teams units. Three of the defenses were elite. Basically, if you don’t have an elite quarterback or great quarterback play, your chances of winning the Super Bowl (especially in this era) are remote.
I was a scout on the Baltimore Ravens 2001 Super Bowl team. We had an iconic defense, but we struggled at the quarterback position. I learned a very valuable lesson that season. Starting from the top with Head Coach Brian Billick, our team never made it a point to complain about the offensive situation, even through some rough times. Marvin Lewis kept our defense positive and enthusiastic. There was never an eye roll, or a water bottle thrown after yet another three and out or turnover. Ray Lewis would not allow any sideways talk about the offense; we were a team, a total team and ultimately the silver trophy was hoisted.
To start this season, the New York Jets thought that they had a chance to hold that same trophy. They had a talented young team with Aaron Rodgers directing the offense. Unfortunately, within just a few minutes, those dreams seemed to end. You could feel the air leave the stadium and the high hopes sink through the wet turf. Moving forward, the Jets need outstanding leadership, and a bit of luck, to get on the right track.
Their leader, Robert Saleh needs to direct the ship and keep the team focused on the goal regardless of any outside noise. He needs to convince this football team that they can still win the Super Bowl. General Manager Joe Douglas and Coach Robert Saleh could go back to 1999 and listen to what Rams coach Dick Vermeil said and did after quarterback Trent Green was injured during the pre-season. The veteran coach kept that team together and had them rally behind unknown arena league quarterback Kurt Warner. Warner went on to lead the Rams to a Super Bowl victory that season and it revealed the resolve of that team.
The confidence cannot be phony or shallow, it must be genuine and legitimate. There will be much less room for error without Rodgers on the field, and everyone must be at the top of their game for the Jets to succeed. The games will be closer, and Saleh must be dialed in to situational football. The kicker will need to make big kicks to win games, they need a bit of luck with injuries, they need to control the ball on the ground, and the defense must keep them in each game to give the offense a chance. Everyone in the organization will need to step up their game and be better, but the head coach needs to clearly define and communicate those expectations.
This is adversity for the New York Jets. Many people think that adversity builds character, but I disagree; adversity reveals character. We will certainly find out what the character is of the 2023 New York Jets.
I am rooting for them.