Four teams with legitimate Super Bowl hopes meet today as the National Football League offers a pair of preseason games. The afternoon contest pits the New Orleans Saints against the Los Angeles Chargers and the later game finds the Minnesota Vikings hosting the Seattle Seahawks.
One of the reasons any of these four teams can be considered a candidate to represent their conference in the Super Bowl is because they are set at the quarterback position. I recall working for the Raiders in the mid 70’s when Al Davis and John Madden would debate the most important position on the field.
Davis contended it was cornerback, “Because miss an assignment there and it’s six point for the bad guys,” the Raiders owner would say.
Madden countered with the offensive line. “Those guys upfront control the action. When they do there job runners have holes to run through and your quarterback has time to throw,” Madden would say.
Actually, both agreed on one position as a necessary factor in having a championship team. The quarterback. If an offensive line delivers time to throw for inaccurate signal caller their efforts are wasted. If a teams’ quarterback can’t move the offense, one mistake by a defensive back can determine a game against it.
If you look back at the 53 Super Bowl winners, nearly all of them were led by household names at the position behind center. Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and so on. Two of the signal callers with a Super Bowl to their credit are in action today, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
Brees led the New Orleans Saints to their only Super Bowl appearance to complete the 2009 season. That resulted in a win over Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts. Russell Wilson guided the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, games that resulted in a win over Peyton Manning and a loss to Tom Brady and his New England Patriots.
The other two quarterbacks in action today are Philip Rivers and Kirk Cousins. Rivers has always been just a little short of advancing to the big game during his career with the San Diego and Los Angeles Chargers. Still, now in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, he has the skill and team capable of winning it all in 2019.
Then there is Kirk Cousins.
In the 2012 NFL draft, the Washington Redskins traded away much too much to the St. Louis Rams in order to move up to the top spot in the annual lottery of college talent. With that first pick, the Redskins took Baylor Quarterback Robert Griffin III. One-hundred-and-one selections later, the Redskins chose Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins in the fourth round.
It was a fortuitous selection for the Redskins after their prize number one pick in the draft was injured late in his rookie season and never returned to top form. Meanwhile, Cousins turned out to be more than a backup, but rather a top flight signal caller that led Washington to a division title in 2015 and gained Pro Bowl honors in 2016.
In a contract dispute with Washington, Cousins played his final two seasons with the Redskins without signing a long term deal, and then exercised his free agency to join the Minnesota Vikings last year. If he was as good as he had been in Washington at quarterback and combined those skills with the solid Minnesota defense, the sky appeared the limit for Vikings fans that have never won a Super Bowl while losing four.
Problem is, last year the expectations for Cousins and his new team were higher than their actual talent level, and they played down to that liability. Which means this, when a team’s expectations are too high one season, and they stumble, expectations are lowered below their actual talent level the next year.
While the four teams in action today all have high hopes for the 2019 season, the team with the best fundamentals from a season-to-season motivational perspective to win it all is the Vikings. They opened their preseason with a win over the Saints in New Orleans, a task that may be considered more challenging than their win today at home over the Seattle Seahawks.
Qoxhi Picks: Minnesota Vikings (-3) over Seattle Seahawks