Defense wins championships. Someone once said that, someone believed it and we’ve been hearing it ever since. Over the course of any college and professional season, we’ll hear that said a couple bazillion times. It’s almost as if someone out there feels this compelling need to perpetuate the myth so they go with the old rule about propaganda – tell a lie, make it a big lie and keep repeating it until you’ve said it so many times that people accept it as fact.
I used to buy into that myth, probably because I heard it repeated so often.
Yes, myth. It is a myth.
You need defenses to win championships and the better the defense the better the chance you have to win big, but defenses DO NOT win championships. They help you win championships but they do not win championships.
You win championships with great quarterbacks. A great quarterback can take you places a defense can’t. Just ask LSU back in 2011. That LSU team won the SEC and got to the national championship game thanks to its defense. Alabama won the national championship game. Alabama had a great defense, too, and it had A.J. McCarron at quarterback. Does anybody remember who quarterbacked LSU? His name was Jordan Jefferson. He was terrible and I’m being kind. Can you recall a worse looking offense in a national championship game?
Quarterbacks have to have help. They certainly can’t do it alone, but surround a great quarterback with some pretty decent skill players and give him a good to great defense to work with and you’ve got a chance to win a championship.
Remember Texas in 2005? The Longhorns didn’t have a great defense but they had Vince Young. Southern Cal had a great defense but that defense couldn’t stop Vince Young in what a lot of folks say is the greatest college football championship game ever played. Texas got to the national championship game in 2009 with Colt McCoy at quarterback, but how many championships has Texas competed for since then? Do you remember the name of any Texas quarterback since 2009? You want to know why Mack Brown is unemployed?
Florida State had a string of 14 straight seasons when it finished in the top five. During that time the Seminoles won the 1993 and 1999 national championships. They always had good defenses which had a lot to do with staying in the hunt for the national titles, but the Seminoles were national champs when they had Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke. Take a look what happened to the mighty Seminoles in the 2000 national title game when Weinke was hurt. Take a look at the next decade when they had quarterbacks like Dan Kendra and Chris Rix and Adrian McPherson and Christian Ponder. Take a look at what happened in 2013 when the Seminoles had an elite quarterback in Jameis Winston.
From 1983-92, the Miami Hurricanes won four national championships and played for two others. During that time they had elite quarterback play in the form of Bernie Kosar, Vinnie Testaverde, Steve Walsh, Craig Erickson and Gino Toretta. Vinnie and Toretta won Heismans. Miami didn’t win big again until 2001-2 when the Hurricanes won one national title and lost in the national championship game. Ken Dorsey was a great quarterback. Brock Berlin was his replacement. Miami hasn’t been the same since.
Alabama under Bear Bryant. When he had great quarterbacks like Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Richard Todd and Jeff Rutledge, he won national championships and in the years when Bear didn’t win the national title, he was in the hunt. When he didn’t have great quarterbacks, Alabama wasn’t nearly as good. Alabama always had great defenses, but the Crimson Tide only won championships when there was a great quarterback. Anyone remember what happened in the years when Scott Hunter was the quarterback?
Alabama under Nick Saban. He has won three of the last five national championships with Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron at quarterback. Do you remember who the quarterback was before McElroy? The one who lost to Florida in the 2008 SEC championship game? Jim Bob somebody? Actually, it was John Parker Wilson. Nice enough kid, but with an SEC championship on the line in 2008, he got beaten in the most important game of his career by an elite level quarterback.
Florida. The Gators were the best team in the Southeastern Conference from 1990-96. Shane Matthews was the quarterback from 1990-92, then came four straight SEC titles with a national championship game loss in 1995 and a national championship win over FSU in 1996. Danny Wuerffel split time at quarterback with Terry Dean in 1993-94, then took the Gators to the top of the heap in 1995-96. Danny was the Heisman runner-up in 1995 and won the Heisman Trophy in 1996.
What happened to the Gators after that? There were good quarterbacks, just no great ones.
Florida won the national championship in 2006 and while everyone wants to talk about the defense, which stuck it to Ohio State in the national championship game, Chris Leak would gotten the Gators at least three more touchdowns if Urban Meyer hadn’t done his best not to embarrass the mighty Buckeyes. It was plenty embarrassing at 41-14 as it was. There was nothing average about Chris Leak. When he finally got the tools to win a championship, he made good on a promise that he made when he signed with the Gators in the first place and won the big trophy. Chris doesn’t ever get enough credit for being great enough to win a national championship in an offense designed for a single wing tailback, which he wasn’t.
From 2007-09 Tim Tebow quarterbacked the Gators. He had no defense in 2007 but still won a Heisman and nine games. He had a defense in 2008-09 but does anyone want to suggest that the Gators go 26-2 and win the 2008 title with a great defense but without Tebow? Do you recall the last two games of 2008? Tebow literally willed the Gators to win the Alabama and Oklahoma games in the fourth quarter. The defense in both those games was fine but the quarterback made the difference. With Tebow at quarterback, you KNEW Florida was going to win the game.
And what has happened here at Florida since Tebow graduated?
Florida had the best defense in the nation in 2012. Ask any pro scout and he’ll tell you without hesitation that the UF defense was without a doubt the best.
So why didn’t Florida win a national championship? I think you know the answer. This is not ragging on Jeff Driskel, but if he had played quarterback at a championship level the Gators could have won the 2012 national title.
This brings us to a 2014 season that is months away and a spring practice that begins in a matter of weeks. It also brings us back to Jeff Driskel. This is his last chance to live up to the high school hype. He’s got the tools. He can throw darts. He’s 240 pounds and can run like a deer. He’s got a new offensive coordinator who has proven he can tailor the scheme to the talent of his triggerman.
But can Kurt Roper mold Jeff Driskel into a championship caliber quarterback?
The defense will be good this year. Maybe not as good as it was in 2012, but it has a chance to be the best in the Southeastern Conference. If you have the best defense in the SEC, you are going to sniff the championship, but you do not win championships with defense. Defenses help but they don’t win championships. You win championships with elite quarterbacks. Can Driskel make the leap from good to great? If he can, Florida can be great. If he can’t, Florida might be good but that’s about it.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since this week celebrates 50 years since “Meet the Beatles” hit America’s record stores, here is my favorite Beatles song of all time. “Here, There and Everywhere” is my pick as best song on “Revolver,” which many critics say is perhaps the greatest rock and roll album of all time.