With the 2009 regular season wrapped up, now is the time to reflect on what this season taught us about modern football. Did it reinforce the old, tired cliches? Or, did it dash them to bits on the rock of history?
For us, we have been trumpeting the end of the old in relation to the silly cliches coaches, fans, and media utter when they talk about what it takes to win. If 2009 taught us anything, it taught us that what you thought it takes to win is not what actually does win.
Cliche: You must have a dominant running game to win in the NFL
Fact: Of the top ten rushing offenses in football, only five made the playoffs. One of the five that did make the playoffs (the Jets) did so because two teams at the end of the reason (the Colts and Bengals) rested starters. The top five teams in rushing feature only two playoff teams, the before mentioned Jets and the Ravens. Both teams barely got into the post-season, and neither won their division.
Cliche: You must stop the run to win in this league
Fact: Only three division winners had run defenses the held an opponent under 100 yards a game on average. The other five division winners, including both #1 seeds in their respective conferences, had run defense that surrendered over 100 yards a game and over 4 yards a carry on average.
Cliche: You run the ball to set-up the pass
Fact: Of the top ten offenses in the NFL, only four had dominant running games. The Colts, Chargers, Giants, Steelers, and Texans all had dominant passing attacks despite sub par running games. The Colts and Chargers are the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively, in the AFC.
This is a passing league, like it or not. Running the football is secondary to throwing the football. To make the playoffs in this league, which is the goal of every team when September starts, your team absolutely must be able to throw the ball and score touchdowns doing so.
If they can't, they might as well not play the game.
Of the twelve teams that qualified for the post-season, every single one of them has what many gurus define as a "franchise quarterback." This is a QB who can throw the football and score points doing so. You will notice that players like Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme, Matt Cassel, and Kyle Orton are not playing right now. These guys are often termed "game managers," in that their game is focused more on not turning the football over and less on scoring touchdowns. Even the borderline "franchise quarterbacks," like Matt Schaub, did not qualify for post-season play. Meanwhile, all the current playoff teams feature names like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees.
If your team does not have a "franchise quarterback" (ie, a dominant player who can make plays throwing the football on a consistent basis) your team is not in the post-season. This is a quarterback dominated NFL now. You throw to win.
Anyone who suggests anything else is stuck in the past, hanging on to tired cliches that just do not hold up to the facts.