Monday, January 26, 2009

The Great Quarterback Debate: The Hall Of Famers

So now that we've got some numbers to work with, let's see what we've got. Of our 70 quarterbacks, 7 are in the Hall of Fame: Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Steve Young, John Elway, Troy Aikmen, Warren Moon. 2 more are locks- Brett Favre and Peyton Manning- while another is a virtual lock- Mr. Tom Brady.

There are a number of quarterbacks on our list who's sample size is really too small to make any real determinations on their careers. That list would include Drew Brees, who seems to be on the way to a very productive career in the numbers department, Ben Rothlisberger, who's got solid numbers and now a second Super Bowl appearance, and Carson Palmer, who, before last season, would probably have been considered an elite quarterback.

Two of the intriguing players out there played in the NFC Championship game last week- Donovan McNabb and Kurt Warner. Looking at Warner's per game stats and three Super Bowl appearances would seem to make him a lock for the Hall of Fame, but what about the way he bounced around the league and what about the fact that he's only had 3 successful 16 game seasons in the course of his career. McNabb is another one, who's faced benchings and controversy throughout his career. You don't always think of McNabb as a huge numbers guy, but looking back, he's 11th on our list in terms of TD's per start and 15th in terms of yards per start- all this while being an effective rushing threat earlier in his career and while spending most of his time without a real receviving threat. Personally I can't stand McNabb- and I wouldn't want him quarterbacking my team- but I'd have a hard time saying he's not one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

One quarterback that the Hall of Fame seems to have passed by that I'd nominate for reconsideration is Randall Cunningham, whom I remember from growing up as a truly dangerous threat. Cunningham's winning percenatge of .611 is 16th on our list, his yardage puts him only in the middle at number 37, but his TD passes put him at 12th. More importantly, his career resume boasts his 15-1 career resurgence with Cris Carter, Randy Moss and the 1998 Vikings and numerous seasons earlier in his career as a multi-faceted passing and rushing threat, a sort of Michael Vick who could actually throw the football.

And what about some of the guys with good numbers but not much else on their resume? Well, first and foremost on that list would be Daunte Culpepper. You can't deny his numbers, but his career winning percentage- 60th among the 70 quarterbacks on our list- is telling. Perhaps more important is his inability to perform at even a mediocre level since leaving Minnesota, with chances in Miami, Oakland, and Detroit.

On the same side of the coin are guys like Vinny Testaverde, who has great career numbers, mostly because he's played for 20 years. But like Daunte, most of us would agree that Vinny isn't even in the Hall of Fame conversation. He had a number of good years in the 90's with the Jets and the Ravens, but he spent most of the 2000's as a backup and his early years with the Bucs were only slightly more distinguished than Trent Dilfer's.

Finally, I have to address Mr. Tom Brady, don't I? We don't ned to get into the specifics here of who's the number one quarterback on our list, but I would like to clearly state my case that Tom Brady, wihout a doubt, belongs amongst the elite quarterbacks. Personally- and this is one reason you know I'm being fair- I rate Brady as number 2 amongst this group, behind only Joe Montana. (Although, if you wanted to put Peyton ahead of both of them, I'd have trouble arguing with you. At least in terms of the regular season, Peyton Manning is the best quarterback not just amongst this group, but ever.)

I've already gotten one comment from Mr. Kriksciun in regards to Eli Manning and what I have to say about Eli is basically the same as what I've got to say abouit Brady- whether you want to downgrade a guy or boost his reputation, what we have here is a list of 70 quarterbacks of the same era. To say that Tom Brady isn't elite, you've got to start naming the 10 or 15 quarterbacks that are better him. Without having to rank eevry single quarterback, I'd have to say Eli is probably about where his TD and winning percentage rankings fall- 20th to 25th amongst our 70, or about the top 1/3 or top 40%.


Anonymous rose said...

JKrik: You assert that Eli compares favorably w/ lots of these guys if you remove this rookie year. The other side of that coin is that most of these guys who are retired ended their career w/ 3-5 seasons that brought down their prime years significantly.

Take a look at years 3-5 of Eli's career and compare his numbers to Peyton, Marino and Favre's. Not a pretty sight.

My real point here is that any of these guy's stats look far more favorable on a per game basis after year 5 of their career than at the end, with the exception of maybe Steve Young and a few others.

LL- I'd be curious to see what these guy's stats look like on a per game basis for their best five year stretch ever. Maybe after you narrow it down to 5-10 you can look at it from that POV.

Steve Young for example, his #s from 1991-1998 I would argue are as good an 8 year stretch as any QB has ever compiled...and that's the guy we remember him as. But what he did on an atrocious TB Bucs team prior to that and a few stints in for a hurt Montana/replacing Montana in blowouts completely skew the numbers.

I don't look at the "best qb ever" conversation as a lifetime achievement award. I see it more as who was the best for those 5-8 years when they were in their prime.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous rose said...

And my vote for the narrowing down process:

Young (1991-1998)
Favre (pre 2002 because we know how i feel about him since)

Brady needs a couple more years where he puts up big #s and the OFFENSE, not defense drives the teams success. John Elway is vastly overrated as well.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous jkrik said...

1) Jeff Hostetler
2) Phil Simms
3) Eli Manning
4) Jesse Palmer

11:04 AM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...


I'd be splitting hairs if I argued with you for keeping Brady out of that top 6- It's not as though you're putting Warren Moon, Troy Aikmen, or Donovan McNabb ahead of him.

I like your idea of looking at the best 5-8 years, but I think that proves even more difficult to calculate than other statistical measures. It doesn't work so well as a straight up comparisson of multiple quarterbacks, but it can work in looking at a few.

Some guys- Manning and Marino for example- were bsically statistically dominant for their entire careers. Montana was good early in his career, piqued in the late 80's where his numbers were their best, then got hurt and missed two entire seasons. They weren't his best seasons numbers-wise, but for my money, Montana's legacy was cemeted with his incredable work for two years in Kansas City without the benifit of a single decent wide receiver.

I do think Steve Young was a great quarterback and certainly a worthy Hall of Famer, but I have trouble considering him "the best" because his career was really almost Kurt Warner like in terms of it's shortness. You wouldn't think it, but Tom Brady has more seasons with 20+ TD passes (6), than Young (5). Young missed 10 games between 1995 and 1997, during which time he tallied only 20, 19, and 14 touchdown passes. 1998 may have been Young's best year, he was amazing 92-94, but he only had 5 seasons in his career when he started even 15 games.

As to Elway- I agree, a bit overated in that some want to put him up there with Montana. But Elway early in his career was basically like Donomvan McNabb, minus Brian Westbrook. I'd say Elway would be more in that range of the 10th to 20th best QB of our group.

What's ultimately interesting though is the statistical domination you're basically looking for is confined to three QB's- Marino, Manning, and Favre. Montana and Brady have very similar looking numbers, as do Elway and McNabb. Steve Young could be compared to Kurt Warner, in the way that they've had a lot of success with a small sample size. Warren Moon threw for a lot of yards in pass heavy offenses, but only had two seasons where he threw more than 25 TD's. Jim Kelly is in the HOF because of the same reason Troy Aikmen is- the post season. Kelly had one season with more than 25 TD's and no 4,000 yard seasons.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous rose said...

We're basically on the same page, but I wanna talk more about Young for a sec. From 1992-1998 Young posted the best 7 year stretch in history.

He led the league in passer rating in 6 out of the 7 years, completion % 5 year, YPA 4 times, adjusted yards per attempt (-45 yards per pick +10 td) 5 times.

Record was 77 and 24 in the games he started, 76%.

On top of all that, he ran for 29 tds in that stretch and averaged about 400 yards per year on the ground.

158 tds and 68 picks during this 7 year stretch.

Compare that 7-year stretch to any other QB in history and you're gonna find that #2 isn't really even that close.

I get the comparison to Warner, but Warner had only 3 truly big seasons and 2 above average seasons. Young's career stats are not only better (not even taking running and team record into account), but he threw 50 more tds and 7 fewer picks. So with young you've got significant quality and quantity over Warner.

Lastly, the 1990's Cowboys was a fucking juggernaut. The superbowl was played in the NFC championship game multiple times and in any other era Young likely would've had 2 or 3 superbowls.

The fact that Young's career was shorter than others should hurt him. But the complete and utter dominance for that 7 year stretch absolutely keeps him in the conversation.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous rose said...

I wish I could edit my posts instead of making new ones.

But one other thing: While statistical dominance in absolute terms comes down to Favre, Marino and Manning there is a clear cut difference in these 3 on a per attempt and efficiency basis (interceptions etc).

Manning is clearly ahead of Marino who is clearly ahead of Favre. I think it would be nearly impossible to argue Favre or Marino over Manning, so I think Manning himself eliminates Favre and Marino from contention.

1:13 PM  
Blogger McMc said...

You certainly can't ignore what Steve Young did on the ground, but you can't really fault other QBs for not having the same skill. The 29 rush TDs though is somethng you have to factor in because that would obviously take away from his TD passes. Young was great, and I think you'd have to rank him higher than do Lonely Lib.

As for others...

McNabb is a Hall of Famer. His career is always surrounded in controversy but he has accomplished more than most QBs ever will.

I don't think Kurt Warner is a Hall of Famer, although it's an interesting case. I mean, we have seen with Warner that the offense around him has to be great for him to be great. If he gets no protection, he can be a train wreck. And has he ever played well without great receivers? Fitz and Boldin now and Holt, Bruce and Faulk back in St. Louis? Come on now.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous rose said...

Another thing: Why do we give more credit for squeaking out close games than we do for dominance?

The year the niners won the superbowl w/ young they had the 8th ranked defense, by no means bad, but not dominating.

Yet the 49ers went 13-2 (not counting week 17 meaningless game). Young set the passer rating record and led them to double digit victories in all 3 playoff games, despite breaking his ribs on a TD run in the first game. The offense scored 505 pts this year.

He then goes on to throw for 325 yards and 6 TD's in 3 quarters of perfection in the super bowl and was the leading rusher w/ 49 yards.

The niners scored 49 points in the game.

To me, setting the passer rating record, dominating people in the playoffs and capping it off w/ a nearly perfect superbowl performance which effectively ended the game in the first quarter is more impressive than anything Brady has done.

Brady gets more credit for having an 86 passer rating for a full season, riding a stellar defense, playing mediocre in the playoffs for 3.5 quarters and then leading 25 yard game-winning field goal drives.

Young's near perfection in 1995 is what won the superbowl for the niners. Favre in '96 was not perfect, but the packers were the highest scoring team in football that year and they scored 30+ in all three playoff games.

Brady has played mediocre in many tight playoff wins for the pats and the only reason they were still in position to launch game winning drives in these games was because their defense continually picked up Brady's slack. Last year was different for once, the offense was what led the team, but it didn't work out in the end.

11:37 AM  

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