Time for the Finals! Here are your finalists and their credentials:
Tom Brady – 3 Super Bowl Rings, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, 1 regular season MVP, single season record holder for touchdown passes (50), 4 Pro Bowls, 1 first team All-Pro selection, 27,575 yards, 201 touchdowns, 87-24 regular season record, 14-3 playoff record (3-1 in the Super Bowl)
John Elway – 2 Super Bowl Rings, 1 Super Bowl MVP, 1 regular season MVP, 9 Pro Bowls, 51,475 yards, 300 touchdowns, 148-82-1 regular season record, 14-7 playoff record (2-3 in Super Bowls)
Brett Favre – 1 Super Bowl Rings, 3 regular season MVPs, 10 Pro Bowls, 65,964 yards, 472 touchdowns, 169-100 regular season record, 12-10 playoff record (1-1 in Super Bowls), first all-time in attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns.
Dan Marino – 1 regular season MVP, 9 Pro Bowls, 3 first team All-Pro selections, 61,361 yards, 420 touchdowns, 147-93 regular season record, 8-10 playoff record (0-1) in Super Bowls, second all time in completions, attempts, yards, and touchdowns.
Joe Montana – 4 Super Bowl Rings, 3 Super Bowl MVPs, 8 Pro Bowls, 3 first team All-Pro selections, 40,551 yards, 273 touchdowns, 117-47 regular season record, 16-7 playoff record (4-0 in Super Bowls).
Steve Young – 3 Super Bowl Rings*, 1 Super Bowl MVP, 2 regular season MVPs, 7 Pro Bowls, 3 first team All=Pro selections, 33,124 yards, 232 touchdowns, 94-49 regular season record, 8-6 playoff record (1-0 in Super Bowls).
So how do I whittle this group down? Does Marino go first, since he’s ringless? Or Brady, with his scant seven full seasons as a starter? Maybe Young should be out first; he got two of his three rings as a backup quarterback, so his overall record is a bit puffed up. Does Favre’s potential for extreme suckitude in big games rule him out this quickly? Before I answer that, let me remove some doubts by giving Elway and Montana their byes to final three. To me, there’s no debate that those two are in the final conversation for the best I’ve seen.
So what should count more among the rest, rings, stats, or longevity? Marino wins on longevity but has no rings. To be as good as he was for as long as he was, and with not much of a defense or running game to work with, is a really big deal. But I can’t ignore that he lost two AFC championship games at home against teams he should have played well against. His numbers are being eclipsed and approximated more often now, so that will soon fade. I know I’m not picking him as the best, so I might as well throw him out now.
Next out is Brady. He’s only got seven full years under belt, for one. I can’t pick a guy with seven good years over guys with ten or twelve, rings or no rings. And another thing is that I never watch Brady and see magic. He’s brutally efficient and does everything as well as you could ask him to do. But I watched Favre the other night, and saw someone with impact. For good or ill, Favre changes the game by being on the field.
One last cut, and that is Steve Young. Young had nine full years as a starter vs. 18 for Favre, and has the same number of Super Bowl rings as a starter. Favre’s got Young beat in every statistical category as well. The only place Young beats Favre is in not screwing up; Young doesn’t have the slew of four-plus interception stinkers that Favre has served up. But Young is 2-5 in playoff games against the other elite QB’s from his era (1-2 vs. Troy AIkman, 1-3 vs. Favre), and was 1-3 in the NFC championship game. Favre’s playoff record over his whole career isn’t particularly better, but longevity rules the day.
So the final three are Favre, Montana, and Elway. Now I know you may think it’s a forgone conclusion, but I plan on fleshing this out for everyone.