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NFL Unfiltered Week 17: NFC & AFC Quarterbacks set to shine in Playoffs

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Seventeen grueling weeks of agonizing over the most insignificant pro football minutia is over.  For most fans, the New Year brings hope for those whose favorite teams qualified for the playoffs and closure for those whose teams are changing coaches.

Either way, this year’s tournament features an interesting dichotomy in that the chase for the Vince Lombardi Trophy is a referendum on arguably the most important position in team sports.  aron Rodgers and the Packers look to repeat in 2011. Photo: www.sportydesktops.com

Has the paradigm shifted?  Do Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have championship mettle?  Are they merely athletic freaks, whose real value is in entertainment and merchandise sales?

Interestingly, Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder also plays his best when he uses his athleticism.  However, in my view, he is several rungs below the other athletic quarterbacks in both production and skill.  

That means of the NFC’s six playoff teams, only Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers play a more traditional game.  

If the Redskins, Seahawks or 49ers win the Super Bowl, the unwritten rules governing quarterback play and quarterback evaluation will change.  If they fall short, it will fortify the views of traditionalists like NFL films’ Greg Cosell, who steadfastly believe a winning quarterback must play a certain way.

Full disclosure: I am cheering for the former. I am hoping one of the unconventional quarterbacks wins the title. I have been watching the NFL for a long time, and I want to witness the evolution.

I want to see general managers and player personnel men face a new reality.  I want to see them surf in a larger pool of athletes.  I want to see the term “franchise quarterback” redefined.  Most importantly, I want to watch Cosell and his ilk backtrack because they can no longer adhere to conventional quarterbacking wisdom. Tom Brady

Conversely, if Tom Brady wins a fourth ring, the entire offseason will center on an arrogant, “see, I told you so” narrative.  They will remind us of the need for a pocket passer in order to win the ultimate prize.  

They will warn us not to judge other inexperienced quarterbacks like Miami’s Ryan Tannehill or Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden too prematurely.

Additionally, if the Colts’ Andrew Luck advances farther than RGIII and Wilson, they will tell us Luck’s style is more conducive to winning.

Still, there is no denying the respective legacies of future hall of famers like Peyton Manning.  His return to prominence after last year’s injury is already the stuff of legend. I simply cannot pull for him or his storyline because it will reaffirm the status quo. Nevertheless, if one of the league’s young, electrifying athletes wins Super Bowl XLVII, it will prove there is another way for championship quarterbacks to play.  

That is a story we can all appreciate.

WEEK 17 OBSERVATIONS
What the pundits can’t or won’t say
Michael Vick photo: BleacherReport.com
The interception Michael Vick threw in the first quarter of Sunday’s Eagles finale illustrates the importance of a quarterback’s height. Vick’s football acumen is limited because of too many seasons playing the role of superhero, but his size is the main obstacle his next coach must overcome.

The Eagles’ head coach and quarterback situation will garner the most attention this offseason, but you can make a case their entire secondary needs an overhaul, beginning with Nnamdi Asomugha.

It will not matter if the next coach is Chip Kelly, Brian Kelly or Machine Gun Kelly.  The Eagles’ most important offseason decision is choosing who is in charge of procuring talent.

For what it is worth, I am hearing 49ers’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman is very high on Jeffrey Lurie’s list.

Packers’ cornerback M.D. Jennings failed to learn from his last play against the Seahawks earlier this season.  His selfish attempts to intercept passes, despite obviously questionable hands, hurt his team’s chance at the Super Bowl.  

Conversely, Bears’ cornerback Tim Jennings made a play in the 4th quarter that all defensive backs should copy.  On 3rd and 6, late in the Lions game, he focused on winning by batting the football down.

Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frazier deserves credit for trying to win after the Packers tied the score at 34.  

Every season is its own entity, so it’s unfair and shortsighted to suggest Jim Harbaugh erred in replacing Alex Smith should the 49ers fall short of the Super Bowl.

On some level, I feel badly for Tony Romo.  He is a good quarterback and seems affable. But like Schleprock from The Flintstones, things just fall apart when he appears.Schleprock photo: papermag.com

It is hard to believe Griffin III’s knee has not been more of a hindrance.  I think that speaks to his determination as well as poor game planning by the Eagles and the Cowboys.  

Seven head coaches lost their jobs and there are probably sound reasons why.  However, an examination of their former team’s recent drafts reveals a mostly non-descript group of players.  A coach’s value is vastly overrated.

Top 4 this week (rankings disclaimer: my top four will always feature two AFC teams and two NFC teams).

1. Denver Broncos (13-3) – Finished the year with the AFC’s best record.      
2. Atlanta Falcons (13-3) – Have waited a year to atone for last year; will not matter.   
3. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) – Obviously, Alex is the team’s least valuable Smith.
4. New England Patriots (12-4) – Beyond Brady they are as flawed as every other team.

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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Rodgers photo: www.sportydesktops.com

Michael Vick photo: BleacherReport.com

Schleprock photo: papermag.com