Any casual fan watching Super Bowl XLIV could tell the reason the Colts and the Saints were in the big game was because of their quarterbacks.
Beyond what our instincts tell us, there is substantive data to support the theory. Of the 12 teams to make the playoffs in 2009, 11 of the 12 team's quarterbacks were ranked in the top half of the NFL. Also, eight of the top 10 ranked quarterbacks in the NFL made it to the playoffs, including the top four. In addition, ten of the top 13 ranked quarterbacks made the postseason.
Brees was the top ranked quarterback in the NFL and he was the MVP of the Super Bowl. Carson Palmer was the 16th ranked quarterback at 83.6 QB rating. The only exception to the rule was rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was ranked 28th in the league with a 63.0 rating.
Ironically, Brady Quinn was one notch ahead of Sanchez at 27 with a 67.2 rating, the sole playoff quarterback bested by the Browns third-year signal-caller. Derek Anderson had a rating of just 42.1 and most feel he will be let go in the near future thanks to having nearly $9 million in salary and bonuses due him in 2010.
Obviously, Quinn has not played close to the level that he would need to play at in order to take the Browns to the elite level in the NFL. Whether Quinn is the franchise quarterback or someone else is brought in, the Browns have to find the guy to lead them.
Brees came out of Purdue and was drafted in the second-round by the Chargers. At the time, the knock against Bree was his 6'0" height. He has developed into one of the best in the NFL. One of the big decisions that Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert will have to make in the next month or two is if they see the potential in Quinn to develop into a franchise quarterback. If you look at Browns' history in the 1970's, it took the Browns three years for the team to settle on Sipe as the quarterback. They rotated between Mike Phipps and Sipe in the 1974-76 seasons.
If the new brain trust isn't sold on Quinn, they must sign a veteran in free agency or trade for a quarterback. Another option would be to sign a veteran and draft a quarterback in April.
If you look at Browns' history, whenever the Browns had good teams, they usually had a good quarterback. Hall of Famer Otto Graham led the Browns to AAFC and NFL Championships in all but one of his seasons. Frank Ryan led the Browns to the team's last championship in 1964. Brian Sipe led the team to the playoffs and he was the league MVP one season. Bernie Kosar led the Browns to three AFC Championships . Ryan might not be considered an elite quarterback, but he did have Jim Brown.
Holmgren's specialty is finding and developing quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck. This is one of the biggest decisions--if not the biggest—that Holmgren will be ultimately responsible for making.