It’s not all about the quarterback…and yet, it is.

I hear that Admiral Halsey used to board a battleship and ask many of the sailors this question:

“Who is the most important person on this ship?”

Some sailors would reply the captain.  Others would state that the Admiral was the most important person on the ship.  The answers would continue until one insightful crewman would respond, “The gunner, sir.”

Halsey would then launch into his discourse.  “You see, the only thing that sets this ship apart from a cruise ship are the guns.  This ship moves from point to point to get a better shot at the target.  Everyone one this ship works in concert to give the gunner the best chance for success.”

Guess who the Cowboys’ gunner is?

If you did not think or say “Tony Romo” quietly to yourself, you need to spend more time on this site reading O.C.C’s fine work and less time searching for cheerleader pics  If this were a post by O.C.C., this would be a great place for a picture of a cheerleader.  Feel free to put one in…or imagine one if this lockout has not erased those precious memories.

Conversely, if the gunner is the most important person on the WWII battleship U.S.S. Iowa, then the gunner must have also been the most important person on the old Japanese battleship Yamato.  While the Iowa and her big 16-inch guns survived WWII, the Yamato and her massive 18-inch guns did not.

Why?  The U.S.S. Iowa had better support around her.  The Yamato was sunk after squadrons of dive bombers and torpedo bombers devastated her while she was with minimal escort.

Sometimes it is not all about the size of the guns.

Looking at the past nine Super Bowl winners, I find that the team that can best help their “gunner” while disrupting the opponent’s quarterback has been successful with only a few exceptions.  I measured this assistance and disruption utilizing the quarterback passer rating formula.  By subtracting the defensive quarterback rating from the offensive quarterback rating, a quarterbacking differential was derived.

In 2010, the Packers won the Super Bowl over the Steelers.  The Packers had a quarterbacking differential of 31.7 (98.9 – 67.2), first in the NFL.  The Packers had the best defensive quarterback rating, and the third best offensive passer rating.  The Steelers had a quarterbacking differential of 22.1, good for fourth in the NFL.

In 2009, the Saints had the best quarterbacking differential: a whopping 37.4.  Green Bay was second (33) and Indianapolis was fifth (14.8).  Dallas was ninth with a quarterbacking differential of 14.1 that season. 

The list of Super Bowl winners and their respective quarterbacking differential is as follows (Super Bowl losers are in parentheses):

2010: Green Bay – 1st (Pittsburgh – 4th)

2009: New Orleans – 1st (Indianapolis – 5th)

2008: Pittsburgh – 4th (Arizona – 17th)

2007: New York 24th (New England – 1st)

2006: Indianapolis – 4th (Chicago – 10th)

2005: Pittsburgh – 7th (Seattle – 4th)

2004: New England – 5th (Philadelphia – 4th)

2003: New England – 2nd (Carolina – 12th)

2002: Tampa Bay – 1st (Oakland – 2nd)

Notice that the only two Super Bowl winners that do not rank in the top 5 in quarterbacking differential beat teams that were.  The Giants continued their magical (lucky?) run against a superior New England team with an injured Tom Brady.  The Steelers beat a better Seahawks team with a big assist to the referees.

Only Carolina and Arizona (as well as the afore mentioned Giants) made the Super Bowl with a quarterbacking differential not in the top ten.  Defensively the teams noted above ranked as follows in defensive quarterback rating:

2010: Green Bay – 1st (Pittsburgh – 2nd)

2009: New Orleans – 3rd (Indianapolis – 12th)

2008: Pittsburgh – 2nd (Arizona – 30th)

2007: New York 17th (New England – 11th)

2006: Indianapolis – 15th (Chicago – 3rd)

2005: Pittsburgh – 8th (Seattle – 13th)

2004: New England – 7th (Philadelphia – 8th)

2003: New England – 1st (Carolina – 11th)

2002: Tampa Bay – 1st (Oakland – 12th)

Again, the Giants 2007 Super Bowl victory stands out like a sore thumb.  Peyton Manning outplayed Rex Grossman (big surprise there) in winning Peyton’s only Super Bowl in 2006.  Interestingly, the Manning brothers are the only quarterbacks to win Super Bowls with teams owning worse defensive quarterback ratings.  Otherwise, the team with the better defensive quarterback rating won the Super Bowl.

To those wondering about the Cowboys 2007 season that ended in Irving against the Giants, the Cowboys had the best quarterbacking differential in the NFC and 4th overall.  Here is how Dallas has ranked in quarterbacking differential the last nine seasons:

2010: 15th (29th defense)

2009: 9th (16th defense)

2008: 19th (20th defense)

2007: 4th (5th defense)

2006: 12th (20th defense)

2005: 9th (9th defense)

2004: 30th (27th defense)

2003: 13th (3rd defense)

2002: 24th (7th defense)

Dallas made the playoffs in 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2009.  Compare those defensive quarterback rating rankings against the Packers over the last few years.

Under Dom Capers, the Green Bay defense ranked 4th in the NFL in defensive passer rating in 2009 and 2008.  The Packers defense was ranked 6th in defensive quarterback rating in 2007 and 8th in 2006.  Those were significant improvements given that Green Bay was ranked 25th in defensive passer rating in 2005, and 31st in 2004.  Despite having Brett Favre, Green Bay did not make the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.  The Packers missed the playoffs with Rodgers in 2008.

It seems evident that defending against the opponent’s quarterback is more important than getting a great performance from the team’s own quarterback.  That would mean that players such as DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Mike Jenkins have more to do with winning a championship than Romo, but Tony’s importance to the team remains paramount.

As stated before, however, without a good supporting cast, including defensive players that can disrupt opposing “gunners”, Romo and the Cowboys will struggle.  Scary when considering that Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Barry Church are currently the safeties on the Cowboys roster with a chance to start.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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