When it comes to team sports, who is the most important player? The question is posed in the context of positions. Naturally, it will differ from one sport to another but, the bottom line is, with team games, one position tends to be deemed the most pivotal above all others. Thus, those that fill said berth carry greatest responsibility. For example, many might feel midfield is the most important spot on a GAA team, on the other hand, in football, centre back is generally the oar that keeps the ship afloat. Centre forward must be regarded as the fulcrum of a hurling team – simply because the carry of the modern sliotar renders midfield somewhat obsolete in terms of first phase possession.
In soccer, it’s probable that most would vouch central defence as the most crucial area. Again, however, this corner would differ. While it’d be acknowledged that an increasingly shaky defence hasn’t helped their cause, a dearth of depth in central midfield is an even bigger problem. No longer is there the commanding presence of a Roy Keane or a Paul Scholes. Look at the roles still played by Frank Lampard and Steven Gerard play at their clubs.
So to rugby, general opinion would probably say fly half carried the most weight. But surely a 10 is only as good as the service coming from their half back partner. The efficiency of Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara as a combination was of the utmost importance to some of Irish rugby’s greatest days of more recent times.
All of the above, however, would seemingly pale in terms of significance to that of the quarter back in American Football. Even with what is admittedly still a limited grasp on gridiron fare, it’s clear that every single facet of play goes through the holder of that spot. If the quarter back flounders, his team generally suffers.
Only two Super Bowls have been watched so far and the first one couldn’t really be used for judgement as Tom Brady was picked out as the favourite player – firstly because he had an Irish name – but also because he was the most influential player in the game. Eli Manning was the other participant noted on the night – but that was just the Irish name connection again!
Brady’s New England Patriots are still the favoured team here. More players than their standard bearer are known now as well. As well as that – and probably more importantly from the point of view of getting a greater handle on the game in general – plenty of players from outside of the Patriots are familiar now too.
After emphasising the importance of the quarter backs in NFL only lines ago, it’s actually ironic that the build up to and aftermath of last year’s Super Bowl was dominated by Ray Lewis – the Baltimore Ravens linebacker. Very much a divisive figure in ways, he was at least admirable for staying with one club for the entirety of his career. And him winning the Super Bowl in his final game was surely proof that there’s still a modicum of romance left in sport. That said, depending on your viewpoint, it was either romantic ending or the last act in a murky tale.
What can be said, though, is that Lewis being able to bow out in glory was due in no small part to San Francisco 49ers quarter back Colin Kaepernick having a day to forget in his first Super Bowl. The fact that he had done such to get his team there – in only his second season at the highest level – counted for little on the day that mattered most.
In that position, it tends to be the opposite of a certain old proverb. You know the one about no quarter being asked or given. For quarter backs, a very big quarter is asked – every time – and expected to be delivered.
Perhaps the real importance of the quarter back to any team is underlined as follows – the four nominations for Player of the Week on the NFL website as this article was being constructed were quarter backs – Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Mathews. What is it about players with Irish names in that competition?
Despite enduring an off week most recently, the Patriots are still likely to be there or thereabouts when the business end of the season arrives. So too 49ers and the Ravens as well as mildly surprise packets – to me at least – such as the Seattle Seahawks, the Colts, the Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the end, who emerges triumphant could come down to whatever teams’ quarter back performs – or more significantly doesn’t – when it matters most.