For years, NFL teams have treated quarterbacks like employees, even when expecting quarterbacks to behave like quasi-members of management.
Tom Brady‘s instant success with the Buccaneers should cause teams with truly great quarterbacks to seriously reconsider that approach.
Although Brady blazed the trail by beating a path out of New England, other quarterbacks can get to the same place without leaving where they currently are. With the salary cap expected to drop from $198.2 million in 2020 to roughly $180 million in 2021, capable veterans will lose their roster spots. Skilled free agents will not receive the kind of offers they expect.
If players in a depressed market will be forced to take whatever they can get, why not get it from a great team? Specifically, why not choose to play for a competitive team with a great quarterback?
Teams with great quarterbacks but average supporting casts will need to be ready to make their moves. Brady compelled the Buccaneers to do it in a year with a normal salary cap. Veterans who face a season with dramatically reduced revenue and unexpected availability on the open market easily could gravitate to teams like Tampa Bay. Or Green Bay. Or Seattle. Or Kansas City.
If 2020 marked the dawn of the quarterback-engineered Superteam and if 2021 sees that concept blossom, there can only be so many of them. And the teams that will have the best chance to become truly super are the teams with the true franchise quarterbacks who already have shown that they can climb the mountain: The Buccaneers, the Packers, the Seahawks, and the Chiefs.
Added to that list, possibly, will be wherever Deshaun Watson lands in 2021 — if he indeed gets out of Houston.
Regardless, Brady has proven that a great quarterback can (and should) have as much or more internal juice than a coach or a G.M. A great quarterback can create an atmosphere of deference to the quarterback, where those running the team realize that only good things flow from giving a truly great quarterback what he needs to chase a championship. And then the powers-that-be wisely will understand that, despite outdated notions that quarterbacks should shut up and play, the smart move will be to cater to the great quarterback, giving him what he wants and letting him do his thing.
In one season, the Buccaneers proved the value of that approach by winning the Super Bowl. Other teams fortunate enough to have true franchise quarterbacks would be wise to consider doing the same thing, especially with so many potentially affordable free agents poised to land on the open market.