Legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant coined the phrase “defense wins championships” in the 1970s. For years, that short phrase was taken as gospel in the NFL and NCAA. It was taken seriously because it was true. Teams with big, fast, ball-attacking defenses were the teams that won. The “Steel Curtain” and “Purple People Eaters” in the 1970s were awesome. The 1985 Bears’ defense was one of the best units in NFL history. Even as late as the 2000 (Baltimore) and 2002 (Tampa Bay) seasons, defenses were winning championships. The question is, “Does defense still win championships in the NFL in 2023?”
The answer to that question seems to be a resounding “no”. Other articles will go deep into statistics on the issue. You could look into how highly ranked offenses are compared to the defenses of Super Bowl Champions. You could look at things like points scored versus points allowed, yards given up per game, red zone conversion rate, etc. The point of this article, however, is not to look at statistics. The point of this article is to look at this question from a logical and anecdotal perspective focusing on one team: the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars Hoping Offense Wins Super Bowls
The NFL is a Quarterback League
Is defense important in the NFL? Absolutely. But to have a good, playoff team year in and year out, you have to have a quarterback. The Jacksonville Jaguars got lucky in 2021 and not so lucky in 2022. They had the No. 1 pick in the draft in both years. In 2021, the team drafted Trevor Lawrence, a generational talent who had been a consensus No. 1 pick since the first pass he threw at Clemson. In 2022, the Jaguars drafted Travon Walker. Walker may end up being a solid EDGE for the Jaguars, but he is far from a top-tier edge rusher. If you were to tell the Jaguars’ front office that they could either have the next three No. 1 overall draft picks or keep Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars would choose Lawrence every time.
where teams have ranked on offense and defense in the years that they made the super bowl
19 of the 22 teams had offenses in the top-10 pic.twitter.com/LDhIiNadJg
— Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics) February 8, 2022
If you do not have a good quarterback in the NFL, nothing else really matters. On the other hand, a great quarterback can change the whole complexion of even the worst rosters. Free agents want to play with great quarterbacks. Fan bases get behind great quarterbacks. Great coaches want to coach great quarterbacks. Front office talent wants to be where great quarterbacks play. The bottom line is that the saying “defense wins championships,” at least as far as the NFL is concerned, should be changed to “quarterbacks win championships.”
The Jaguar’s Resources are Heavily Weighted to the Offensive Side
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is below average. A great way to test whether or not a team in the NFL is going to be good is to find how many players on that team that, if they were free agents, would bring in big contracts somewhere else. Other NFL teams covet Nick Bosa, and he got paid. They drool over Patrick Mahomes whose contract is set for the next 10 years. Trent Williams could make as much money as he wanted as a free agent. The Jaguars do not have one single defensive player who would bring in a huge contract from another team.
Tyson Campbell is a good young corner, but he is not great. Foyesade Oluokun is a tackling machine and one of the most steady inside linebackers in the game. He is not a game-changer. Josh Allen and Travon Walker will have to reach double their combined sack output from last year to even be considered a decent pass-rushing combo. The defensive line is banged up, the safeties are decent, and the offensive line is unproven.
Then you get to the offensive skill positions. Trevor Lawrence will probably reset the market for quarterbacks when he signs his deal. Travis Etienne is one of the best and most complete backs in the league. Evan Engram just signed a three-year, $41.25 million contract which puts him as the sixth highest-paid tight end in the league. The receiving corps is very deep. Calvin Ridley is in the final year of his rookie contract and could make huge money in the offseason. Christian Kirk and Zay Jones signed big offseason contracts and played like they deserved them. The bottom line is that the Jaguars have put the majority of their eggs in one basket: the offensive skill positions.
This is the First Jaguars Team With Any Preseason Super Bowl Hope In Decades
The Jaguars were one missed call away from playing in the Super Bowl after the 2017 season. Going into 2018, there was some excitement in Jacksonville. Blake Bortles at quarterback and an aging defense tempered that excitement, however. People in the city expected a playoff run. A championship was unrealistic, though. Coming into the 2023 season, there is a different feel in the city.
The defensive front is average at best, the offensive line is inconsistent and unknown, and the defensive backfield has some major question marks. While all of those things are true, the hope found in the fan base and the confidence shown by NFL experts and pundits everywhere in the Jacksonville Jaguars comes down to two things…The offense and the quarterback.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars are any kind of example, the phrase “defense wins championships” is no longer valid. A good defense is important, but in today’s NFL, “quarterbacks win championships.” With that moniker in place and Trevor Lawrence as their quarterback, the 2023 season for the Jaguars could very well end up with a Super Bowl.
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