What exactly makes a Quarterback a "Winner"?

All throughout the draft season, as well as in the after-draft analysis, we've consistently heard about how certain Quarterbacks are just "winners", and they will be great NFL Quarterbacks because of this innate ability to just "win games".  In fact, one of Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels criteria for drafting a QB, as told by Mike Klis of the Denver Post:

They must be a proven winner. Which is why he liked Kyle Orton and didn’t like [Jay] Cutler.

Now, there's clearly nothing wrong with winning games.  In fact, it's obviously the goal of every football game played. But why was the most used reason for the future success of Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy that they were "winners", and not anything actually objective on their own play? Put quite simply, they were helped by having the best athletes in the country playing with them, and they simply don't have the statistics to justify their lofty rankings.

Want to know how much talent they had around them?  Let's take a look at how many of their teammates were drafted into the NFL, compared to other QBs taken relatively early, who have actually won games in the NFL, another NFL player who "just wins games":

Name School Record -3 Yr -2 Yr -1 Yr Draft Yr +1 Yr +2 Yr Total
Tim Tebow Florida 35-6 9 2 3 8 5 5 32
Colt McCoy Texas 45-8 7 5 4 5 4 4 29
Peyton Manning Tennessee 39-6 6 8 3 7 6 9 39
Drew Brees Purdue 24-13 N/A 2 2 4 2 1 11
Vince Young Texas 30-2 N/A 4 3 5 7 5 24

For the two years after graduation for Tebow/McCoy, I averaged how many players were drafted from Florida/Texas over the past 10 years, and plugged them in.  It could be drastically different, but we won't know for 2 years.  If those hold true, both guys will easily have played with a full 22 man team that were drafted into the NFL.  Think that might have something to do with them winning games?  They went to the state school of the two best states in terms of football talent in the country, and it shows.  Vince Young also falls into this category, even though he only played 2.5 seasons at Texas.

Now, all of you believers in Tebow/McCoy are screaming "Look at all the talent Peyton Manning had around him!", which is certainly true.  Holy hell that's a lot of talent.  However, even though Manning actually had a slightly higher Winning Pct. than both Tebow and McCoy, you think Manning was drafted #1 overall by the Colts because he was a "winner", or just knew how to win games?  I'm thinking it had something to do with his ability to throw the football, study the game, make adjustments, and put his team in a position to win games (he doesn't play defense).

Let's go one step farther with Manning.  No other team has won more than 12 games in 4 consecutive years, and Manning has led the Colts to 7 in a row.  If you want to win games in the NFL, Manning is clearly one of the best ever to get that done for you.  You'd think he would be trumpeted far and wide about how he is a winner.  But he isn't.  Not even close, actually.

I'm going to run a simple experiment here:  How many times does the phrase "Peyton Manning is a winner" appear on the interwebs?  Hundreds, if not thousands, right?  I mean, all the guy does is win games. 

It appears 8 times.  No, that is not a typo.  Eight whole times, and 3 of them have been since January.  So why doesn't anybody describe him as a "winner"?  Because nobody has to.  Manning has numerous other qualities that can be used to describe him, both statistically and subjectively, that kind of takes care of the winning part.  If he didn't have those specific qualities, he wouldn't be winning games.  In other words, play the Quarterback position well, put up statistics proving it, and the winning takes care of itself.

Want to see the rest of the QBs we looked at earlier, and their Google searches?

Name Hits
Tim Tebow 39,800
Colt McCoy 5,440
Peyton Manning 8
Drew Brees 7
Vince Young 3,810

I realize this isn't an exact science, but it gives you a good idea as to how often these guys are called a "winner".  Almost 40,000 people have called Tim Tebow a "winner", meaning they can't find any empirical evidence to explain their love for him.  That's pretty much what it comes down to.  Even the local TV guys here in Denver have fallen into the trap.  Paraphrasing from last night:

There's Timmy Terrific, whose leadership and attitude will one day make him one of the best QBs in the NFL...

I did a double take when I heard that last night.  While those things play a part in making a successful Quarterback, common sense tells me that throwing the ball, making good decisions, not making mistakes, etc. play a much, much larger role in making a successful QB.

While not as often, McCoy and Young both have a large number of people calling them "winners", while Drew Brees, a consensus Top 3 QB in the NFL, only has 7 hits.  Can you guess why?  I don't think I need to explain. How about Vince Young?  According to the Winning Stats, in 2006 the Titans offense was ranked 21st (16th in ANPY/A) with Young (13 games).  In 2007, the Titans went 10-6, and made the playoffs.  The Offense was ranked 22nd (27th in ANPY/A), and the defense was ranked #1 in the NFL.  You can draw your own conclusions about how the Titans won games in 2007.  Last season, the Titans offense in the final 10 games wasn't too bad, good for 9th in the league, and 11th in ANPY/A.  However, he had a guy who averaged over 26 carries / game, and 141 yds/game, and was 9th in the league in Percentage of Air Yards, meaning he had lots of Yards after Catch.

Quarterbacks who get it done on the field by putting up numbers and winning football games will never be given the "winner" label.  That only goes to those QBs who can't be described any other way.

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