Cory's Corner: Quarterback Leadership Matters Over Stats

NFL quarterbacks need to be measured in more than just numbers. 

The quarterback position. 

It is easily the toughest job in all of sports, and now it is the most coveted position in the NFL. 

This offseason, it will be a feeding frenzy. 

"There are roughly 10 quarterbacks locked into a starting jobs for Opening Day of the 2021 NFL season, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter tweeted Monday. "This is expected to be an unprecedented offseason of quarterback movement. My over/under of teams changing quarterbacks this offseason is 18. I'll go with the over."

The thing that is sad about this charade is that NFL general managers are thinking if they don't have a top 10 quarterback, they cannot win it all. Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who was 14th in yards and 23rd in passer rating this past season, could be on his way out because Los Angeles thinks it can do better. And let's not forget...Goff led the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance. 

You don't need a top 10 quarterback to guarantee success. Trent Dilfer, who only started eight games in 2000, had the fourth-highest interception percentage at 4.9, he completed less than 60 percent of his passes and he finished the season with a passer rating of 76.6. Oh yeah, Dilfer led the Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV win.

Then there was this guy named Bart Starr, you may have heard of him. In 1961, Starr threw 16 touchdowns and 16 picks and was sixth in passer rating for a league that was still in its passing infancy. However, Starr won his first championship that season and he went on to win five straight championships. 

It seems NFL general managers are chasing a mirage. They want the elusive top 10 quarterback, but that isn't what NFL teams need. Teams need a leader — most importantly at the most important position. 

But that's the tricky thing. NFL teams do plenty of college scouting. Player personnel teams look at reams of stats trying to find the right thing but the hardest thing to measure has always been someone's heart. 

That leads me to the Packers. Obviously, if Aaron Rodgers continues to play at an MVP level, he isn't going anywhere. Rodgers is the rare intersection of exceptional arm talent and great team leader. The Packers shouldn't be worried about trying to get another dynamic quarterback in the footsteps of Brett Favre and Rodgers. What Brian Gutekunst and his team should do is find someone that can lead men first. Rodgers' replacement could put up beefy stats, but it won't make a difference in the win column if he cannot lead. 

Look at the Cowboys. They have been tiptoeing around signing Dak Prescott long-term after giving him the franchise tag of $31.4 million in 2020. Dallas should give him the deal not because he's just an average quarterback but because he's the leader that Dallas desperately needs. 

Peopel get addicted to stats, but what really sets qurterbacks apart is leadership. The best example is Tom Brady. On passing talent alone, he doesn't make the top 10 this year, but he always finds a way. Those are the little things that a contract negotiation doesn't usually cover. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (23)

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croatpackfan's picture

January 30, 2021 at 07:53 am

Well, to be able to lead men (or women), first you have to do your job very good if not excellent. If you are lousy in performing your job, than your leadership will be under question mark. Somebody who will play on much higher level will be challenger, even if he does not try to become one. First you need to show that you know how to "lead" your job, before you are entitled to lead men (or women).

But, that is only my opinion. I accept there were and will be exceptions, but as old proverb says those exceptions are only to confirm the rule.

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ricky's picture

January 30, 2021 at 08:18 am

Right. Trent Dilfer lead the Ravens to a SB win. And Brad Johnson did the same for Tampa. Jim McMahon for the Bears. And Joe Flacco also did for the Ravens. Great defenses for all those teams were just a coincidence. Thanks for the insight.

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Packerpasty's picture

January 30, 2021 at 10:03 am

exactly...Brady has always been surrounded by some pretty good defense's...

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mamasboy's picture

January 30, 2021 at 01:54 pm

Very good point, Ricky.

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PackerNic's picture

January 30, 2021 at 08:55 pm

None of those men LEAD their teams to super bowl victories. The leaders of those teams were all on the defensive side of the ball. Being a leader means that you are the first guy in and the last guy out. The leader of a team does all of the little things that make everyone else's job easier. Being a leader is a shitty job. You have to sacrifice your ego to let others shine. Alot of people think leaders are the Vocal players or the person who is the most visible on a team, but that's the farthest thing from the truth. The last true leader of men this team had was Charles Woodson. That man put in the work and everyone wanted to step their game up to gain his approval. That's why the secondary lead the 2010 team with game sealing interceptions in every round of the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers was allowed to let his ego shine and share the spotlight, but he was NOT a leader of that team and he is NOT a leader of men. Aaron does not have the killer instinct to put a team on his back like a Jordan or a Kobe. Aaron is a great player and a generational arm talent, but true leadership ( which is exceptionally rare ) is missing from his game. True leadership is what's missing from this team.

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Coldworld's picture

January 30, 2021 at 08:27 am

Leadership is one factor, both at QB and coach, but the QB doesn’t play on defense and still needs the tools around him.

You take the exceptions and overlook history. Before the Cap era, teams could just be better. Lombardi had a heck of a roster and a great coach. The dynasties of that period were one of the reasons for the cap being imposed. With a great roster and coaching, a QB with great awareness but less skills can exploit the skills around him. One could argue we saw that last week, where a cap rich franchise was temporarily able to assemble a plus roster ( if not to the level of prior eras).

Secondly, the times have changed to favor offense dramatically. It’s much harder to win by having a great D and managing the game on O, even than it was 20 years ago.

Mediocre QBs that can manage are occasionally able to go on a tear. Chicago paid a lot of money for one such last season. Occasionally cap rebound or a fantastic draft can temporarily create a roster that us simply better around one if injury luck holds particularly, but today you need a great QB or such an anomaly to be competitive. The Cap dissolves the anomalies rapidly, so a good game managing but limited QB is likely to only offer a very short window. GMs and coaches that plan on that basis are probably not in it for the long term. So yes, leadership is a factor, but it isn’t a basis for long term success in isolation today.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 30, 2021 at 09:03 am

Or, when you strike Gold you hang on to them.

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BAMABADGER's picture

January 30, 2021 at 09:25 am

Bart Starr won 5 NFL championships, but not in a row.

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Buckywunder's picture

January 30, 2021 at 07:03 pm

In seven years — and one of their best teams (1963) didn’t even win a championship...

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Leatherhead's picture

January 30, 2021 at 10:04 am

Whether it’s sports, or business, or the military, having a guy that can lead men to victory is always the difference.

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Packerpasty's picture

January 30, 2021 at 10:07 am

Brady isn't the great leader of men especially on the Buc's, its their coach, who they want to win a Super Bowl for...I would say it was the same in NE with Bill coaching. Brady does his job and snarls around at people but I don't see him as some great leader...a winner yes and respected but some great leader of men...nah...these are grown adults they don't need much rah rah, what they need is good coaching and very good players...

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Since'61's picture

January 30, 2021 at 10:22 am

I don’t think that I would use Trent Dilfer as an example of great leadership. He played with a great defensive unit that season and only needed to score about 14-17 points to win games that year. His defense just about shut down everybody. If Rodgers had Dilfer’s defense I doubt that the Packers would ever lose a game during the Rodgers era.

As for Bart Starr, he played on a team with 11 other HOFers led by the GOAT HC. Again, put Rodgers on Lombardi’s Packers and they probably go undefeated for the 60s.

Leadership is critical but some level of talent is required for both the QB and the players around him. At the professional level the margins for error are minuscule. Talent across the roster usually makes the difference especially when you reach the playoffs.

Thanks, Since ‘61

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JohnnyLogan's picture

January 30, 2021 at 12:02 pm

Agree '61 but I would add that put Lombardi on the Packers for the last 10 years and he wins four or five SBs at least. Lombardi had defensive and offensive coordinators but you never felt as though he wasn't coaching both sides of the ball. With McCarthy, and now even with LaFleur, the defense has always seemed to be of secondary importance. The chatter is always about Capers or Pettine but you never heard much discussion centered on Phil Bengston, who coached the defense throughout the Lombardi years. Lombardi coached the whole team and was not shy about getting in the face of defensive Hall of Fame players. "What the hell's goin' on out there!" Or threatening to pull players off the field in the middle of a game if their play didn't improve. King would not have started the second half if Lombardi had been coaching. And Lombardi would have loved Rodgers. Like Starr, Rodgers is the smartest QB in the league, with the added value that Rodgers is also lightyears ahead of Starr in physical talent. Rodgers would be a different QB today, more disciplined under pressure because he'd fear Lombardi's wrath. He likely doesn't throw six straight passes after the Jaire interceptions. The run game was crucial to Lombardi regardless of the situation. Even in the Ice Bowl, on the final drive, with no footing, Starr and Lombardi mixed up the run and the pass. So yes, a top ten QB is almost always leading a SB team, but the key is having a coach who knows how to use him. LaFleur can be that coach. I think the last two NFC Championship losses will have a similar shock effect on him as the first, and only, championship loss was to Lombardi. LaFleur will be a tougher coach now, more involved on both sides of the ball, and not afraid to demand the best of his Hall of Fame QB. I think he and Rodgers butt heads this coming year, but for Rodgers to win, LaFleur has to win those battles between them. I'm even guessing that deep down Rodgers wishes he'd been coached a little better, a little tougher in the last quarter of the 2020 season.

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flackcatcher's picture

January 30, 2021 at 01:16 pm

This will be a make or break year for both Lafleur and Rodgers. Lafleur is entering his final year of his contract, and Rodgers, well we all know where he stands. And add to that mix a General Manger who keeps his own counsel. For example if the Packers keep Rodgers beyond next year, do they jettison Lafleur for a veteran HC with the full backing of the organization behind him in a Superbowl or bust move, or does Gute decide to clean house after next season for a fresh start. Of course Gute may decide to stay the course with the current HC and hope the cards will fall his away a third time. In any case things are starting to get a mite interesting already at 1265.

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TarynsEyes's picture

January 30, 2021 at 01:55 pm

No way will the Packers move on from MLF after next year. Rodgers, sure. Gute and MLF have who they ultimately believe is their future, Love. The only way this is not true is if Love shows himself again to be unable to kick Boyle out of the #2 spot, and I mean KICK, not edge, or because Boyle gets injured. Also, if Rodgers gets a new deal, then the only one leaving GB is Jordan Love for whatever GB can get for him.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 30, 2021 at 05:07 pm

Are you the Packer fan who lives in THAILAND?
I forgot who that is ...but I'm considering moving there & want to ask some questions.

THAILAND ANYONE?

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TarynsEyes's picture

January 30, 2021 at 12:51 pm

It's all about stats, and leadership is always in second place on the matters most list. Every talking point by any pundit begins and ends with stats. Leadership is always the follow-up discussion, not the main point of the discussion.

Leadership is now defined by the numbers a QB might post in each column of the stat sheet, regardless of whether those numbers translate to success, winning an SB, unless your version of success is a winning record, a Division Title or simply a playoff berth with an early exit. Yes, Watson, Prescott and others put up numbers, but their success is zero and winning is at best .500. Stat machines are not leaders or successful winners.

I have often mentioned, not recently, that the Packers have failed in making leaders, especially in a strong draft and develop ideology FO. Rodgers is the default leader by virtue of being the QB, but he leans more towards his stats legacy and protecting it with his 'trust' mandate, which appears to hurt the team at the most inopportune times. He's a bit too self-absorbed with his ego and his focus on making Adams his new pedestal base.

The Packers haven't had a true leader in a long time, perhaps since Woodson, and one could argue that was more a product of making the playoffs in 2010 which led to his 16 quarters speech.

Leaders don't disappear in games. Their presence is seen and felt even if the stats don't show it. The Packers have too many players that fail there, especially the over-heralded Smith Boys. Perhaps Alexander will be the new Woodson and be so for a longer period of time in GB.

I'm sure this will ignite a new fire of retorts against me, but it's what I see and deduce, and it will be a long off-season, and someone needs to maintain the fire, even if deemed negative by most. I'll always offer myself to be the 'leader' in your expected tirades. Leaders don't disappear they stay and fight for the ultimate victory, what MLF didn't do with that FG, and Rodgers not running for the TD, made or not, but both chose to turn away from leadership.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

January 30, 2021 at 02:12 pm

I completely agree with your take about the importance of leadership. It can come from any player or coach and it's best if it comes from more than one source. Lombardi was the unquestionable leader, but the '60's Packers also had Starr, Nitschke, Willie Davis, Jerry Kramer, and others with the fire and drive to lead, so that if the Captain goes down there's a Lieutenant or two to take up command. But much of the leadership was built after success. This current iteration of Packers hasn't experienced success, other than winning the NFC North a couple of times, which is like kissing your sister on order from your father. If LaFleur responds well to the Championship failures of the last two years and manages to "grow in office" there will be others who will join him as leaders. If he calls another field goal with 2 minutes left in the game down by eight, then the only thing he'll be leading is cheers in the stands for his kids' Little League games. One leader of the early Packers was Bob Skoronski, an offensive lineman, a grunt who blocked for Starr, Hornung, and Taylor. Here is an interview with him, one of the best I've ever seen that explains leadership. https://youtu.be/Bt3r6KOzGVk

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 30, 2021 at 05:12 pm

I was waiting for Rodgers to run it....like he did last week vs the Rams for a just-barely touchdown. And like he did vs Chicago in the only NFC Championship game he won.
And like Old John Elway did to beat us in a Super Bowl.
But he forced another one to covered Davante.

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Lphill's picture

January 30, 2021 at 09:17 pm

Stafford to the Rams , they just improved , may be the NFC champs next season.

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Wilment's picture

January 30, 2021 at 10:42 pm

They got an injury prone guy old before his time from taking so many shots. If hes a bust or gets hurt again, this deal could cripple the franchise. Dont hand out the trophy just yet.

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egbertsouse's picture

January 31, 2021 at 07:52 am

Yeah, Brady is no leader. What the Bucs need is a true leader; a QB who yaps about winning the MVP all season long and not the Super Bowl, pouts on the bench after a 3 and out, locks into his favorite guy and ignores open receivers because he doesn’t “trust” them, shows up teammates with the stink eye after they make a mistake, pulls a Droopy Dog face when he gets behind, and drops crap bombs on management after playoff losses. That is a true leader!

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PatrickGB's picture

January 31, 2021 at 12:50 pm

I think that Lewis is considered a leader on this team. And there are probably others as well that we don’t hear much about. Leadership is important but then so is talent. Rodgers has both. I am not sure about the rest of the team because I am not privy to it’s inner workings. Yet I imagine that leadership is not the major problem, it’s talent.

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