Quarterback carnage has always paid dividends for NFL defenses

On the night of January 9, 1969, Joe Namath -- a little high on Johnnie Walker Red -- delivered his famous Super Bowl guarantee.

Less famous -- but no less prescient -- was his parting shot that evening.

"I'm afraid it's true," said Broadway Joe. "The name of the game is 'kill the quarterback.' "

He was speaking metaphorically. I think.

If the language is a bit severe -- especially for a league trying to be vigilant with player safety -- the point is undeniable. Players don't need pep talks from the likes of a Gregg Williams. Or additional financial incentives. Or dirty hits.

They know the deal. Now as ever.

You remove the starting quarterback. You've just increased your chances. By a lot.

On Sunday, three quarterbacks left games with concussions, which, truth be told, are an occupational hazard. That said, none of their teams could win without them.

In Philadelphia, the Eagles were tied at 7-7 when Michael Vick left the game early in the second quarter. They lost by 15.

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Alex Smith was 7-for-8 with a touchdown when he went to the locker room. That game ended in a tie. But also, a kind of victory for the upstart Rams.

In Chicago, Jay Cutler didn't return for the second half and his Bears lost by a touchdown.

Kill the quarterback? Politically incorrect.

But knock him out? Sound strategy.

I'm afraid it's true. But I guarantee it.

Follow Mark Kriegel on Twitter @MarkKriegel.

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