Now, a quarterback can be judged in many ways, and for him to be considered elite, he has to have it all. Quarterbacks need to have the stats to back it up such as a lot of passing yards and TDs while minimizing the turnovers. If they have a ton of great stats and they can’t lead their team to wins though, then the QB can’t be elite. If he can lead his team to wins but not have great stats, then the QB can’t be elite. While I will say many times that stats don’t make a QB, it’s stats that show the main way that a QB can help a team. If the QB isn’t the one helping the team through passing yards or TDs, then it’s someone else that’s doing the work. In addition, a QB must be successful in the playoffs. A Super Bowl ring is usually necessary for a QB to be put in the top tier, but not always depending on the circumstances. It’s one thing if a QB can take his team to the playoffs, but it’s another thing if he can win once he gets there. Stats, regular season wins, postseason wins, and Super Bowl rings are the four main components of an elite QB. If a QB has them all, then he’s elite. If he’s missing one or more of these attributes, then odds are he’s not elite.
So now that I’ve explained the behind the scenes portion of football contracts, let’s look at the position that naturally receives the most money: quarterbacks. It has always been this way and should be, because they should be the leaders of their respective teams. If a QB isn’t a leader, then he shouldn’t be the starter. He has to earn the respect, but does he always earn the money? Some “high-profile” quarterbacks have recently signed humongous deals that will give them tons of money per year even though they’ve ultimately failed in the media’s eyes. It depends on what a team’s goals are. Are they looking to have a winning record? Are they looking to win the division and make the playoffs? Are they looking to win the Super Bowl? Quarterbacks are mainly judged on their ability to win Super Bowls, but we’ve seen multiple examples of QBs that have made it deep in the playoffs or to the Super Bowl who aren’t good QBs (take a look at Mark Sanchez and Rex Grossman for example). Winning games in the regular season is a great start, but when they’re not winning in the postseason, it makes the team management wonder if they are the right guy for the job. But, more often than not, they keep the guy they have and overpay him to make a statement.
Let’s look at the infamous example of this, Tony Romo. I just hinted at him a lot because of his one playoff win, which everyone talks about all the time. Here’s an example of a guy who has tons of team records and passes for tons of yards every year, so are his postseason struggles enough to hold him back from being labeled a high paid QB? The answer to that is no. 15 of the 32 QBs (going by the QB that has the largest cap hit on the team) have double digit million cap hits, and Romo is no exception. Not only will his contract count for $11.8 million against the cap, but his actual haul-in will be an astounding $26.5 million, which is 5th highest in the league. Most people will agree that he’s not a top 5 QB in the league, so why is he getting this much?
The answer may be that Owner and GM Jerry Jones has no idea what he’s doing. The real answer is that no one really knows. He may have one of the highest QB ratings in the history of the game, and he may have thrown for four 4,000+ yard seasons in his career, including a career high 4,903 yards last year, but he hasn’t gotten it done in the playoffs. He has one playoff win, which means he definitely hasn’t won a Super Bowl. He may be getting it done in the stat column, but the goal of every franchise deep down is to win championships, and Romo has not been this guy. Does that mean that his regular season stats should be overlooked and he should get a couple million a year? No, but he certainly doesn’t deserve his contract extension, which will pay him $108 million over 6 years, with $55 million of that guaranteed. Now just read those numbers again and soak it in. $55 million guaranteed for Romo? That’s just insane! How can the team afford this. Easy: $25 million of that is a signing bonus, and it’s prorated, so he gets the money up front, but the salary cap hit lasts over a bunch of years, saving the team cap space. And in that situation, it’s a win-win situation. But that still doesn’t justify his new contract, which will begin with the 2014 season. His cap hit will then basically double, but it’ll still save the team money in the long run. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Another player that fits into this category is Matt Ryan. While he’s much more of a fan favorite, he is in the exact same situation as Romo. What many people fail to realize is that over Ryan’s five years as the team’s starter, he also only has one playoff win. He may have just broken career highs for pass attempts, completions, completion %, yards, and TDs, but he still has a 1-4 record in the postseason. While he’s getting it done in the regular season, he’s not winning the most important games. And like I’ve said, quarterbacks are measured on their success in the postseason and Super Bowls more than yards and TDs. This year will be his final year of his original contract, in which he’ll earn $10 million, about what he deserves. The cap hit is actually $12 million, but that’s likely due to prorated signing bonuses that I discussed earlier. Then his new contract extension comes into play, which is a 5 year, $104 million deal. This will also put him in the $20+ million club, but again, does he deserve it? He has an amazing winning percentage in the regular season, especially at home. He’s a likable guy and the clear leader of their offense. But with $59 million guaranteed, it means he has the second most guaranteed money among players in the NFL. Is he worth that? Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Part 4 will be released tomorrow.