Columns

True Genius

Steve Gallo is a fantasy football guru for The Huddle, who came-up with the famous Zero Quarterback Theorem.

The idea is simple: if you remove the QB from successful fantasy football teams, they’ll still win the majority of games.

If only the NFL were like that.

The quarterback is the most important position in all of sports; over the starting pitcher, the closer, the catcher, the pointguard, the power forward, or the goaltender.

The only “so-so” QBs to win titles since the turn of the millennium are Trent Dilfer (who was still a firstround pick), Joe Flacco (another firstrounder), and Brad Johnson, who was no slouch, either.

When heaping praise on coaches and general managers, unless you haven’t paid attention, the quarterback is the reason behind the success.

Occasionally a dominant defense, a ground-game, or a generational wideout can make-up the difference. But behind every great front office and coaching staff is the guy behind the center.

Take out the quarterback and personnel guys and their coaches get exposed. Finding a great passer in the draft because your team imploded the year before doesn’t make you a genius; sometimes it just means you’re lucky.

John Elway was a GM genius until Peyton Manning retired. He did learn from his Super Bowl loss to Seattle that he needed to build a defense. But, if Stephen Gostkowski hits an extra point in the 2015 AFC title game, we’re not talking about Elway, nor Wade Phillips’ famous defense the same way. Why? Elway can’t seem to find a passer, or a coach for that matter.

Maybe he can get some advice by looking around the league. Anyone can bring-in a legendary free agent QB and ink one of football’s best defensive coordinators. But, how about building for years to come?

John Schneider drafted Russell Wilson at a time when the read option was a fad, and was able to spend money normally allotted to a quarterback on defense and skill players. Since, Wilson has developed into to top quarterback, while Schneider continues to replace aging talent, making them a perennial playoff team. Schneider seems to know what he’s doing.

Thanks to GM Kevin Colbert, the Steelers have maintained often without Big Ben because they have enough surrounding talent to stay in contention. Neither Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell were first-rounders. QBs Charlie Batch, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones and an aged Michael Vick kept the Steelers alive throughout Roethlisberger suspensions and injuries.

Ozzie Newsome won two Super Bowls in Baltimore without Hall-caliber QBs, and with two different head coaches. The first, Brian Billick, still can’t find a second chance at leading a team.

Bill Belichick’s success is obvious, but let’sexamine what’s happened aside from Tom Brady: The only other Hall-of-Famer to play with Brady? Randy

Moss. They didn’t win a Super Bowl together. Gronk may be headed to Canton, but he was only on the field for one of Brady’s five rings.

Want more? The Belichick coaching and personnel tree doesn’t exactly mirror Bill Walsh’s. Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel both failed in KC after Crennel flopped in Cleveland. Charlie Weis crashed after one good season at Notre Dame, Josh McDaniels is patiently choosing his second coaching job (perhaps replacing his mentor) and the jury is still out on Bill O’Brien.

None of these guys hurt Belichick by leaving in the coaching or personnel areas, yet he still continues to win.

Andy Reid built two teams. Donovan McNabb’s career pretty-much ended after the Eagles said goodbye, Michael Vick became the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, Jeff Garcia looked like a Pro Bowler when he was considered washed-up, and Alex Smith resurrected his abilities in KC after losing his job in San Francisco.

Then there are teams that aren’t so great in the personnel department, but, get a pass thanks to their passer.

Ted Thompson’s philosophy in Green Bay is simply building through the draft. But they look below- average without Aaron Rodgers. And since Rodgers’ abilities consistently lift them to the playoffs, the Pack are picking later than most teams. Overrated?

The Bills are on their sixth GM since their last playoff appearance. Their best QB? The guy who got benched for a fifth-rounder last month. The jury will be out on Brandon Beane for awhile, considering he hasn’t put together his own draft board, but he’s made moves that show he’s willing to take chances for now and the longhaul.

If there were only a way to figure out the true geniuses in the NFL.

But, there is.

Want to know the truth when throwing around that genius label?

Count the years. Count the playoff appearances. Count the turnarounds. Count the reclamation projects. Count the wins without star quarterbacks. Rings are easy to use when determining the best of the best. But look deeper. Don’t be fooled by the moment. Longevity is key.

New England is obvious. But look at Baltimore. Look at Pittsburgh. Look at Seattle. Look at personnel guys who put the right players in place and hire the right coaches to make the difference.

The Wizard of Oz even got exposed. Quarterbacks provide a nice curtain. But if you want to find the real geniuses, just look at the guys who have been around the longest.

If only Elway could put himself back onto the field.