Washington coach Jay Gruden says quarterback Robert Griffin III was successful on Saturday for one simple reason: He won.
“That is the No. 1 factor, and that is it,” Gruden said, via ESPN. “Obviously you look at the production and all that stuff, and what he could’ve done maybe, but winning football games is the only thing that matters to me for a quarterback. And it doesn’t matter if they go 12-for-24 for 80 yards and we win, or if they go 28-for-35 for 400 [yards] and we lose, you’d rather have the 12-for-24. The ability to manage a game, stay away from the big turnovers and get the W is all that counts.”
Obviously, at the end of the day all any team cares about is winning. How you win doesn’t matter. Whether you win does.
But to suggest that “the only thing that matters” in evaluating a quarterback is whether he won or not is, frankly, ridiculous.
The Packers and Lions are tied at 11-4. Does anyone really think Matthew Stafford is as good as Aaron Rodgers? The Seahawks and Cardinals are also tied at 11-4. Does anyone believe having the combination of Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley at quarterback is as good as having Russell Wilson?
Derek Anderson is 2-0 as a starting quarterback this season. Is Gruden going to try to acquire Derek Anderson in the offseason on the theory that he just finds a way to win? Or does Gruden grasp that you have to go further in evaluating a quarterback, and that if you look beyond Anderson’s win-loss record also look at who he played, you realize that going 2-0 in two starts against the Buccaneers isn’t so impressive?
Judging quarterbacks by whether they win on a week-to-week basis is as silly as judging a quarterback’s career by his Super Bowl rings. Was Trent Dilfer a better quarterback than Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton? Was Jim Plunkett better than Brett Favre and Peyton Manning? But as silly as judging a quarterback that way is, people do it.
Gruden has complained that his words get twisted, and perhaps he didn’t really mean that all he evaluates a quarterback on is winning and losing. Maybe what Gruden meant is that he wants a quarterback who is smart enough to do things that don’t always translate to impressive stats — things like managing the clock well, or knowing when to throw the ball away or take a sack when nothing is open. If that’s the case, that’s a reasonable proposition.
But it’s not reasonable to say that winning is the only way to evaluate a quarterback.