It is so often an oversimplification to say in the world of professional football that a quarterback is all a team needs to be successful. This is a sport in which 53-man rosters require production from so many sources and timely contributions from so many angles. However, there are certain situations in which the only missing piece is the one under center at the sport's most important position.
Ever since finding new coach Jim Harbaugh to replace failed boss Mike Singletary, the San Francisco 49ers have transformed their fortunes. Harbaugh's biggest and best piece of coaching was his ability to take aside Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, and rebuild his confidence. Smith has a prototypical quarterback's body and an impressive collection of skills.
The Rams haven't been to the playoffs in seven years, a drought exceeded by only three teams in the NFL. However, fresh leadership has arrived in the Gateway City, offering hope that in a few short years (two, to be specific), this organization can once again find itself in the thick of the postseason chase. So much of what the Rams want to do begins and ends with protecting and cultivating quarterback Sam Bradford.
It's not just a time of transition in Indianapolis, a city that had grown accustomed to playoff appearances and the possibility of a Super Bowl on an annual basis for the past decade. This is truly a year in which a franchise must build from the ground up. Peyton Manning clearly covered up so many flaws on the Colts' roster, enabling a good team to become a regular threat and occasionally taste greatness...
This could very well be the year the Houston Texans affirm themselves as a big-boy franchise in the National Football League. After so many seasons in the wilderness, Houston became a player and a contender in the AFC last season, making the playoffs for the first time. Houston also won its first playoff game, taking down the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild card round.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of seven teams in the National Football League that has gone at least four years without making the playoffs. That's a big weight to carry, even for an expansion franchise, because the pressure of modern-day football is so intense, the culture so unforgiving in its demand for immediate results. How can Jacksonville move forward this season? The outlook is not particularly promising.
The Tennessee Titans haven't made the playoffs in three years. As the 2012 season approaches, plenty of pigskin pundits around the league are going to see whether the 2011 season was a genuine indicator of progress or a cruel tease that will only extend and deepen this franchise's frustrations. As mentioned above, the main question in Nashville under head coach Mike Munchak is whether the 2011 season was a true indicator of this team's status, or if it was just a mirage.