As I mentioned in my last post
That previous article talked about the impossible nature of crowning any player as the GOAT when we look at the NFL. The game has simply changed too radically over its ninety-four season history. When you try to compare players that are more than just a few years removed from one another you end up comparing apples to oranges. Let me give you a very simple example:
You have four quarterbacks - A, B, C, D.
QB A played from 1937 to 1942 (6 seasons). During those years he would have had the opportunity to play a maximum of 66 regular season games.
QB B played from 1947 to 1952. In his six seasons, he would have had the opportunity to play a maximum of 72 regular season games -- or the equivalent of approximately one-half season more than QB A in a career of the same length.
QB C played from 1967 to 72. He would have had the opportunity to play a maximum of 84 regular season games. So, in a career which spanned the same length as those of QBs A and B, he would have had the possibility of playing the equivalent of a full season more than QB B and approximately one and one-half seasons more than QB A.
QB D played from 1987 to 1982. This would have given him a possible maximum of 96 regular season games in his six seasons, or an advanted of three-fourths of a season more than QB C, two full seasons more than QB B and nearly three more seasons than QB A.
There is no valid way to compare these four quarterbacks when one has had nearly fifty percent more opportunities to demonstrate what he can do. The example above does not even address the issue of the NFL from 1920-37 where teams often played differing numbers of games during the same season.
One rather interesting suggestion that was made in response to the previous post was the idea that we should ignore anything prior to the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL. The rationale given was that the game has changed so radically that the pre-merger NFL and the post-merger NFL represent different games. While this is an intriguing idea, it does create two rather important issues:
First, this approach would require that we totally ignore the contributions that came during the first fifty years of the NFL's history. Put another way, we would have to abandon 53% of the NFL's history.
Second, the game has changed in significant ways even since 1970. Here are some examples: in 1974, the NFL made sweeping rule changes in order to promote increased action, tempo and scoring. In 1977, the NFL moved from a 14-game schedule to a 16-game schedule. In 1988, the play clock for the teams was moved from 30 seconds to 45. In 1990, the NFL added an additional wild card playoff team to each conference. In 1999, instant replay was brought back and a coach's challenge system installed. A review of the way that teams have moved the ball demonstrates a shift from a run-oriented offense to a pass-oriented one. The list could go on and on.
The whole point being made here is that there is no way to validly crown any player the GOAT. A better question would be:
Does the player's career compare favorably to other players at his position who have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
The previous article mentioned how an ESPN panel that included former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis asserted that the highest accolade an NFL player can receive is induction into the Hall of Fame. That panel also asserted that once a player has been inducted into the Hall, the discussion is over.
So, in the case of Manning, the question is NOT "Is he the GOAT?" but rather, "Does his career compare favorably to the thirty-one quarterbacks who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame?" That will be the focus of the remainder of this article.
Now, before we begin, I would like to point out a couple of things. First, I make no apologies for focusing on Manning. He is the Broncos' current quarterback. I am a Broncos fan. This is a Broncos blog. If you are a fan of another team, or simply a fan of another quarterback, I invite you to compile the career data regarding your quarterback using the format below and share those observations in the comments section.
One final item, a plea: This article is NOT about whether or not QB A is better than QB B. It IS about whether or not QB A's (and by extension QB B's) career compares favorably with Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Please, please, please, keep the discussion focused on that.
That said, let's look at Manning and the Thirty-One.
Here is the list of thirty-one quarterbacks who have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (in alphabetical order):
|Troy Aikman||1989-00||Dallas Cowboys||Bobby Layne||1948||Chicago Bears|
|Sammy Baugh||1937-52||Washington Redskins||1949||New York Bulldogs|
|George Blanda||1949-58||Chicago Bears||1950-58||Detroit Lions|
|1950||Baltimore Colts*||1958-62||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1960-66||Houston Oilers||Sid Luckman||1939-50||Chicago Bears|
|1967-75||Oakland Raiders||Dan Marino||1983-99||Miami Dolphins|
|Terry Bradshaw||1970-83||Pittsburgh Steelers||Joe Montana||1979-92||San Francisco 49ers|
|Earl "Dutch" Clark||1931-32||Portsmouth Spartans||1993-94||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1934-38||Detroit Lions||Warren Moon||1984-93||Houston Oilers|
|Jimmy Conzelman||1920||Decatur Staleys||1994-96||Minnesota Vikings|
|1921-22||Rock Island Independents||1997-98||Seattle Seahawks|
|1923-24||Milwaukee Badgers||1999-00||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1925-26||Detroit Panthers||Joe Namath||1965-76||New York Jets|
|1927-29||Providence Steam Roller||1977||Los Angeles Rams|
|Len Dawson||1957-59||Pittsburgh Steelers||Clarence "Ace" Parker||1937-41||Brooklyn Dodgers|
|1960-61||Cleveland Browns||1945||Boston Yanks|
|1962-75||Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs||1946||New York Yankees|
|John "Paddy" Driscoll||1920||Decatur Staleys||Bart Starr||1956-71||Green Bay Packers|
|1920-25||Chicago Cardinals||Roger Staubach||1969-79||Dallas Cowboys|
|1926-29||Chicago Bears||Fran Tarkenton||1961-66||Minnesota Vikings|
|John Elway||1983-98||Denver Broncos||1967-71||New York Giants|
|Dan Fouts||1973-87||San Diego Chargers||1972-78||Minnesota Vikings|
|Benny Friedman||1927||Cleveland Bulldogs||Y. A. Tittle||1951-60||San Francisco 49ers|
|1928||Detroit Wolverines||1961-64||New York Giants|
|1929-31||New York Giants||Johnny Unitas||1956-72||Baltimore Colts|
|1932-34||Brooklyn Dodgers||1973||San Diego Chargers|
|Otto Graham||1946-55||Cleveland Browns||Norm Van Brocklin||1949-57||Los Angeles Rams|
|Bob Griese||1967-80||Miami Dolphins||1958-60||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Arnie Herber||1930-40||Green Bay Packers||Bob Waterfield||1945-52||Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams|
|1944-45||New York Giants||Steve Young||1985-86||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Sonny Jurgensen||1957-63||Philadelphia Eagles||1987-99||San Francisco 49ers|
|1964-74||Washington Redskins||Peyton Manning||1998-11||Indianapolis Colts|
|Jim Kelly||1986-96||Buffalo Bills||2012-13||Denver Broncos|
*This particular team folded in 1950
As we read the statistical comparisons below, it is important to keep in mind that some stats were not officially recorded by the NFL during its earliest years. For example, the NFL did not start officially recording quarterback record until 1950. As a result, some of the Hall of Fame players may not appear in some of the statistical categories.
Longevity: Seasons, Games, Starts, QB Record
|26||Blanda (only 12 as QB)||340||Blanda||240||Marino|
Manning is in the middle of the mix here, having a career that so far has been as long as Sammy Baugh, John Elway and Bart Starr. Eight HOF quarterbacks have had longer careers while twenty played for a shorter time. Manning currently trails only George Blanda, Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino in number of games played and has tied Dan Marino for most starts.
Quarterback Record (not officially recorded until 1950)
Manning is currently in fourth place in winning percentage, trailing Otto Graham, Roger Staubach and Joe Montana.
Passing (Most of these were not officially recorded until 1932)
Manning has a better completion percentage and has thrown for more yards than any of the thirty-one HOF quarterbacks.
|Van Brocklin||173||Kelly||5.0||Namath||220||Van Brocklin||6.1|
Manning has more touchdown passes than any of the others, but is only in the middle of the pack when it comes to touchdown percentage. While he is in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of interceptions thrown, he has matched Joe Montana and Steve Young in interception percentage.
These categories were intriguing. Manning is in the top third in yards per attempt, but near the bottom in yards per catch, yet leads all of the rest in yards per game.
* not officially recorded prior to 1969
Manning is right in the middle of the pack in both of these categories.
It was rather surprising to see Manning with as many rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns as he has.
Fourth Quarter Comebacks and Game Winning Drives*
* based on pro-football-reference.com's work (http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=3392)
It was interesting to see that Pro-Football-Reference has Manning listed at the top of both of these categories.
Post Seasons as a Starter
|Quarterback||Post Seasons||Quarterback||PS Win%||PS Record||Quarterback||Championships|
|Van Brocklin||6||Dawson||.625||5-3||Van Brocklin||2|
This has been the area in which Manning has drawn the most criticism. Although he has guided his teams to more post season appearances than any of the thirty-one HOF quarterbacks, his winning percentage puts him near the bottom of the group. Many people want to make it an issue that he has only won a single Super Bowl. Yet that merely means that he has more championships than one-fourth of the HOF quarterbacks (Fouts, Friedman, Kelly, Marino, Moon, Parker, Tarkenton and Tittle have no rings). It puts Manning in the company of Clark, Conzelman, Dawson, Jurgensen, Namath and Young who each have a single championship to their careers. So, nearly half of the quarterbacks in the HOF have one or less championships.
Awards & Notable Aspects of Career
Note: when setting records is mentioned, it refers to records at the time the quarterback retired.
|Quarterback||Awards and Notes|
|Troy Aikman||Named Super Bowl MVP (1992), voted to 6 Pro Bowls (91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96), was the winningest quarterback of the 1990s, held or tied 47 Dallas passing records.|
|Sammy Baugh||Influenced the evolution of NFL game from a run-dominant game to a passing game, voted All-NFL 7 times, led the NFL in passing 6 times, led the NFL in passing, pass interceptions (as a defender) and punting in 1943|
|George Blanda||Voted to 4 Pro Bowls (61, 62, 63, 67), voted 1st Team All-Pro in 1961, played multiple positions (QB 1949-50, K/LB 1951, QB/K 1952-54, K 1955-58, QB/K 1960-66, K 1967-75), currently holds record for longest NFL career by any player, held or tied 16 regular season records, held or tied 21 title game records.|
|Terry Bradshaw||Was voted NFL MVP in 1978, was voted Super Bowl MVP twice (78, 79), was voted to 3 Pro Bowls (75, 78, 79), was voted 1st Team All-Pro once (1978), called his own plays, set 13 team records, set 5 post season records, set 6 Super Bowl records.|
|Earl "Dutch" Clark||Voted All-NFL in 6 of his 7 years, was the NFL's scoring champ 3 times, led the Detroit Lions to the 1935 title, called the plays for the offense, was a triple-threat back who could run, pass and drop-kick,|
|Jimmy Conzelman||Was a player/coach for 4 teams in the 1920s, led the Providence Steam Roller to the league championship in 1928, became the player/coach/owner of the Detroit Panthers in 1925-26 (he was offered ownership by the NFL for a $100 investment -- that is the equivalent of $1331 in 2013; the Cleveland Browns were purchased in 2012 for over $1 billion), won an NFL championship as the coach of the Chicago Cardinals in 1947.|
|Len Dawson||Was voted Super Bowl MVP (1969), was voted to the Pro Bowl 7 times (62, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71), was voted 1st Team All-Pro twice (62, 66), is best remembered for Kansas City's 23-7 upset win over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV, led the Chiefs to two SB appearances (I, IV), was noted for his calm and poise on the playing field, won the NFL's passing crown 4 times (62, 64, 66, 68), was regarded as a pin-point passer and astute field general, set 20 team records.|
|John "Paddy" Driscoll||Was voted All-NFL 6 times in 10 seasons, played both offense and defense, was a triple threat (run, pass, kick) on offense, drop kicked a 50-yard field goal in 1924.|
|John Elway||Was voted Super Bowl MVP (1998), was voted NFL MVP (87), was voted to 9 Pro Bowls (86, 87, 89, 91, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98), is best remembered for "The Drive" - a 98-yard come from behind TD drive to tie the Cle Browns in the 1986 AFC Champ game that Den went on to win 23-20 in OT, became only player to pass for over 3000 & rush for over 200 in same season 7 consecutive times, set 30 team records, 17 post season records and 2 Super Bowl records.|
|Dan Fouts||Was voted NFL MVP (1982), was voted to 6 Pro Bowls (79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 85), was voted 1st Team All-Pro twice (79, 82), led SD to three AFC West titles, 3rd player to ever pass for over 40,000 yards,
set 20 team records, 15 post season records.
|Lenny Friedman||Was voted 1st Team All Pro 4 times (27, 28, 29, 30), is considered to be the NFL's 1st great passer, threw a league record 11 TD passes in 1927 as a rookie, led the NFL in TD passes 4 consecutive years, was a triple threat player (run, pass, kick).|
|Otto Graham||Was voted NFL MVP 3 times (51, 53, 55), was voted to 5 Pro Bowls (50, 51, 52, 53, 54), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 7 times (47, 48, 49, 51, 53, 54, 55), guided the Browns to 10 division and/or league titles in 10 seasons, was the NFL's passing leader in 6 seasons, had 3 passing TDs & 3 rushing TDs in 1954 title game.|
|Bob Griese||Was voted to the Pro Bowl 8 times (67, 68, 70, 71, 73, 74, 77, 78), was voted 1st Team All-Pro twice (71, 77), led a classic ball-control offense, led Miami to 3 AFC titles & wins in SB VII & VIII, was named NFL player of the year in 1971.
|Arnie Herber||Voted to the Pro Bowl once (39), was voted 1st Team All-Pro once (32), led the NFL in passing 3 times (32, 34, 36), led Green Bay to 4 NFL titles.|
|Sonny Jurgensen||Was voted to the Pro Bowl 5 times (61, 64, 66, 67, 69), was voted 1st Team All-Pro twice (61, 69), led the NFL in passing 3 times, surpassed 3000 yds in a season 5 times, had 25 300-yd games, considered to be one of finest pure passers in league history.|
|Jim Kelly||Was voted to the Pro Bowl 5 times (87, 88, 90, 91, 92), was voted 1st Team All-Pro once (91), had 8 3000-yd seasons, mastered Buffalo's "no huddle" offense, guided the BIlls to 8 post season appearances, guided the Bills to 4 consecutive Super Bowls, set 13 team records, 4 post season records and 3 Super Bowl records.|
|Bobby Layne||Was voted to 6 Pro Bowls (51, 52, 53, 56, 58, 59), was voted 1st Team All-Pro twice (52, 56), was voted All-NFL twice, was lauded for intangibles - leadership, determination, competitiveness, guts, having fun, was reputed to "not always follow appropriate team behavior" off the field.|
|Sid Luckman||Was voted to 3 Pro Bowls (40, 41, 42), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 5 times (41, 42, 43 44, 47), is considered to be the first great T-formation quarterback in professional football, went 3/4 for 88 yds 1 TD & rushed 1 time for 1 yd & 1 TD in Chicago's 73-0 win over Washington in 1940 NFL Title game.|
|Dan Marino||Was voted NFL MVP once (84), was voted to 9 Pro Bowls (83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 91, 92, 94, 95), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 3 times (84, 85, 86), at time of retirement was the most prolific passer in NFL history, was 1st QB to ever to pass for 5000 yds in season, set a record for TD passes in season (48), had 13 3,000-yard seasons, set 35 team records, 17 NFL records.|
|Joe Montana||Was voted NFL MVP twice (89, 90), was voted Super Bowl MVP 3 times (81, 84, 89), was voted to 8 Pro Bowls (81, 83, 84, 85, 87, 89, 90, 93), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 3 times (87, 89, 90), led the NFL in passing twice, led the 49ers to 9 NFC West, set 15 teams records, 2 NFL records, 5 post season records and 6 Super Bowl records.|
|Warren Moon||Was voted to the Pro Bowl 9 times (88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97), set team record in 1st year with Houston, led the NFL in passing twice, set 16 team records with Houston, 8 with Minnesota, 5 with Seattle and set 4 NFL records.
|Joe Namath||Was voted Super Bowl MVP once (1968), was voted to 5 Pro Bowls (65, 67,68, 69, 72), was voted 1st Team All-Pro once (68), was 1st player to pass for over 4,000 yards in a single season, set 13 team records.|
|Clarence "Ace" Parker||Was voted NFL MVP once (40), was voted 1st Team All-Pro twice (38, 40), was a dual-sport player (football & baseball) was a multiple threat player (run, pass, catch, punt, return, kick, defense), set 3 NFL records.|
|Bart Starr||Was voted NFL MVP once (1966), was voted Super Bowl MVP twice (66, 67), was voted to 4 Pro Bowls (60, 61, 62, 66), was voted 1st Team All-Pro once (66), led the NFL in passing 3 times, led a balanced offensive attack that caused many people to underestimate his passing abilities.|
|Roger Staubach||Was voted Super Bowl MVP once (1971), was voted to 6 Pro Bowls (71, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79), was feared for his ability to scramble out of trouble, led the NFL in passing 4 times, had a reputation for making big plays, set 13 team records, 4 divisional playoff records and 2 Super Bowl records.
|Fran Tarkenton||Was voted NFL MVP once (1975), was voted to 9 Pro Bowls (64, 65, 67, 68, 69, 70, 74,75, 76), was voted 1st Team All-Pro once (75), threw 4 TD passes & ran for a 5th in first game, led Vikings to six divisional titles and three Super Bowls.|
|Y. A. Tittle||Was voted NFL MVP 3 times (1957, 62, 63), was voted to 7 Pro Bowls (53, 54, 57, 59, 61, 62, 63), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 3 times (57, 62, 63), had 13 300-yard games.|
|Johnny Unitas||Was voted NFL MVP 3 times (1959, 64, 67), was voted to 10 Pro Bowls (57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 66, 67), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 5 times (58, 59, 64, 65, 67), had 26 300-yd games, set 18 team records, 7 NFL records.|
|Norm Van Brocklin||Was voted NFL MVP once (1960), was voted to 9 Pro Bowls (50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 58, 59, 60), was voted 1st Team All-Pro (60), led the NFL in passing 3 times, led the NFL in punting twice, threw a record 554 yds in a 1951 game, was the only man to defeated a Lombardi-coached Green Bay team in championship play.
|Bob Waterfield||Was voted NFL MVP once (as a rookie) (1945), was voted to 2 Pro Bowls (50, 51), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 3 times (45, 46, 49), led the NFL in passing twice, was a multiposition player, had 20 interceptions as a defender during his career, was known for his ability to throw deep, often led his team to come-from-behind victories.|
|Steve Young||Was voted NFL MVP twice (1992, 94), was voted Super Bowl MVP once (94), was voted to 7 Pro Bowls (92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98), was voted 1st Team All-Pro 3 times (92, 93, 94), is tied with Sammy Baugh as only QB to win 6 NFL passing titles, spent 1st 2 yrs with TB before being traded to SF where he was backup to Joe Montana for 4 yrs, had 6 3000-yd seasons, had 20+ TDs in 5 seasons, was seen as a constant threat as a runner, was known as one of most accurate passers in the league, set 16 team records, 5 NFL records.|
|Peyton Manning||Has been voted NFL MVP 5 times (2003, 04, 08, 09, 13), was voted Super Bowl MVP (06), has been voted to 13 Pro Bowls (99, 00, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 12, 13), has been voted 1st Team All-Pro 6 times (03, 04, 05, 08, 09, 12, 13), in 14 seasons with the Colts led them to 8 division titles, two AFC championships and 1 Super Bowl title, in 2 years in Denver led the Broncos to consecutive division titles, and an AFC championship, has 13 4000-yd seasons, is the Colts all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, is considered to be the master of the hurry-up offense, his pre-snap routine has earned him the nickname "The Sheriff," has set 57 francise records for the Colts, 10 for the Broncos and 37 NFL records.
When all is said and done, it must be recognized that Manning's career compares favorably with those of the thirty-one quarterbacks that have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is little -- if any -- argument against the idea that he will be elected to the Hall of Fame after his retirement. As the ESPN panel suggested, once that happens, the discussion is over.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Once again, feel free to include a thumbnail of your favorite quarterback and how his career compares to the current list of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the comments section. Please remember:
This is not about who is better than whom, but rather, is your favorite quarterback worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame?