In this two-part article, we look at the case for the Houston Texans to draft Jadeveon Clowney, both from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint. Here, we consider the impact the presence of Clowney could have on the Texans offense. Click here for Part I.
There is a common misconception that teams need to have an elite quarterback to make it to the Super Bowl. Consider this, the following quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl: Joe Flacco, Brad Johnson, Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer and Mark Rypien. None of them will go down as all-time NFL greats.
None of these quarterbacks is particularly spectacular. A few had decent careers as starters, others became career backups and a few washed out of the league fairly quickly after their one season in the sun. They all had one thing in common, however: they played on teams with dominant defenses. They were also, primarily, game managers.
The term “game managers” is a dirty word among quarterbacks. It suggests a player who cannot win a game by himself but must rather focus on minimizing mistakes. Nevertheless, if you have a good defense and a strong running game then having a game manager at quarterback can be a winning formula. It is certainly much better than having an unpredictable gunslinger like Tony Romo in the backfield.
In truth, there are few quarterbacks who have the ability to will a team to victory regardless of the pieces around him. Tom Brady is a rare example; despite a defense that has generally declined over the years and a revolving door of offensive parts, Brady somehow is a lock to get the Patriots to the playoffs year-in, year-out.
Far more quarterbacks get talked about as good quarterbacks, potentially elite quarterbacks, when in reality they are a product of a strong defense.
Top defenses make quarterbacks better. A quarterback who trots onto the field knowing that any lead he hands to the defense is likely to hold up, who does not need to chase points all game long in order to constantly stay a step ahead of an opposing offense that is racking up points, is a quarterback that plays more confident and in control of the game.
The pressure to score every drive inevitably leads to mistakes. The ability to play a more conservative offense built around a combination of a strong running game and a low risk passing game generally means fewer turnovers. In combination with a defense that can stop opponents cold, this translates into fewer points for the opposition.
Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has garnered a lot of press and praise in his first two seasons, particularly after leading his team to a Super Bowl victory this past season. His passing stats, however, are good but not spectacular. For the 2013 season, he finished 16th in the league in passing yardage, 12th in completion percentage, and tied for 9th in touchdown passes. Where Wilson truly excelled was in avoiding mistakes: he threw only 9 interceptions, one of the lowest totals in the league among regular starters.
Wilson was backed up by the most dominant defense in the NFL last season. The Seahawks allowed the lowest points against in the league; opponents averaged only slightly over 14 points per game. As a result, Wilson could play knowing that he did not have to take risks with the ball to get points. Instead of forcing things when in a dangerous situation, he could tuck the ball and run, take a sack or throw the ball away.
Wilson also led the 4th best rushing attack in the league (which he was, of course, a big part of). Not having to rack up big point totals, the Seahawks could go ground and pound. A strong rushing attack almost always pays dividends for a quarterback when it comes time to pass the ball.
Put Wilson on a team with a mediocre defense and does he still look like potentially the best quarterback to come out of the 2012 NFL Draft? We will never know for certain, but my view is that Wilson would look an average quarterback under those conditions, certainly not a Super Bowl winner.
It does not take a Peyton Manning at quarterback to go to the Super Bowl; in fact the past two seasons have shown that even Manning playing at his best with a wealth of offensive weapons at his disposal is not enough to overcome a mediocre defense. It is no surprise that the Broncos have spent most of their money this off-season in improving their defense.
The Texans do not need a super star quarterback. It would, of course, be nice to have one but it is far more important in this league to have a dominant defense and a strong running game. In Part I of this series, I put forward the notion that the simple act of adding an elite, dominant defender like Clowney to the defense could instantly transform it into one of the top units in the league.
From the standpoint of offense, with a healthy Arian Foster and the newly arrived Andre Brown, the Texans should be back to having one of the best rushing attacks in the league. Couple that with a strong defense and it puts Ryan Fitzpatrick into a position where he does not have to win games but merely has to ensure that he does not lose them.
Fitzpatrick has shown throughout his career that he can be an effective quarterback, but that he is not a guy you want to have to go out and try to win games for you. That is where he has a tendency to make loads of mistakes.
This becomes a formula that not only instantly improves the Texans but puts them right back into contention. It also enables the Texans to go bargain hunting for a quarterback of the future. Rather than tying a significant amount of cash into a potential bust, they can develop a quarterback who could develop into a quality starter but who will not break the bank if he fails.
As the Texans themselves have experienced before, jumping at a quarterback early in the draft then plugging them into a team full of holes is often a recipe for disaster.