It’s Never Sunny in Cincinnati: Playoff Edition – The Quarterback Bubble

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During the past two years, the salaries of ‘marquee’ quarterbacks have not only continued to rise, but they have also served to reinforce a narrative that an NFL quarterback is vastly more important than any other player. 

Considered a ‘requirement’ to win, what these quarterbacks and their massive contracts tell both the pundacratcy and the fan base is that in order to earn the ‘face of a franchise,’ a quarterback must be able to win even in situations where skill positions are out matched.  However, since the latest NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was settled upon during the 2011 off-season, the reality is teams are not getting their money’s worth.

Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is hit in the backfield by Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) during the second quarter at Paul Brown

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs onto the field prior to the start of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY SportsStadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The relatively recent re-institution of the salary cap on NFL franchises has significantly altered contract structures, and with only two years of data to draw from, it appears unlikely that teams realize the degree to which traditional standards are being challenged.

Quarterbacks such as Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, and Matt Ryan each inked $100M contracts this past year and failed to bring their teams to the playoffs.  In the case of the Ravens and Falcons, this is after a Super Bowl victory and an NFC Championship bids just last year.  Only Aaron Rogers “earned” his monster contract restructure from earlier this year.

So, is it possible that the road to the Super Bowl in this post-CBA era is through a rookie or bargain-basement quarterback?