Nobody could have predicted the dominant fashion in which the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII last night in New Jersey. While the victory certainly rests on the backs of the Seahawks’ defense – the “Legion of Boom” as they like to be called – the win will add fuel to one of modern football’s greatest debates: the pocket passer vs. the running quarterback.
Though he was sacked only once, Peyton Manning was hit four times and driven out of the pocket perhaps more than any other game this season. The pressure undoubtedly caused at least one of the Broncos’ four turnovers.
Opposing quarterback Russell Wilson, by contrast, was not hit even once. Instead, he elected to leave the pocket when sensing pressure – a decision which resulted in a big play more often than not. When Manning began to run from defenders more in the second half, he proved to be much less efficient, often overthrowing his receivers.
Many pundits have been quick to write off the idea of a running quarterback ever surpassing that of a traditional passer in terms of success and longevity. Certainly, mobility has always been an admired trait, such as that which characterizes Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. However, few could have envisioned a quarterback who averages 514 rushing yards a season defeating the single-season passing yard and touchdown record-holder on the game’s biggest stage.
Alas, Russell Wilson may be changing the conversation, as he is the first “Option Quarterback” of the new generation to win a Lombardi trophy. Traditional passers like Peyton Manning can still be successful – hell, he was the best quarterback all year. But the increased focus on rushing the passer around the league has raised the demand for athletic signal callers.
While one victory doesn’t determine the future, consider this: If the Seahawks didn’t advance to the Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick would have been starting for the NFC. And if neither the Seahawks nor the 49ers made it, Cam Newton would have been under center. The tide may be changing.