The other day, I read where somebody was calling back-up quarterback the second most important position on the team. Fiddlesticks, says I. My vote goes to the placekicker. As last year’s playoffs showed, having a reliable kicker is, often enough, the difference between winning or losing. The kicker is the guy putting points on the board through individual effort.
Think where New England would have been the last couple years without Vinatieri on board. I rest my case.
Center. The only player who touches the ball every single play. The player who is responsible for calling out blocking assignments, blitz pickups, and O-line audibles. Centers snap the ball while the QB is under center or in the shotgun, or even directly to the RB. Longsnappers are just a specialized center. They get hit almost every play and without a decent center your team is going to be useless on offense. Look at any playoff team, they will all have a good center. They leave the huddle before the rest of the team and and the entire team lines up based on the position of the center, and no one can move until the center snaps the ball. Did I ever mention that I played center in HS?
Clearly the quarterback is the most important position - he touches the ball almost every play and his decisions can affect the outcome of the game.
But I think the second most important position depends entirely on the makeup of the team. Look at a team that wins through field goals - maybe you can point to the placekicker and say he’s the guy. Look at a team that wins through defense - you might have a killer lineman or linebacker. Or maybe you have a brutal free safety who’s stuffing the run and getting picks. IMHO the second most important position on the team realistically depends on the players.
[slightly ranty hijack] Of course, I think this exercise is a little misguided. If you have a good placekicker, you have to credit his holder and the snapper, plus the guys who protect him. If you have a great linebacker, you have to look at the corners and safeties who are giving him the time to get in there and work. Hell, even the quarterback needs a solid center who can snap the ball consistently as well as protect him. It’s a team game - so most positions are not only equally important, but can equally affect the outcome of the game. [/slightly ranty hijack]
I like your ranty hijack. Another way to put the question is this: what position (aside from quarterback) do you absolutely need to have a star in if you hope to win the Super Bowl? The reason I said kicker is because the kicker, by himself, will often win you (or lose you) a couple games a year. Can you win with a decent but not stellar center or middle linebacker? I think so, depending on the kind of offense or defense you run. I mean, defensive and offensive schemes are all about not just playing to your strengths, but hiding your weaknesses. But the kicker is absolutely exposed – no amount of scheming can hide his weaknesses. If you’re forced to go for it on fourth down because you don’t think your kicker can hit a 45-yard field goal, then you’re in deep trouble.
I don’t know if our guest will be back to say it, so I will: Touché.
I see your point, Sal.
I think I’d be comfortable saying that, on average, aside from the quarterback, kicker is the one position that, through stellar or poor play, can independently affect the most games. Thoughts? Did I put enough qualifying clauses in that sentence or what?
I’m still not sure that I would say that the kicker is the second most important position in football. I still feel that the second most important position is going to be very team-specific and player-dependent.