NEW ORLEANS — Former Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Floyd Peters once explained the greatness of Joe Montana.
“What drives you crazy about Montana,” Peters said, ”was that you can cover the left half of a receiver, and he'll throw it to the right number on the guy's jersey. His guys don't have to be open, to be open.”
That was rare in Montana's era. Now it's routine.
Sunday night in Super Bowl XLVII, two quarterbacks who are not considered among the five best passers in the game threw with remarkable accuracy.
The debate will continue, but in the end Super Bowl XLVII proved that, when it comes to offensive trends in modern football, there is no reason to pick a side.
Want to believe that pocket passers are the past, current and future of the quarterback position and the key to championships? Joe Flacco gave you plenty of evidence. He threw with remarkable accuracy all postseason.
Sunday, he completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, completing a postseason in which he went 4-0 with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Want to believe that the zone read, or read option, is the new, new thing in offensive innovation? Well, Colin Kaepernick played well enough, in his 10th professional start, against a savvy and well-coached defense to win the Super Bowl.
He completed 16 of 28 passes for 302 yards and one touchdown with one interception. He also ran seven times for 62 yards and a touchdown, and as the game went on, found a way to make the zone read work against a defense that stuffed it early.
What's lost in the debate between quarterbacks like Flacco and quarterbacks like Kaepernick is that any intelligent NFL coach would want either. The Harbaughs are proof that any intelligent NFL coach will design an offense to fit his quarterback's strengths.
And while it's easy to stereotype Flacco as immobile and Kaepernick as an athlete, on Sunday Flacco often looked like Ben Roethlisberger, shaking off tacklers and scrambling to make throws downfield. Kaepernick didn't operate solely out of the “Pistol” formation. He took snaps under center. The 49ers tried a full-house backfield among a variety of formations.
Here's the indispensable skill Flacco and Kaepernick share: They both combine remarkably strong arms with remarkable accuracy.
Kaepernick's passing totals could have looked even gaudier, had Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis hauled in long passes that hit their hands. He made two obvious poor throws: one over Randy Moss' head, and one to the end zone targeting Ted Ginn that drew three Ravens defenders.
And he easily could have been the winning quarterback, had Crabtree been able to break away from a defender who seemed to be holding him on the 49ers' last offensive play, or had the play been called defensive holding or pass interference.
The rise of Kaepernick, along with Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, means that mobile quarterbacks will become a staple of NFL offensive philosophy. The rise of athletic quarterbacks means that the pool of potential franchise quarterbacks is now far deeper than it ever was before.
The willingness of more NFL coaches to consider building offenses around talented all-around athletes, and the increased passing accuracy of quarterbacks who are considered runners, means that the quarterback position never has been better or more interesting in the NFL.
Seven active quarterbacks - Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Roethlisberger - have won 11 Super Bowls.
Andrew Luck, Kaepernick, Griffin and Wilson all took teams to the playoffs this year in their first year as starters.
Matt Schaub, Andrew Dalton, Christian Ponder and Matt Ryan quarterbacked playoff teams.
Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Mark Sanchez have taken teams to the playoffs.
That's 20 NFL quarterbacks who have played in a postseason game. Add Josh Freeman, Cam Newton and Sam Bradford, who are all still young, productive and promising, and it is the rare NFL team that lacks hope at the position.
Quarterbacks are better than ever, whether they prefer to stand still or run like an Olympian.