Coffee's for Closers...and Rings are for Hall of Fame Quarterbacks

NFL Super teams: You need one position - quarterback - to have a legitimate chance

David Silverman, Patriots team website

"There's only a few NBA teams that can actually win a title."

The NBA was buzzing yesterday as news came down that Anthony Davis wanted out of New Orleans. Odds-makers named the Los Angeles Lakers as the favorite to trade for his services.

The mention of pairing a superstar of "The Brow's" caliber with LeBron James, immediately had the masses out to air their usual grievance with "The King." The statement in which I opened the article with, was one of the most repeated I saw all of yesterday.

While the statement is true, I find the timing odd. We are literally days away from Tom Brady playing in his ninth Super Bowl out of the last 18 NFL seasons. When you look at all of the participants in the big game since Brady's first Super Bowl appearance, you'll notice a trend of superstar quarterbacks.

The Super Bowl has become a preconceived notion for anyone watching the game for the last 20 years. For two decades, Brady and Bill Belichick have been in the Super Bowl, on average, every other year. Yet, it's not the moans of the NFL fans that roar the loudest with their outcry of select super powers in their field.

At least in the NBA, superstars like LeBron James have moved around to different markets and brought championships to fans of multiple teams. James won titles in Cleveland and Miami. If "LeBrow" comes to existence then James would have brought the storied Lakers franchise back to life for the first time since the retirement of Kobe Bryant. Signal callers with Hall of Fame potential don't get shipped off in the NFL, unless there's a health concern and the team already has Plan B in place. Peyton Manning & Drew Brees both ended up in a second market but the moves came after injuries. Also, the Chargers had already drafted Philip Rivers and the Colts had the No. 1 pick in the draft to use on Andrew Luck.

Since that first Brady Super Bowl, NFL fans in markets without a future Hall of Fame quarterback had next to zero chance of making the Super Bowl and if you were a fan of an AFC team, then Brady had already secured that spot every other year. What makes it worse for NFL fans is the fact that the team that will play in their ninth Super Bowl in the last 18 years, received their boost from seven years of spying on opponents via video. Roger Goodell destroyed the evidence after viewing it and handed down a penalty that would not setback the franchise.

The Pats were slapped on the wrist with a fine for the coach of $500,000, a fine for the team in the amount of $250,000 and they were forced to forfeit a first round draft pick. During the time the Patriots were busted for cheating, they won their first three Super Bowls in franchise history. After the Patriots were caught, they went 8 years before winning another Super Bowl. They have since gone to four out of the last five.

The New England Patriots were valued at $3.7 billion in 2018. In the United States, only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are more valuable sports franchises. That statement won't surprise anyone today, but it would have shocked everyone if you would have predicted their skyrocketing value before their scandal(s).

A franchise that was 0-2 lifetime in the Super Bowl after losses to the famous Chicago Bears and a gunslinger named Brett Favre, went on to do something no one ever thought possible. They did it with a coach that struggled previously in Cleveland and a sixth-round quarterback prospect drafted 199th overall.

I still find it odd that in the era of "put an asterisk on the Rams win vs New Orleans"..."put an asterisk of Barry Bonds' home runs"..."put an asterisk on LeBron's super teams"...that the Patriots reign for the last two decades isn't viewed more as a stain on America's number one sport. More so, how the cries against the dearth of championship caliber teams in a league isn't pointed more directly at the NFL and specifically the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl Participants since 2002:

2002

New England Patriots - 20 (Tom Brady)

St Louis Rams - 17 (Kurt Warner)

2003

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 48 (Brad Johnson)

Oakland Raiders - 21 (Rich Gannon)

2004

New England Patriots - 32 (Tom Brady)

Carolina Panthers - 29 (Jake Delhomme)

2005

New England Patriots - 24 (Tom Brady)

Philadelphia Eagles - 21 (Donovan McNabb)

2006

Pittsburgh Steelers - 21 (Ben Roethlisberger)

Seattle Seahawks - 10 (Matt Hasselbeck)

2007

Indianapolis Colts - 29 (Peyton Manning)

Chicago Bears - 17 (Rex Grossman)

2008

New York Giants - 17 (Eli Manning)

New England Patriots - 14 (Tom Brady)

2009

Pittsburgh Steelers - 27 (Ben Roethlisberger)

Arizona Cardinals - 23 (Kurt Warner)

2010

New Orleans Saints - 31 (Drew Brees)

Indianapolis Colts - 17 (Peyton Manning)

2011

Green Bay Packers - 31 (Aaron Rodgers)

Pittsburgh Steelers - 25 (Ben Roethlisberger)

2012

New York Giants - 21 (Eli Manning)

New England Patriots - 17 (Tom Brady)

2013

Baltimore Ravens - 34 (Joe Flacco)

San Francisco 49ers - 31 (Colin Kaepernick)

2014

Seattle Seahawks - 43 (Russell Wilson)

Denver Broncos - 8 (Peyton Manning)

2015

New England Patriots - 28 (Tom Brady)

Seattle Seahawks - 24 (Russell Wilson)

2016

Denver Broncos - 24 (Peyton Manning)

Carolina Panthers - 10 (Cam Newton)

2017

New England Patriots - 34 (Tom Brady)

Atlanta Falcons - 28 (Matt Ryan)

2018

Philadelphia Eagles - 41 (Nick Foles)

New England Patriots - 33 (Tom Brady)

2019

New England Patriots - (Tom Brady)

Los Angeles Rams - (Jared Goff)


AFC QB - Super Bowl Appearances & Record (Since 2002)

Tom Brady 9 games (5-3)

Peyton Manning 4 games (2-2)

Ben Roethlisberger 3 games (2-1)

Joe Flacco 1 game (1-0)

Rich Gannon 1 game (0-1)

NFC QB - Super Bowl Appearances & Record (Since 2002)

Eli Manning 2 games (2-0)

Russell Wilson 2 games (1-1)

Kurt Warner 2 games (0-2)

Drew Brees 1 game (1-0)

Aaron Rodgers 1 game (1-0)

Brad Johnson 1 game (1-0)

Nick Foles 1 game (1-0)

Cam Newton 1 game (0-1)

Matt Ryan 1 game (0-1)

Colin Kaepernick 1 game (0-1)

Donovan McNabb 1 game (0-1)

Jake Delhomme 1 game (0-1)

Rex Grossman 1 game (0-1)

Jared Goff 1 game (0-0)

As you can tell from above, if you have been a fan of an NFL team for the last two decades and didn't have a future Hall of Fame quarterback, then you've just been watching with zero expectation to reach the ultimate prize.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have accounted for every AFC Super Bowl win in the last 17 years with the one exception being Joe Flacco, who had Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata on the defensive side of the ball that season.

On the NFC side, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have amassed four of the seven titles won. Russell Wilson, Brad Johnson and Nick Foles make up the other three Super Bowl wins for the NFC since 2002. Wilson is still young; he could move over to the Hall of Fame side of this list in the future but it's way too early as of now.

Recap: If you are a fan of an NFL team without a future Hall of Famer playing quarterback, there is almost no reason for you to believe that your team has Super Bowl aspirations.

Only Nick Foles, Joe Flacco and Brad Johnson have won a Super Bowl in the last 18 years as the starting quarterback and not have a Hall of Fame resume (Wilson - book still being written).

For the majority of my adult life, the Super Bowl has been a foregone conclusion for AFC fans. If an AFC team wanted to win the Super Bowl from 2002-2019, there were four opportunities to get the right guy over the last 20+ years:

The Four Opportunities for AFC Teams

  • 1998 - Draft Peyton Manning #1 overall
  • 2000 - Draft Tom Brady
  • 2004 - Draft Ben Roethlisberger
  • 2012 - Sign Peyton Manning in free agency

Joe Flacco is the one exception to the rule in the last 18 years, as long as you have Ray, Ed, Ngata and Suggs on the defensive side.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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