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Mike Holmgren - The importance of a qb


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from cleveland.com.




CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The dominant players in next Sunday's Super Bowl XLIV will be the quarterbacks. Of course, you say.



Peyton Manning of Indianapolis and Drew Brees of New Orleans are the cutting edge of NFL passers in a sport dominated more than ever by the quarterback position.


Manning captured his record fourth league MVP award for leading the Colts to a 14-2 regular-season record. Brees was the league's No. 1-rated quarterback, Manning No. 7. They were among a record 10 quarterbacks who passed for more than 4,000 yards in the 2009 season.


This is the fifth time in the past 10 years that two quarterbacks ranked in that season's top 10 met in the Super Bowl. Recent Super Bowls have featured quarterbacks ranked first five times, second once and third three times.


In contrast, the highest-ranked rusher in Super Bowl XLIV will be Indianapolis' Joseph Addai, who was 22nd with 828 yards in 2009. The Colts, in fact, are the second team in two years to reach the Super Bowl with the league's lowest-ranked ground game. Arizona made it the year before with the 32nd-ranked rushing attack.


The highest-ranked rusher in the 2008 season Super Bowl was Pittsburgh's Willie Parker, No. 26. Not once in the previous 10 years have two rushers in the top 10 met in the Super Bowl


Oakland boss Al Davis always said, "Running backs don't take you to Super Bowls ... quarterbacks do."


"You would never have to sell me on that," said Browns President Mike Holmgren, who is one of only five head coaches to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl. "I've always thought that was the way it was.


"I learned that from my old mentor Bill Walsh (who took the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl championships). He may have said it a little tongue-in-cheek, but knowing him I think he kind of meant it. He said if you're a 'physical' running team, the problem is you can't score fast enough. Particularly against teams like New Orleans.


"If you're a good rushing team, you're not going to win. They score too many points and you won't score fast enough. You might not have the time to do it."


There have been only a few exceptions in recent vintage.


Bill Parcells' New York Giants controlled the 1990 season Super Bowl against the high-scoring, Red-Gunnin' Buffalo Bills by keeping the ball on the ground. But even while winning the time of possession by a preposterous 2-to-1 ratio, the Giants had to sweat out a Scott Norwood field goal miss at the end to prevail.


Then there's the classic example of the Baltimore Ravens slogging through the 2000 season with a Hall-of-Fame defense and a tough running attack. They beat the New York Giants with Trent Dilfer at quarterback.


But those days are gone, Holmgren believes.


"Philosophically, you grow up in the business and you say, 'We're going to pound the ball. We're gonna have a tough team.' Then you go to a team that has great receivers, a veteran quarterback and your defense maybe isn't that strong. So what kind of offense are you going to run? Who cares if I want to be tough and rush the ball? How am I going to win the game? Too many people get lost in that. It's very funny to me. Tell me how are you going to win the game?


"Everyone strives for balance, but typically the good rushing teams are good rushing teams because they don't throw the ball that well."


Ironically, the one team to appear in a Super Bowl in the past 10 years with the league's No. 1 rusher was Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks. But even though Shaun Alexander was the top-ranked running back in 2005, Matt Hasselbeck was the league's No. 4 quarterback.


This season, six of the top 12 rushing teams in the league did not even make the playoffs (including No. 8 Cleveland), while only three of the top 12 passing teams were shut out of the postseason.


The champions of old-fashioned, grind-it-out offense and physical defense were Rex Ryan's New York Jets. They finished first in rushing and first in overall defense. Still, they needed the fortune of playing their final two games against teams resting starters for the playoffs (Indianapolis and Cincinnati) to eke into the playoff field with a 9-7 record.


"I think there's more than one way to do it, but I think [running the ball] can only get you so far most of the time," Holmgren said. "If you get farther, then something screwy's happened, something a little lucky, something out of the box has happened.


"I look at Baltimore with [rookie quarterback Joe] Flacco last year and they went pretty far. Then all of a sudden, that's it. Unless something [crazy] happens. This year with the Jets -- now, you need a little luck -- when they were 7-7 and Indy didn't have anything to play for ... that allowed them to really get into the playoffs. Once you're in the playoffs, yeah, you can pull an upset. Then, boom, now you're close."


"But without 'that guy,' it's pretty hard to get to the Big Game. You really need that man."


Some of the reasons are obvious. Most every major rule change in the NFL since the 1970s has benefited pass offenses.


It started in 1974 when contact downfield with receivers was restricted and offensive holding penalties were reduced to 10 yards. It continued in 1977 when contact with receivers was reduced to five yards from the line of scrimmage and the head slap used by defensive linemen was outlawed. In 1994, the rules clamped down on roughing-the-passer and two-point conversions were allowed. In the name of player safety, quarterbacks have been continually protected with even more restrictions placed on where they could be hit.


Holmgren, a member of the rules-making Competition Committee for seven years, said, "Any time scoring trends went down, the idea was to [change a rule to get points back up]. Because people want to watch scoring."


But the more recent domination of quarterback play in the NFL is rooted in something else, Holmgren believes.


"There's much more blitzing over the last 10 years," he said. "If you have the veteran quarterback and you have some good receivers, all of a sudden if you don't get home [with the blitz], they're going to gash them. As much as anything, teams have figured that out offensively. They spread everybody out and say, 'OK blitz us.' [The key is to] have the quarterback that knows what's happening and can take advantage of the one-on-ones [in coverage]."


So this season wasn't a revelation to Holmgren as much as a validation of principles of football he has always trusted. Which brings us to his first off-season in charge of the Browns.


Holmgren expressed amazement that the team could win its last four games while experiencing such inept play in the passing game. He doesn't think a team can advance anywhere with that offensive imbalance.


"I've gone on the record saying the quarterback is the most important person on the team. I believe that," Holmgren said. "But if you have a great quarterback and you don't have any receivers and you can't pass protect, or whatever ... now you still have a problem.


"I would say our point of emphasis in the off-season is strengthening the offensive team. Within that, we're looking hard at the quarterback."


Holmgren would say he's the most important link to getting the Browns to the Super Bowl. The quarterback, not Holmgren.

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"I've gone on the record saying the quarterback is the most important person on the team. I believe that," Holmgren said. "But if you have a great quarterback and you don't have any receivers and you can't pass protect, or whatever ... now you still have a problem.



Most of us have said that. The qb is the leader of the offense, he is the steering wheel of the offense.


But, you still have to have the engine be able to move the car. Without the engine, the best steering wheel still has a problem.


Our Browns are finally being excellently staffed across the board, in coaching and front office.


Well, maybe with the exception of the OC. But surely I must be wrong about him, he can't possibly be as much of a doofus


as he seems to be so far.


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Buh bye, to at least one of our lame QB's, and God willing, both.

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