The National Football League features a pair of preseason games today with the Cleveland Browns hosting the New Your Giants in the early game and the San Francisco 49ers at the Los Angeles Chargers in the late contest.
To complete the second week of full preseason action, the New Orleans Saints entertain the Jacksonville Jaguars tomorrow night.
The Pittsburgh Steelers introduced Ben Roethlisberger to game action yesterday in their win over the Detroit Lions. The Steelers veteran quarterback led Mike Tomlin’s team to a pair of touchdowns early in the game and then was sidelined out of harm's way for the rest of the scrimmage.
While the Steelers know what they have with future Hall of Fame member Roethlisberger, there are several teams that are getting their first look at signal callers this preseason. The 2011 NFL draft had a number of top prospects at the quarterback position. When Hall of Fame member Steve Young, who guided the San Francisco 49ers to their most recent Super Bowl title to complete the 1994 season, was asked to assess the rookie quarterback crop before the draft, he emphasized the talent and vision of BYU signal caller Zach Wilson.
Now, one might think that Young would have a preference for Wilson for both his skills and being a veteran of BYU, where Young led the Cougars to a Holiday Bowl win to complete his college career in 1983. Young also set a number of NCAA passing and yardage records that year and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting to Mike Rozier.
Young was touting Wilson also as a potential draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers, who had traded up to land the third pick in the draft. Everyone knew that the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to take Trevor Lawrence with the first pick, which meant only the New York Jets were standing between the 49ers and the four other top prospects at the position, Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones.
“It is his ability to see the field and find secondary receivers that most impress me about Wilson,” Young said in February. Lawrence did go to the Jaguars, and it was the Jets with the second pick that tabbed Wilson for their future. That left the 49ers the choice between the trio of other top quarterback prospects and their choice was Trey Lance. Within the next few picks, Fields went to the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots selected Jones.
Now, it is early in the preseason, but Wilson has already shown star quality in New York and Fields has Chicago brimming with confidence. Jones is pushing Cam Newton for the starting spot in New England and tonight and tomorrow we will get to see how Lance does with the 49ers in his second game action and Lawrence performs against the Saints in New Orleans on Monday Night.
Few things are more paramount to becoming an elite NFL team than having a top flight quarterback running the offense. Super Bowls are consistently won by signal-callers that five years after their retirement will be handed a gold jacket in Canton. There are a few exceptions, Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer, Joe Flacco and Nick Foles won Super Bowls and won’t be getting a knock on the door from David Baker anytime soon.
Those four quarterbacks just ended up on teams with incredible defenses that allowed them a shower of confetti. Only Flacco out of that quartet actually started the season as the Super Bowl winning team’s quarterback. Flacco benefited from being on a team with a defense led by Ray Lewis in 2012. The same can be said for Trent Dilfer, who replaced Tony Banks early in the season and rode the Baltimore Ravens stop unit to a title in 2000. What that means is that twice Lewis won Super Bowls without a great quarterback but by virtue of his strengths.
Hostetler and Foles replaced Phil Simms and Carson Wentz late in the season for the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles respectively. They too rode on the coattails of great defensive play.
So, teams looking for a Super Bowl victory can either have a generational defense or top quarterback … some teams have had both. The 1984 San Francisco 49ers come to mind, and there are a few others.
Today, we are going to get another look at the player the 49ers chose after Lawrence and Wilson were off the board, and tomorrow a second showing of what Jacksonville fans hope is the second coming.