Teams will mortgage future draft picks, spend enormous amounts of money and over-draft players on the chance that they will grab their franchise quarterback. When found, the NFL quarterback is the most important player on the field. There is a uniformity and cohesion to an NFL team that is set at the quarterback position.
With the right player at the position, leading the team, the playoffs and the Super Bowl don't seem like a stretch of the imagination. However, when something catastrophic happens to the quarterback, like a major injury or suspension, it might take years for the team to recover.
Here are three Super Bowl caliber teams that missed the playoffs due to suspension or injury to their QB.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 2008
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have enough Super Bowl appearances and wins that they can casually forget the missed potential of the 2008 season. In the first game of the season, Brady was hit low by Kansas City Chiefs defender Bernard Pollard, tearing up his knee and ending his season just as it was getting started. The team rebounded and finished the year 11-5, but missed the playoffs. The following season, Brady and company went 16-0, losing in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. Could this have been the case in 2008? We will never know.
Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons, 2007 & 2008
Michael Vick was one of the most explosive players to ever play quarterback in the NFL. He was one of the most dominant dual-threat quarterbacks to ever play the game, but his time with the Atlanta Falcons will always be clouded by what could have been.
Suspended for his role in a dog-fighting ring, Vick missed two seasons with the Falcons and didn't play a meaningful NFL game for them again. At the time of his suspension, the Falcons were consistent playoff contenders and only two seasons ago, Vick beat Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau, announcing their place as NFC contenders.
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, 2011
The legendary Peyton Manning probably should have been a lifelong Indianapolis Colt. The face of the franchise for over a decade, Manning suffered three neck surgeries in a 19-month span, resulting in the 2011 Colts completely altering their franchise.
Just two years removed from the Super Bowl, the Colts finished the 2011 season with a 2-14 record, leading to the firing of the head coach and general manager and the eventual release of Manning and the drafting of his successor, Andrew Luck.