I wonder if we understand how competition works? Or maybe I should say, I wonder if I understand how competition works? 

In working on sports books this past decade, I’ve seen a lot of athletes in competition–serious competition! But for some who have been competitive their whole lives, sometimes they lose their confidence and their performance starts to wane, even if it has never waned before. For others, they maintain their confidence even when others lose faith in them. Then at the most difficult time, they perform superbly.

This extraordinary performance is most evident to a Chicago Bears fans such as myself usually a couple times a year when the Bears play the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers seems to have something in his blood that allows him to take it up a few notches at the most important times. When extraordinary pressure is on Rodgers, he is at the top of his game.

And then there is Tom Brady. How many times has Brady wowed everyone in the country at playoff time. Coming from behind, how many teams have led the Patriots by a few points with a few minutes left in the game and turned the ball over with just enough clock to let Brady lead his team down the field for the last second win?

Quarterbacks get so much attention, their rise and fall is all the more obvious.  The ones who seem to nail it are the ones who enjoy the attention.

And sometimes the coach has a lot to do with it.

If you watched Green Bay in the Lombardi Era, you might remember just how ordinary Bart Starr would play at times. Then when Lombardi came on board and showed confidence in Starr he had a 60+ completion percentage in 3 years and his passer rating  jumped up to over 100 a couple seasons.

Bill Walsh was another guy who could bring out the best in his quarterbacks. Joe Montana was a great talent but he needed a lot of help and polishing. Walsh was a coach who sometimes had his own problems with confidence, but he knew how to manage a quarterback. Walsh had helped some other quarterbacks with a lot less talent than Montana, so the results were a lot clearer in Montana’s case. On the other hand, the expectations were perhaps a lot harder for Montana to take after a while.

I think Nova ought to do a program that looks at the supremely confident QBs who come up with phenomenal performance time after time. Maybe they will come up with a better predicter.

Please see more football history in Pillars of the NFL.