Visit to McCarthy's Hometown...........Kenny Mayne

Friday, September 28, 2007

Where does Favre rank among greats?

An interesting article on asks the question: Where does Favre rank among greats? Michael David Smith from has the story.

If he throws a touchdown pass Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Favre will surpass Dan Marino and take over sole possession of first place on the all-time touchdown list. Of course, if he throws three interceptions, he'll also surpass George Blanda and take over sole possession of first place on the all-time interception list.

That's one of the things that makes Favre's place among the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game so hard to judge. His daring style means he may have made more great plays — and more bad plays — than any other quarterback in history. So where does Favre rank? Below I'll compare him, head-to-head, against my own subjective list of the 16 best quarterbacks ever. First, here's that list, in alphabetical order:

Troy Aikman, Ken Anderson, Sammy Baugh, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Dan Fouts, Otto Graham, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Warren Moon, Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, Johnny Unitas, Steve Young

Before we get started, two things about that list: There may be arguments to put Peyton Manning or Tom Brady on it, but I'm leaving active players off because I think it's too hard to make historical judgments when dealing with players who are still in their primes. Favre is far enough along in his career to judge him adequately; we'll have to wait a few more years before we know for sure where we put Manning and Brady.

Secondly, I skewed it a little bit in favor of players whose careers were closer to Favre's. I wanted to include some of the all-time great old-school quarterbacks, like Baugh and Graham, but I left off some others who began their careers before the AFL-NFL merger, like Len Dawson, Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Layne and Sid Luckman, because the quarterback position was less important in the early days of football, before the passing game was opened up.

Now, let's get to the matchups:

Troy Aikman
The argument many Cowboys fans would make for Aikman is quite simple: Three Super Bowl rings, to one for Favre. But that argument is bogus. Aikman had at least three offensive teammates who either already are or some day will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Larry Allen. Favre didn't get anywhere near the help from his teammates that Aikman got, and when you consider how far ahead Favre is statistically (25,000 more yards, 250 more touchdowns, a higher passer rating), it's an easy choice.
Verdict: Favre

Ken Anderson
Anderson, who spent his entire 16-year career with the Bengals, is probably the best quarterback who's not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a more accurate passer than Favre, and something like the anti-Favre in the sense that he did everything the textbook-perfect way, while Favre likes to freelance. Anderson led the league in passer rating four times, but statistical analysis overrates Anderson because the Bengals' offense (designed by Bill Walsh) had a passing attack that was so far ahead of the rest of the league. Favre could have succeeded in any offense, and that's why he gets the nod over Anderson.
Verdict: Favre

Sammy Baugh
It's nearly impossible to compare a player like Baugh, who played for the Redskins from 1937 to 1952, with a modern quarterback. But let's try anyway. During Baugh's career, he was widely regarded as the best quarterback in football (he was also a very good defensive back and punter, but we won't hold playing only one way against Favre). Favre's longevity is a point in his favor against most quarterbacks, but it really isn't against Baugh, who at the time he retired had played more games than any other player in history. To the extent that we can compare them at all, Baugh was a greater player in his decade and a half in the NFL than Favre has been for the last decade and a half.
Verdict: Baugh

Terry Bradshaw
Similar to Aikman, Bradshaw has more Super Bowl rings than Favre and more Hall of Fame teammates than Favre. Bradshaw was a great player on a great team, but Favre was a great player who made his team great. The distinction is huge, and it's why Favre is a better quarterback than Bradshaw.

Verdict: Favre

John Elway
In terms of their total career résumés, Elway is probably the most similar quarterback to Favre, as they both spent many years with the same team and compiled gaudy career numbers. Favre has, for the most part, surpassed Elway's numbers, including passing Elway two weeks ago for the record for most games won by a starting quarterback. Still, I take Elway over Favre because Elway is one of the few quarterbacks who can rival Favre's arm strength, and Elway's overall talent for the position made him a tougher player for opposing defenses to stop, especially early in his career when he had to carry the Broncos all by himself.

Verdict: Elway

Dan Fouts
Few offenses ever assembled had the firepower of the San Diego Chargers when Fouts was at the helm. Fouts led the league in passing yards for four straight years, something no other quarterback has accomplished. But Fouts was placed into the perfect system to get the most of his talents, with Don Coryell as his coach and Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson and Wes Chandler as his receivers. Favre has succeeded under several coaches and with a revolving door of wide receivers.

Verdict: Favre

Otto Graham
The Cleveland Browns of the 1940s and 1950s towered over the rest of pro football, winning seven championships in Graham's 10 seasons. That was in large part because coach Paul Brown designed an offense that was far ahead of the rest of football, and Graham was the perfect player to run Brown's offense. He dominated his era in a way that Favre didn't.
Verdict: Graham

Dan Marino
It's a shame that there are still people who think the fact that Marino retired without a Super Bowl ring taints his career. That is really the only argument that makes sense for putting Favre ahead of Marino, and it says more about Marino's teammates than it does about him. Even if Favre breaks all of Marino's records, Marino was the best pure passer ever to play the game.

Verdict: Marino

Joe Montana
The four Super Bowls are great, but they're not the reason Montana is the greatest quarterback in modern NFL history. What set Montana apart was always having complete command of the offense and an incredible ability to make big plays while avoiding turnovers. Favre already has almost twice as many interceptions as Montana had in his career.
Verdict: Montana

Warren Moon
Moon is a tough comparison because it's impossible to know what kind of player he might have been had he not been relegated to Canada until he was 27. But the reason Favre comes out ahead is that Moon was never considered the best player in the league, while Favre has three MVPs to his credit.

Verdict: Favre

Joe Namath
Namath had incredible physical talent and the whole Broadway Joe persona, but he wasn't as great a player as Favre. The good statistics Namath produced early in his career were in large part the result of playing in the old American Football League, a league designed to have high scores and inflated passing statistics. And as much as Favre has been criticized for throwing too many interceptions, in Namath's entire career, he had just two seasons in which he threw more touchdowns than interceptions.

Verdict: Favre

Bart Starr
It's not hard to name the best two quarterbacks in Packers history, but it is hard to say which one was better. Starr led Vince Lombardi's Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls and three other NFL titles in the pre-Super Bowl era, and he's one of the best big-game players in football history. But the Lombardi Packers were so much better than the rest of the league that Starr's job was relatively easy. Favre gets the edge over Starr because he had to carry the Packers on his back in a way that Starr didn't.

Verdict: Favre

Roger Staubach
Staubach is somewhat like Moon in that he got a late start to his career. For Moon it was because NFL general managers couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that a black man can play quarterback; for Staubach it was because he spent five years in the Navy. On top of the time he missed to military service, in three of his 11 seasons Staubach was just a bit player. Staubach achieved a tremendous amount in a career that lasted just eight seasons, but his lack of career longevity means his total accomplishments don't rank with Favre's.
Verdict: Favre

Fran Tarkenton
Before Marino broke them, Tarkenton owned the records for completions, touchdowns and yards. Those are records that Favre broke last year (completions), will break this year (touchdowns) and is likely to break next year (yards). But Tarkenton did it during an NFL career that spanned from 1961 to 1978, a period during which it was significantly harder to rack up big passing numbers. Although Favre led his team to a championship and Tarkenton didn't, Tarkenton's total career is more impressive.

Verdict: Tarkenton

Johnny Unitas
Unitas is, by general acclaim, the greatest quarterback in the history of football. His stats, overall, aren't gaudy by today's standards, although he still owns a DiMaggio-like record of 47 straight games with a touchdown pass (Favre has the second-longest streak, with 36).
Even fans who were born after he retired have seen Unitas line up under center, drop back to pass and deliver a strike downfield hundreds of times, thanks to NFL Films. Unitas' production on the field really did live up to his legend. He's the best ever.

Verdict: Unitas

Steve Young
A tough choice. Young had some absolutely incredible passing seasons, including six different seasons in which he led the league in passer rating. In those seasons, he had stats that Favre couldn't touch. If I could take Young's best half-dozen seasons vs. Favre's best half-dozen seasons, that would be an easy choice: Young in a laugher. But then again, Favre has out-gained Young by more than 25,000 passing yards. (Favre has 58,361 career passing yards; Young retired with 33,124.) Young had six seasons of 3,000 or more passing yards; Favre has had 15. And Young played with better receivers and a more quarterback-friendly offense. Looking at the totalities of their careers, Young falls short.

Verdict: Favre

So there you have it. Favre is the eighth-best quarterback in NFL history, behind Baugh, Elway, Graham, Marino, Montana, Tarkenton and Unitas. Let the arguments begin.

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