OK, we are down to ten participants in my best quarterback tournament. To get everyone caught up, I got pissed off at Peter King because he had the nerve to write that Brett Favre was better than Dan Marino and John Elway. So instead of just ripping him over it, I decided to make my own case for the who I thought was the best I’ve seen. I picked the 16 quarterbacks who I felt played the position better than anyone I’ve seen, and began to whittle it down. I stuck to people that I’ve actually watched, so that means people like Dan Fouts and Terry Bradshaw missed the cut, and the old school guys like Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham, etc., weren’t considered. I didn’t think it was fair to comment on guys I didn’t watch, so I opted out.
My original list of 16 is down to 10 now: so far, I’ve eliminated Drew Brees, Steve McNair, Kurt Warner, Boomer Esiason, Donovan McNabb, and Phil Simms. We’re left with Troy Aikman, Favre, Elway, Marino, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Warren Moon, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Jim Kelly. Seven Hall of Famers and three more who will likely be there when they’re eligible. Between them they have seventeen rings, nine Super Bowl MVPs, thirteen league MVP awards, and 22 All Pro selections. And now I have to kick some of them out. Basically, anyone who I cannot make a credible case for being THE best is out at this point. So who’s out? Let’s see:
Jim Kelly – Kelly retired with 35,467 passing yards, 237 touchdowns, 5 Pro Bowls, 1 first team All-Pro selection, and got voted into the Hall of Fame. But there’s one stat which disqualifies him: 0-4 in the Super Bowl. And it’s not just that he never won one, it’s that he played badly in three of them. There’s no way I can say he’s better than Montana, Elway, and others with that sticking out there.
Peyton Manning – Peyton went into this season with 45,628 yards; 333 touchdowns, nine Pro Bowls, four first team All-Pro selections, 3 MVP awards, and a Super Bowl ring. Barring injury, he’ll be the most prolific passer ever. But Peyton’s overall playoff record is not very good. He’s 7-8 in the postseason, and has some real stinkers in portfolio of playoff game performances. He was pretty bad in the playoffs when the Colts did win it all, up until the final game itself (and even that was just an OK game for him). You can’t put that up against Joe Montana’s playoff mastery without seeing a horrendous contrast. Sorry, Peyton. Win some more playoff games (or at least play better in some playoff losses) and maybe we can talk.
Two down, any more left? Yes, two more in fact.
Warren Moon – Now you might be wondering how he lasted this long. The truth is that I gave him a huge mulligan for the fact that he was forced to go to Canada until 1984 because no one would let him play quarterback in the NFL, and rang up all kinds of accolades (along with five CFL championships) while up there. In six CFL seasons he had five championships, over 20,000 yards, and 144 touchdowns. His NFL resume is pretty darn impressive as well: 49,325 yards, 291 touchdowns, nine Pro Bowls, and a Hall of Fame induction. But the NFL playoff record kills his chances: 3-7 overall, with no Super Bowl rings or appearances. The CFL tenure, as great as it was, cannot make up for such a thin NFL playoff record. his overall regular season record of 102-101 doesn’t help either; most everyone in the tournament was well over .500 for their career.
Troy Aikman – Three rings, one Super Bowl MVP, a stellar 11-4 playoff record, over 30,000 yards passing, six Pro Bowls, and a Hall of Fame induction. That’s a whole lot to discard there. But here’s why he’s out: for all his skills and excellent play, his team sure seemed to do just fine without him. Aikman missed or got knocked out of major regular season and playoff games which the Cowboys went on to win anyway. On other hand, an absence by Emmitt Smith during the Cowboy’s four dominant years meant defeat regardless of what Aikman did, and they never had to play an important game without Michael Irvin. I remember Jason Garrett playing for Aikman on Thanksgiving against Green Bay and lighting them up for four touchdowns in a win. When things like that happen regularly, it doens’t say much for your own importance. Troy is out.
So now we’re down to six: Tom Brady, John Elway, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and Steve Young. Who will win it all? Find out soon! Until then…