While there may be no “I” in team, every sport has one position that seems to have more of an impact on the outcome of a game. In both soccer and hockey it’s the goalkeeper. The reasoning behind that thought is pretty simple. If a team doesn’t score, they can’t win.
In baseball it’s the pitcher. Other position players (including the American League’s DHs) only get to hit once every nine at-bats. Baseball is the only sport in which the defense, i.e. the pitcher, controls with the ball. No other position can affect the game like a guy who strikes out 12 batters and throws a perfect game, meaning there are 15 other outs, most, if not all, of which were routine, e.g. minor leaguers could have made them. True, this doesn’t happen often but just the fact that it can happen shows the dominance one guy can have.
Unlike other sports, in basketball there might be a discussion about which is the most influential position - point or shooting guard, small or power forward or center? As long as the basket is 10′ in the air, size will matter. And since basketball is the only team game in which the defensive goal is not a shutout, players who can score are at a premium.
But, when it comes down to it, a great point guard is the most important position on any hoops team. A pure point guard will control the ball 90% of the time on offense and will be guarding the ball as soon as the opponent gains possession. A truly great one understands his role is to get a score (at the very least, a high percentage shot - for somebody) on every possession. If the point can “get into” his man defensively, the opponent’s offense will be forced to begin at 30′-35′ rather than at the three point line. Any screens on the ball will be far enough away from the basket that the point can go under the screen without the threat of the opposing point having a quality shot (meaning the screener’s man doesn’t have to show, switch or double). Plus any initiation pass to the wing will wind up forcing the offense to catch the ball a step or two farther out, making a potential pass into the post too long.
In football there might be some controversy as well - but the argument over which position gives the team the greatest chance of winning really begins and ends with the quarterback. The QBs of the NFL teams in first place in their respective divisions - as of today - are Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith (with Peyton Manning one game behind), Andrew Luck, Drew Brees (with Cam Newton one game behind), Matthew Stafford (with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler one game behind - due mostly to QB injuries), Nick Foles (who’s been playing out of his mind) tied with Tony Romo (who’s playing very much within his) and Russell Wilson. All of those guys are much heralded (with the exception of Foles, for now) - and rightfully so.
The last place teams are currently led by (no intention of hurting anybody’s feelings but records do speak for themselves) a bunch of no-names with the exception of 1) the Steelers (who have a bunch of issues contributing to losing besides just Big Ben), 2) the Redskins and the Rams (whose QBs haven’t been healthy - or even seen in the case of Sam Bradford) and 3) the Giants (who thought the memo said the season started the middle of October as opposed to the beginning of September).
A great quarterback has control of the huddle (meaning the opportunity to inspire every player on the field on his side of the ball), sets tempo (fast or slow), makes the right call (or checks at the line of scrimmage if he doesn’t like what he sees), handles the ball on (nearly) every offensive snap and has the ability to pick up yardage in big numbers when he passes (or, in some cases, when he runs). It’s his responsibility to make sure the ball is snapped before the play clock runs out (avoiding the demoralizing and momentum killing delay of game penalty).
Although it may be obvious, the need of a strong leader is paramount to a championship team. Paraphrasing Thomas Carlyle:
“A team without a leader is like a ship without a rudder.”