It’s not all about the quarterbacks

Today’s football world, in both the NCAA and the NFL, is a quarterback-centric one. It’s become a common belief among coaches and players that having a marquee player behind the gun could instantly take a program from the pits to the top, or at the very least make a big impact on the team’s win-loss percentage. Four quarterbacks were taken in the top 12 picks of the NFL draft last June, causing ESPN to declare the 2011-12 season “the Year of the Quarterback.”

But is having a stud under the gun really the most important thing for a football team to have? Maybe I’m just jaded by all the media hype heaped on this rookie class of quarterbacks, but I can’t help but think that this much emphasis on a team’s play caller is completely absurd.

Alabama won a BCS national championship in 2010 and their quarterback, Greg McElroy, only completed six of 12 passes for 58 yards. The Tide defense was the difference maker that night, snagging four picks and knocking Colt McCoy out of the game in the first quarter.

With all that said, I will admit that I thought Linfield football’s preseason ranking of No. 7 from www.d3football.com was probably too high, due in no small part to the turnover at the quarterback position. Yes, the defense was going to be as strong as ever, and yes, the offense still had some potent weapons at its disposal. The special teams unit had grown substantially with young talent last season, too. Don’t get me wrong, I still held that we deserved a top-15 ranking, to be sure. But I felt that having to acclimate a new quarterback to fill Aaron Boehme’s all-American sized shoes was going to be no easy task.

Perhaps just to show those like me who had their doubts as to the lofty ranking, the Linfield defense put on an absolute clinic against Cal Lutheran on Sept. 7. This is a team, mind you, with a tailback that ripped the Linfield D for 100 yards in a single quarter and a receiver who racked up 200-plus yards the last time they met. The defense was overwhelming on every drive, every down and every moment they had to take advantage of.

Meanwhile, a tailback who only rushed for 227 yards in the entire 2010-11 season suddenly slashed open a mighty Kingsmen defense for 164 yards and two scores. Josh Hill’s breakout performance has given the run game some legitimacy; Linfield hasn’t had a back top 150 yards since 2003. And this wasn’t Lewis & Clark, folks; this was a No. 16 ranked program that has played us hard for the past two seasons in five total match ups, none of them complete blowouts.

Under the gun, new starting quarterback Mickey Inns was okay. He made a few mistakes, picked up a handful of yards, managed the offense pretty well for a first-timer and showed some flashes of brilliance in open space in play action situations. He’s not Boehme, but who cares? Nobody expects him to be. I’ve been watching this guy play ball for six years, three here and three at Gresham High School, so believe me when I say he’s going to thrive in Coach Smith’s offense when he gains greater mastery of it.

My point is, teams win championships, not quarterbacks. Our coaching staff is first-rate; the secondary is lights-out; we’ve got a suddenly revitalized ground game. These are all important. But after seeing what our boys can do collectively with the personnel they have around this season, I know this team is perfectly capable of competing for a deep playoff run or, knock on wood, a national title as long as they play to their potential, as Coach Smith loves to say. I’m not booking my tickets to the Stagg Bowl yet but hey, who’s to say I won’t start putting money aside, just in case.

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Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

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