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Prister: Snowy Test for QBs (Nov. 11)

Eric Prister | Thursday, November 10, 2011


Surely it is the most polarizing of weather conditions. Most agree that a warm, sunny day with clear skies is pleasant weather, and most would also agree that a cold, dreary day punctuated with rain is the opposite.

But the same cannot be said about snow. For some, snow means trudging through bitterly cold winter days, sloshing through white fluff that has turned to muddy slush. For others, snow means enjoying the thrill of standing atop a mountain, just waiting to ski down.

For some, snow means treacherous driving conditions, living in fear of that single patch of black ice, which will undoubtedly hurl their car off the side of the road. For others, snow brings the heartwarming idea of sitting by a fire, reading a book and drinking hot chocolate as flakes fall outside their window.

Snow is not just polarizing for the average person — it is just as polarizing for NFL teams, and in particular, for their most recognizable member, the quarterback.

As the calendar nears its end, and temperatures drop in many parts of the country, the NFL moves into the second half of its season. It is now, and particularly in the playoffs, that weather becomes a factor. But how important a factor?

Of the past 10 Super Bowl winners, seven were teams that played their home games in cold weather areas without a roof over their heads.

Of those seven, two had home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But what is more striking is that the other five each had to win at least one game not only away from home, but also in a cold weather venue.

From 2001 and 2004, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots went into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.

In 2006, those same Pittsburgh Steelers defeated both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos on their road to the Super Bowl, two teams who play their home games outside in cold climates.

Most recently, the Green Bay Packers and their up-and-coming quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a six-seed in the 2010 NFL playoffs, beat both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears on the road in games with below-freezing temperatures.

In the playoffs, home field advantage does matter. But only three of the past 10 Super Bowl winners played with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. What matters more is a team’s, and particularly a quarterback’s, ability to cope with the elements that are sure to arise in the middle of January.

Of those quarterbacks considered in the debate for greatest of all time, the field is relatively evenly split between cold weather quarterbacks and warm weather or dome quarterbacks. But among the quarterbacks more known for their wins than their stats, most are cold weather quarterbacks (Joe Montana being the exception).

It is often said that defense wins championships, and this mantra certainly has its merits. But it seems that more often than not, what wins championships is a quarterback who can play in any and all conditions and still lead his team to victory. Tom Brady, John Elway, Brett Favre, Terry Bradshaw, Ben Roethlisberger — quarterbacks who are considered ‘winners’ — played their home games in cold weather and knew how to win despite the temperature.

Super Bowls have always been played in warm weather areas or domes, so weather conditions rarely apply in the championship. But throughout the rest of the playoffs, weather matters and the most successful teams are the ones with quarterbacks who can handle it.

Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.