Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Sep 2007

FOX: Where Does Favre Rank Among Greats?

Sunday, Brett Favre will probably pass Dan Marino for first place on the all-time touchdown list. And then, Sunday, or perhaps next week or the week after, he will pass George Blanda for first place on the all-time interception list. So how good is Favre, historically? Is he a great quarterback, or a good one who stuck around a long time?

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 28 Sep 2007

125 comments, Last at 22 Jun 2011, 1:32pm by toolkien

Comments

1
by ernie cohen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:31pm

This is the equivalent of the talking heads on CNN and Fox. Free of content.

2
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:32pm

A fun read. But no love for Sonny Jurgensen?

3
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:35pm

Some objective analysis might have been good.

4
by Flounder (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:41pm

I thought it was a fun read, and seemed about right. Objective analysis really wasn't the point. When juding QB's of different eras, there's no way for it to be anything other than almost purely subjective.

5
by Julio (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:43pm

Favre is a top 20 QB. He is largely overrated. We tend to forget how wild he can be. He is streaky .... more often very good but streaky as well.

6
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:51pm

Pretty much agree with the choices, but I'll note again that when examining Tarkenton's career, it might be said that no qb ever even came close to accomplishing so much with so little surrounding talent. His teammamtes for the first 2/3 of his career were mostly honest-to- goodness TERRIBLE, and the numbers he put up were astonishing, especially in the context of the day, when t.d. to int ratios, for instance, were far different. People talk about how Elway's teammates were lacking early in his career, and Elway should certainly be given credit for carrying mediocre teammates a long way. Tarkenton, however, was playing with some absolute bums until he was past his physical prime. Imagine Elway on the pre-Dungy Bucs until he was 33 or 34 years old.

Something to be said for Favre is that he was probably the best bad weather qb ever, due to that remarkable arm.

7
by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:02pm

Yeah, I've got to take issue with the Steve Young arguments.

"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."

We know that Young backed up Montana until what, '91 or '92? Favre was starting in his first season in Green Bay. Using total yards and number of seasons over 3,000 doesn't give you a very accurate read. I'm kind of surprised to see those stats used here...knowing how you FO guys have been fighting so hard to clue people in on these issues and everything....

Isn't there some kind of z-scores thing you can do like for runningbacks? Compare each QB to his contemporaries and see how much better he was than the rest of the QBs in his time?

8
by Aaron N (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:04pm

#5,

Please provide your list of 19 quarterbacks all-time that are better than Favre. I need a good laugh.

9
by sam (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:27pm

#8:

Technically, Julio didn't say that Favre was the 20th-ranked quarterback. Favre is a top-20, top-50, top-100 quarterback. It gives you a range. Because he's in the range of the 0-20, 0-50 and 0-100. Top-20 all-time is also a pretty outstanding achievement in and of itself.

10
by Waverly (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:36pm

#1, #3

I agree, more objective analysis would have been interesting. But the article was written for FOX, not FO.

11
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:37pm

No love for Peyton Manning? And Tom Bra--- okay, I'll take this to another thread.

But seriously, MDS does not have either of them in his top 15? I'd surely include PM right now, and by the time this season ends, TB as well.

12
by Joe (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:44pm

#11 - If you read the article you'll see where MDS said he specifically left out active players.

13
by Independent George (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:58pm

Don't forget about Favre's cameo in There's Something About Mary. That has to count for something.

14
by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:11pm

As subjective as this piece necessarily is, to me it makes no sense to penalize a quarterback because he had productive receivers. Favre is better than Young and Fouts because his receivers weren't as good? That's just illogical.

15
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:15pm

GRAHAM/BAUGH
----------------
I have no problem with his reasons as long as he is consistent with his reasoning. Since Hutson dominated his era far more than Rice I take it the Author would rank Hutson as the #1 Receiver of All Time

ELWAY
-------

"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."

-For example the year they got destroyed by SF in the Super Bowl they had the top ranked defense in the league that year. Not sure how having a top defense indicates him doing it all himself

-Favre was also considered the more dominant player of his time judging by his much better successs in MVP voting

-During the 2 season's that Elway won the Super Bowl, the Broncos were more of a running team than a passing team. Surely QB's who win SB's as theprimary offensive option deserve more credit that those who do so behind a dominant running offense

MARINO
--------
" Even if Favre breaks all of Marino's records, Marino was the best pure passer ever to play the game."

Favre and Marino basically have equal numbers after 241 games despite Marino having supereior offensive talent around him and not having his numbers suppressed by playing his whole career in warm weather.

YOUNG
---------

"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."

That is comical. 3 out of Favre's 6 Best seasons earned him MVP awards which indicate dominance in regards to the rest of the league. How many did Young win over the course of his 6 best years. It is also worth noting the inflationary impact of SF's offense on their qbs. It isn't a coincidence that 2 of the highest rated qbs ever (although qb rating is highly flawed) are from qbs who played in the same system consecutively.

*WHy does he keep bringing up yards. Yards are probably the least useful stat a qb has

16
by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:21pm

I think the great QBs are thought of in four categories:

1. “Naturals� or “gunslingers�: won one or more championships and are perceived as elevating those around them; their teammates may not get enough credit; usually considered the most talented; highly regarded for their 2-minute drills
2. “Winners�: won a lot of titles on great teams, often were in a superior “system�; may not get enough credit for their ability because of the team and system they were in; disciplined and mistake-free, best in big-games
3. “Great, but�: prolific players who never “won the big one�; generally on lesser teams than above – they’d probably be considered Cat 1 if they’d won a title (i.e. Manning from 2006 to 2007)
4. “Too hard to call�: won titles but aspects of their careers make them difficult to compare to the other greats

Cat 1: Layne, Unitas, Elway, Favre, Manning, probably also Baugh and van Brocklin
Cat 2: Graham, Starr, Bradshaw, Aikman, Brady, probably Luckman
Cat 3: Jurgenson, Tarkenton, Anderson, Fouts, Marino, Moon (could be Cat 4 but never won a title)
Cat 4: Dawson, Namath, Staubach, Moon, Young, probably Waterfield

Montana could go in Cat 1 or Cat 2: if he only won the first title, probably in Cat 1 but the other titles were on some excellent teams and the Walsh system gets some credit too.

If I had a good team that needed a special player to win a title, I’d want a Cat 1 QB. If I had a great team that needed a great QB to ensure I won the most titles, I’d take a Cat 2 QB. If I had a mediocre team that I wanted to make a contender and fill the seats, I’d be happy with a Cat 3 guy – maybe I could build a team around him and he’d become a Cat 1.

I know this is a little simplistic but those groups seem about right to me, at least in describing people’s perceptions.

17
by Dave (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:40pm

I really wish we could get some perspective on Favre's career before attempting to make any judgements regarding his all-time status. We are all viewing him in light of one abysmal and one mediocre season. It is easy to forget just how dominant he was in the mid 90s.

I find it silly that one could rank Elway above Favre given how statistically superior Favre is. I realize Favre has made a ton of mistakes, but Elway has a career TD-INT ratio of 300-226, which somewhat mitigates the one knock on Favre.

Additionally, given how similar Favre and Marino are statistically, I think it is fair to compare home stadia; Favre throwing through wind, rain and snow juxtaposed against Marino throwing in sunny Miami.

Finally, Steve Yound is one of the few quarterbacks that I would consider as being possibly better than Favre, so I have no qualms with the comment referenced in 15.

As a thought exercise, take each QB and ask yourself whether they would have succeeded anywhere else. Would Marino have fared well at Mile High with lesser receivers than the Marks? Would Montana be considered an all-time great without Bill Walsh? In the end, I think Favre is easily in the top three all-time.

18
by Brian (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:44pm

You really can't compare QBs from before and after the 1980 timeframe due to the changes in pass blocking and interference rules.

Personally I think Favre is overrated.

-He's a media darling.
-More than the average amount of his yards come from screens/flares and other high-YAC plays.
-A truly great QB would have a much lower interception rate.
-He's been surrounded by great talent on both sides of the ball for the vast majority of his career.

I'm not saying he's bad. I would have loved him to be on my favorite team. I'm just saying he's a really good QB that is overrated as a great QB.

19
by PackMan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:59pm

I think the last 2 years really made people forget how good Favre really was. Before those 2 years, he was usually a top 2 QB in fantasy (along with Manning). Prior to his 29 INT season, he put up 3 straight seasons with 4k yds, and 30 TDs, while he was in his mid 30s! Before that one really, really bad season, he hadn't dropped off at all.

20
by andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:18pm

Tark's greatest seasons were in New York, taking a Giants team.. one that had gone 1-13 the year before he got there, and guiding them to 7-7, 7-7, 6-8 then 9-5 records.

That 1-13 giants squad was the one that the Redskins put up 72 points against in the highest scoring regular season game in NFL history.

In today's terms, take the Raiders of last year with their offensive line nightmare, Moss playing the part of Homer Jones, throw in the Lions defense from last year, and try to see if anyone could take that team to a .500 record.

I mentioned once before on here that Zimmerman cited a game Tarkenton played for the Giants against the Cowboys as the greatest qb performance he had ever seen, and they lost that game 24-17.

And he did what he did with an arm that could maybe throw the ball about 40-some yards, tops.

21
by Jake (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:21pm

#8 He said top-20. This implies Favre is between 10 and 20th.

Joe Montana
Otto Graham
Steve Young (he's clearly better than Favre)
Dan Marino
John Elway
Sammy Baugh
Johnny Unitas
Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
Fran Tarkenton

Tada! Ten. And guys like Aikman, Bob Griese, Warren Moon, Sid Luckman, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw etc have an argument. Thus top-20.

22
by inkakola (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:35pm

in Dr.Z's mailbag on SI.com he got the same question and somewhat off the top of his head he also said that he ranked Favre 8th or 9th.

23
by Flounder (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:49pm

Re: 18 Say what? Other than Sharpe, he's never had another true blue-chip player on offense, except maybe Green for a couple of years. I mean, he made Anonio Frickin Freeman into a pro-bowl player.

24
by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:00pm

Favre's numbers might be just about the same as Marino's, but if you ever watched both of them play, it's no contest. No contest at all. I agree with MDS that Marino is the best pure passer ever, and Favre... well, he just isn't.

25
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:01pm

Andrew that Giants/Cowboys match is one of the earliest memories I have of watching football, and it always stuck in my memory as the greatest qb performance I ever saw, so I was thrilled a few years ago to see Zimmerman's thoughts matching my own. That was a great, great, Cowboys squad, and the Giants had no business being on the same field. Tarkenton wouldn't have any of it, however, and simply by will, guile, and athletic talent fought the Cowboys like a man possessed. Unbelievable.

Now, I do say that Tarkenton's arm strength get understated quite a bit. His effective range in the early 70s was about 55-60 yards; see his td pass to Gilliam in the '73 conference championship game.

26
by Brian (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:12pm

Wait...if this article leaves out active players, there is a terrible circular reference. Unless Favre retired this week, everyone might want to step back. Wait for him to throw 50 more interceptions.

\He's Drew Bledsoe with legs and in a green uniform

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:24pm

Brian, given the importance of legs to quarterback play, I don't think your argument is as sound as you believe it to be.

28
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:38pm

We know that Young backed up Montana until what, ‘91 or ‘92? Favre was starting in his first season in Green Bay.

Which implies that if Young had been starting, he might rank better than Favre. But he didn't, so he doesn't. Bad luck for Young, but you can't credit him for lost seasons.

29
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:41pm

-A truly great QB would have a much lower interception rate.

Why? As much as I hate the "well, a deep interception on 3rd and Long is pretty much just a punt" it is pretty clear that not all interceptions are as bad as others. You can see that in the article on How Many Points is a Turnover Worth.

If Favre's interceptions all came on 3rd down (oversimplification, but you get my point) then he could have more interceptions than another QB, but if the other player's interceptions came primarily on first down, the other QB hurt their team more.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:47pm

I also think, despite the hoopla, that people underestimate the value of having a qb who was in the lineup for fifteen years in a row. It's not a failure of character that guys like Aikman or Bradshaw had injuries which shortened their careers a little, but the fact that they did is part of what made them less valuable.

31
by David (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:52pm

#15 It is also worth noting the inflationary impact of SF’s offense on their qbs. It isn’t a coincidence that 2 of the highest rated qbs ever (although qb rating is highly flawed) are from qbs who played in the same system

Um, exactly what system do you think Favre was playing with while Holmgren was coach?

32
by KevinWho (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:56pm

Totally unscientific, but ... one weird asterisk regarding Favre is the uncanny number of his receivers who have sustained serious and/or career-ending injuries: Sharpe, Chmura, Brooks, Ferguson, and there are probably others who I am forgetting that a Pack fan could list. And then there are all of the running backs who have been hurt as well.

Injuries happen. And surely some, or many, or perhaps even most of those contemporary Packers injuries can be shown to have absolutely nothing to do with Favre. Fine. But the sheer number of skill-position players who go down around him makes one wonder if there isn't something about the way Favre throws, or the kinds of passes he throws, or their location---is he leading his receivers into danger more often than other QBs?

33
by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 6:58pm

Staying healthy is a skill, something Young wasn't able to do in the way Favre was.

Shouldn't he get any credit for that?

34
by wr (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 7:05pm

33- Dr Z. said in the previously cited mailbag that durability was Favre's most remarkable achievement. Clark Judge (CBS Sportsline)ran a column on his durability this week as well.

35
by vanya (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 7:18pm

I am shocked, shocked to see Namath even mentioned as a top 20 QB by a reputable FO writer. I thought we were all agreed that he is one of the most overrated QBs in history. Ken Stabler should replace him on that list.

36
by Eric (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 7:53pm

I also think, despite the hoopla, that people underestimate the value of having a qb who was in the lineup for fifteen years in a row.

As a Bears fan I wholeheartedly agree. How many QBs have started for the Bears in those years? How many rebuilding projects have NFC Central teams had? Meanwhile with a couple of 1 season blips the Packers are a contender year after year. Consistency at the QB position can do wonders for a team. Teams like the Patriots and Colts can turnover most of their roster, but as long as they have Manning/Brady you can't count them out. Meanwhile the Bears go from a Super Bowl appearance to a likely rebuilding next year, when they once again draft a QB.

That said I hate Brett Favre, for completely irrational Bears fan reasons, and you can't stop me.

37
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 7:57pm

It is ridiculous how people have forgotten how dominant Favre was and has been:

-3 Consecutive MVPS. A strong argument could be made for Favre having the Higest Peak/Stretch of Any Player in NFL History.

-With Better Players/Easier environment Marino had 2 Seasons of 30+ Touchdowns, Favre by contrast Favre has 7. I guess for Marino being a more "pure passer" has little to do with throwing TDS on a year to year basis

-Marino had Clayton/Duper, Young and Montana had Rice/Owens/Waters/Taylor/Craig, Elway had Smith/Sharpe/Davis
Favre had nobody even remotely close to a Hall of Talent on Offense with him and still will hold most of the records.

38
by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:09pm

-Marino had Clayton/Duper

Well kind of. Clayton and Duper were rarely healthy and on the field together from 1983-1991 and both were basically washed up by 1991 when Marino was still in his prime. There's a reason neither of these guys are in the HOF. Marino also never had close to as talented a running back as Favre had in Green and Marino used his backs a lot to avoid sacks.

39
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:13pm

"But the Lombardi Packers were so much better than the rest of the league that Starr's job was relatively easy."

They had the best regular season record twice from 60-69.
They actually were not so much better, they were pretty comparable to the Colts.
And the Elway stuff was pretty goofy too.

40
by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:17pm

re #28

That wasn't my argument. My argument was with using passing yards as the reason Favre should rank higher than Young. I think one of the main reasons this site is around is because they're debunking myths about yardage gained being what makes one player better than another, yet we just saw it used in an article by someone from this site. I just thought was a little odd.

41
by Mike W (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:30pm

Not a bad effort, but:

Namath shouldn't be in the conversation. He's the Julius Erving of the NFL. Just stop it. It's embarrassing.

Tarkenton was fantastic. Will, what you said.

Elway over Favre is ridiculous. Elway was known for throwing bad interceptions, trying to do too much, and then later on winning the game. His QB ratings were often not that good, something Favre has been downgraded for late in his career. Elway got that 'you can't say anything bad about him' sheen very early in his career (like Marino) and so people conveniently forget his up-and-down nature years after the fact. He was similar to Favre, but there is no basis for putting him ahead, and some for putting him behind.

Marino. Man, who gets more extra credit than Marino? He began his career in the mid 80s, the best time to be a QB in the history of the NFL, and immediately was anointed with the greatness sheen. He gets credit because his receivers were so terrible (they weren't), but his offensive lines were usually excellent. He couldn't move around much, and he was a jackass to his teammates after throwing an interception or making any kind of mistake. But he's the best pure passer ever, so that trumps everything. Uh, why? Were his stats better? Better than Montana, or Favre? No, but he stood there in the pocket, he was a big strapping guy, and he had a quick release. Do they give away points for all of those things? Sorry, he was great, but I'll take a few guys over Saint Marino.

42
by Alaska Jack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:48pm

Namath? NAMATH?!?

- Alaska Jack

43
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 9:09pm

I guess for Marino being a more “pure passer� has little to do with throwing TDS on a year to year basis

Yup. Throwing TDs is an even-more-useless stat than yards. If a QB drives a team to the 1 yard line, and the RB runs it in, you don't say "man, QB! You suck! You didn't throw a touchdown!"

44
by Otis Taylor \\\'89 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 9:18pm

re: #41 -

As a UMass alum and a Celtics fan, please do not badmouth Dr J. Not only was he one of the best forwards of All-Time, but he probably was the most dominate player of the 70's, especially before knee tendonitis reduced his jumping ability after joining the NBA. I watched Dr J, pay both erds of the court well into his mid 30's, Joe Namath was no Dr J.

45
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 9:18pm

"Yup. Throwing TDs is an even-more-useless stat than yards. If a QB drives a team to the 1 yard line, and the RB runs it in, you don’t say “man, QB! You suck! You didn’t throw a touchdown!"

Doing it your way any sat related to a QB can be criticized:

INTS- Who knows how many Ints for each qb were due to Hail Mary's, Passes that bounce off wrs that they should catch, receivers running the wrong routes, desperation passes because their team was losing

YARDS-Easy to rack up garbage yards or yards in a passing offense. Kitna this year is a primary example, nobody sees him as a top qb

TDS-You already mentioned

WINS-Affected by the team you are on

YARDS PER COMPLETION/ATTEMPT-Greatly affected by WRS. Much easier to inflate when surrounded by HOF Talent like Rice or Harrison who can easily turn 10 yard passes into 70 yard tds.

(All could be argued too to be greatly altered by one's offensive line.)

*Therefore even though every stat can be criticized, they are often insightful when taken as a whole and combined with observation

46
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 9:21pm

All I know is that Bill Schroeder had a 1000 yard season playing with Favre. The next season Bill signed a free agent contract and Schroeder was a 4th receiver and the next year out of the league.

In 1998 the Packers went 11-5 with a starting running nack who gained less than 400 yards.

There are all kinds of oddities like this in Favre's career. Occam's Razor tells me that after awhile maybe the guy under center has something to do with all this stuff.

By the way, something totally overlooked is that Favre broke his thumb in the 1999 preseason and to help his new head coach played all season with a hand incapable of anything more than 80 percent of its normal grip. Favre's fumbles shot up after that season as his hand never healed properly.

Favre has two black marks on his record. Alienating Javon Walker by saying dumb things and not having sufficient self-discipline to not let Sherman refusing to hold him accountable affect his play. Favre got sloppy during the Sherman tenure. He is a grown-up. Favre should have resisted the urge to take the easy path.

After the 2004 season Favre had an awakenin and really shaped up both his conditioning and approach. But the talent level was so bad plus the coach was now feuding with the GM his hard work at first was for naught as his 2005 was dreadful.

Thanks to McCaerthy and Thompson Number 4 is finally getting a return on his investment. Who knows if his body will last?

47
by Mike W (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 9:27pm

Otis #44. 1) Erving's NBA MVP award was ridiculous. 2) Absolutely no way an NBA team wins a Championship with him as its best player. 3) He was basically a 20 and 7 player in the NBA, like a number of guys. He had good ballhandling ability for a SF, but was no Pippen type. He played average D. That's all-star, but not all-NBA level. Perhaps he was at a different level in the ABA; I can't say. I will guess that many (not you perhaps) who defend him didn't really see him pre-NBA either. I did witness the over-the-top worship of him for many years. It happens in sports. Look at Favre now, or Marino in his day, People forget, or just take the word of media shills and idiots.
If Dr J was an all-time great, it's either on the strength of his ABA exploits, (and he's the only guy for whom that is granted), or it's bull.

48
by Mike W (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 9:29pm

He could jam, though. I'll give him that.

49
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 10:13pm

#47, no offense but you are a fucking retard. He was basically a 20 and 7 player in the NBA, like a number of guys." He averaged 22 points per game during an 11 year NBA career which is dragged down significantly by lower scoring age 32-36 seasons. During his prime he led the ABA in scoring three times and finished top 10 in the NBA three times even though he didn't get there until he was 26. He finished first in the ABA in PER three years in a row and finished top 10 in the NBA in the same stat another 6 times (one first place finish, one second place finish). He finished first in the ABA in win shares three times and second in the NBA three times (another 2 top 10's as well). He is without a shadow of a doubt the best player in ABA history (and contrary to perception, the ABA was no league of scrubs) and only the criminally underrated Artis Gilmore is even in Erving's zip code. His 1981 MVP award was slightly dubious (in no way ridiculous). PER has him fifth for that season, win shares second, a whopping one win share behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In no way whatsoever did he play "average defense" either. Well maybe he did in his mid 30's but in his prime he racked up a ton of both steals and blocks and rebounded above average for a small forward. Maybe a team doesn't win a championship with him as it's best player although that's debatable. He was certainly the second best player on an all time great team. Besides how many players have been the undisputed best player on a championship team in the last 30 or so years? Moses Malone, Kareem, Magic, Bird, Shaq, MJ, Olajuwon and Tim Duncan. That's the list. Maybe he's not as good as any of those guys (my god, what a failure), but in no freaking way at all was he a run of the mill overrated allstar.

50
by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 10:17pm

Sunday, or perhaps next week or the week after, he will pass George Blanda for first place on the all-time interception list.

I would like to point out two things wrt Favre/Blanda:

1) Favre has thrown more than twice as many passes as Blanda, so it's not like he was being intercepted at a rate even remotely close to Blanda's.

2) George Blanda = First Ballot Hall of Famer. So, when people say, "He's almost thrown as many interceptions as George Blanda!!1!1" forgive me if I don't suddenly think Favre sucks just because he's had about as many passes intercepted as some guy who sucked so badly that he got into the HOF on his first shot. (And yes, I'm aware Blanda was also a kicker, but I have a sneaking suspicion that his kicking skills weren't what got him into the HOF).

-A truly great QB would have a much lower interception rate.

Favre's career interception rate is a little below 3.3%. While that's not particularly good, it's not terrible either. Dan Marino's interception rate is a bit higher than 3%, and he's widely considered one of the best QBs in NFL history. Ditto for Elway. Warren Moon had a higher interception rate than Favre. All three of those guys are First Ballot Hall of Famers, so I have a hard time believing none of them were truly great QBs.

-He’s been surrounded by great talent on both sides of the ball for the vast majority of his career.

Well, if there were all that talent on both sides of the ball, the Packers would probably consistently have a good defense, and the team would also have a good rush offense. Checking DVOA, the results are pretty good for the defense, and terrible for the rush offense.

The Packers have only had a positive rush offense DVOA three times in the last 11 years. Their defense has had a positive DVOA 9 times. Their pass offense, however, has been their most consistent unit over the last 11 years, with a positive DVOA 10 times.

So, in a nutshell, Favre has benefitted from playing with a good defense for the majority of his career, but on offense, when he's actually on the field, he's had little or no help from the running game. And he hasn't exactly had a stacked WR corps throughout his career, either.

-More than the average amount of his yards come from screens/flares and other high-YAC plays.

So? He's in an offense that uses passes in short yardage situations as a replacement for the run. You're not going to throw 50 yards downfield when it's 3rd-and-2 and a WR can get an easy first down with a screen. Most teams usually run the ball in situations like that, but the Packers haven't had a good running game since 2003 (and that was probably a fluke), so they pretty much have to pass more.

Seriously, screen passes are not bad plays.

51
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 10:39pm

#45: Interceptions, true. Yards and yards per pass attempt, not really. Touchdowns and interceptions bounce around a whole, whole lot - the number involved is too small, so situational bias is huge, just like TDs. Yards and yards per attempt have a much, much larger statistical sample.

With TDs, INTs, you can say "well, three of those INTs were fluke plays where the receiver literally tossed it at a defender" or "well, he should have more TDs, but.." With yards, you can't really. Garbage yards make up such a small sample of the total number of yards a team piles up over the year, that it just doesn't matter that much.

Manning's yards/attempt are 7.7+/-10% over his career. His TD and interception percentage bounce around by +/-30%. They're just not good measures of an individual player's ability.

52
by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 10:41pm

Jason, Marino didn't have better players than Favre. Nor did he have an "excellent" offensive line, as another poster states. He had good receivers (he always did) and good pass protecting offensive lines. And a great punter. That's it. The bare essentials. He never ever had a good running game, and he rarely had an above average defense. He was under tremendous pressure for the duration of his career, because whatever he did was all the team had. And opposing teams knew that (by pressure I don't mean a psychological thing, I mean that defenses would focus on stopping the passing game exclusively).

I just looked at the "vaunted" 1990 Dolphins, who went 12-4, the team I remember as the best they had excluding 83-84 (which i don't remember well). Their leading rusher had a 3.7 average and 831 yards (a career best). the defense was led by John Offerdahl and Jeff Cross (Offerdahl played all 16 games -the last time he would play more than 9 in a year, and Cross had 59.5 career sacks for the Fins, including a career best 11.5 that year). The rest of the guys were nobodys with career years, like David Griggs (5.5 of 14 career sacks that year), Jarvis Williams 5 of 16 career interceptions that year), E.J. Junior (6 of 18 sacks in his last 10 seasons that year), A. Oglesby (2.5 of 4 career sacks that year); oldies but goodies like the aging Cliff Odom (cut by Colts a year or so before), dangerous psychos, like Tim McKyer (remember him? good for a laugh... lasted 1 year in Miami... a good one, though), and unspectacular reliables such as Hugh Green, J.B. Brown, T.J. Turner and and Louis Oliver (some people think Oliver stood out a bit). Scared yet?

Well, that sorry team was the best the Dolphins ever had with Marino (with the aforementioned possible exceptions). The defense did a pretty good job in the regular season, then got hammered with 44 points by the Bills in the conference game. Then everyone followed their career path and that was it.
So let's put to rest that "better players" idea, please. It's amazing what Marino did with those teams, considering they were much closer to Archie's teams than Peyton's.

53
by Mike W (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:03pm

#49, first, we don't behave that way here, and second, I have a PhD and an IQ of 145, so bring it.

"which is dragged down significantly by lower scoring age 32-36 seasons." What, those years don't count because you don't want them to? We're talking all-time greats here. Guys in your list were winning championships (and being the best players on their teams) from 32-36.

"In no way whatsoever did he play “average defense� either. Well maybe he did in his mid 30’s but in his prime he racked up a ton of both steals and blocks and rebounded above average for a small forward." Yes, some steals and blocks, and again, average in his later years. He was quick and mobile, and wasn't indifferent defensively. And 'above average' isn't all-time great level.

"Maybe a team doesn’t win a championship with him as it’s best player although that’s debatable." How? How is that debatable? Are you going to tell me Malone wasn't the main guy on that Sixers team? Hell, Jones and the three guards were all excellent. That's a no doubter of a point, and the sine qua non of an all-time great.

"Besides how many players have been the undisputed best player on a championship team in the last 30 or so years? Moses Malone, Kareem, Magic, Bird, Shaq, MJ, Olajuwon and Tim Duncan. That’s the list. Maybe he’s not as good as any of those guys (my god, what a failure), but in no freaking way at all was he a run of the mill overrated allstar." But that's my point. Without giving him a huge amount of credit for the ABA years - and I agree it was a good league, but simply not on a par with the NBA - he's not in the very highest echelon. He was overrated, AND a solid all-star for many years. He was NOT one of the very best ever.

54
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:10pm

I didn't say Marino had better players around hm, but rather that he had better reveicers to throw to. Not sure about The O Lines but GBs were average at best for the majority of Favre's career *the only real good line GB had was the 2-3 year stretch with Wahle/Rivera when Green had good years) I doubt any GB Offensive Lineman even made the Pro Bowl Favre 1st 10-12 years in the league (Favre's main years) a claim likely few top qbs could claim

55
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:12pm

#53 Mike, you left Wade off of your list. Everyone knew Wade was the Clear Cut best player on Miami's team with an almost washed up O Neal as 2nd best

56
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:56pm

Jason:

Frank Winters made the Pro Bowl as a backup.

57
by flounder (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:01am

Re: 53 certainly the retard comment was uncalled for, but pulling out degrees and IQ scores just makes you look like a jackass.

58
by Mike W (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:10am

57 - yeah, actually I agree that was unnecessary and somewhat childish, and I'm feeling a bit sheepish about it, but if someone wants to take a gratuitous swing, would it be better to swing back in kind? Like maybe calling him a jackass? What would that make me look like? Thanks for the object lesson, flounder.

59
by FullMoonOverTulsa (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:18am

Mike W reports a PhD and a high IQ. Case closed.

60
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:52am

Mike W. First of all, sorry about the offensive comment above. You're right, that was not called for but I was in a bad mood at the time. Now as to your points. Your point about Erving's later years is reasonable. The point that I was trying to make is that a player's scoring average in his prime years is probably a better measure of his true ability than his career average (you might disagree). Also, apart from MJ those players were not the best players on championship teams from 32-36. Maybe Kareem was, but I think prime Magic was more valuable than aging Kareem, although he was still damn good. Anyway is this really the best measure of all time greatness? Either Ben Wallace or Chauncey Billups was the best player on a championship team after all.

“Maybe a team doesn’t win a championship with him as it’s best player although that’s debatable.� How? How is that debatable? Are you going to tell me Malone wasn’t the main guy on that Sixers team? Hell, Jones and the three guards were all excellent. That’s a no doubter of a point, and the sine qua non of an all-time great." No, Moses was certainly the man on that team. And yeah, other guys on that team were very good too. The fact that they had a lot of very good players made them an all time great team. My point was that just because he did not win a championship as the best player on his own team does not mean a team with Erving as its best player was incapable of winning a championship, which is what you stated in #47. Again, I'd certainly take Dr J in his prime over Chauncey Billups. This also goes for Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, etc.

"But that’s my point. Without giving him a huge amount of credit for the ABA years - and I agree it was a good league, but simply not on a par with the NBA - he’s not in the very highest echelon. He was overrated, AND a solid all-star for many years. He was NOT one of the very best ever." Well, if you'd just said that he was not as good as MJ etc, I wouldn't argue that. But your original post or two went a fair way past that. Seriously, Joe Namath?!?!?! As for "NOT one of the very best ever", well, where do you draw the line? Top 10 ever? Top 20? Top 50 or 100? I would say he is probably not top 10 but is strongly in the top 20.

61
by Mike W (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 1:15am

Duff, thanks for the reply, and sorry about the chest thumping. My bad.

The thing that gets me about Dr J is that people (perhaps not you) do often sneak him into the top 10 and I just don't see that at all. Also, people tend to retreat into on his ABA career which I agree counts, but for less than his defenders would like, and again, but I wonder how many of those people actually even saw him then.

I think being the best player on a Championship team is almost necessary, and nowhere near sufficient as a qualification to be among the best of the best. You could - perhaps - make a case for Pippen or McHale or Erving in spite of it (but you'd be widening the net), and as you point out, you can in no way put Billups or Dave Cowens or Jack Sikma (or who from the '79 Sonics?) in there because of it.

I guess I'd rank Erving a bit above the Mailman, a bit below Pippen, close to Ewing. Something like that. I wouldn't argue with you if you put him above all those guys. Maybe 25-30 overall. He was certainly a MUCH better forward than Namath was a QB, and I would rank him higher as a player than Namath as a QB. So not a great comparison on numeric terms; I was pointing to the casual introduction of them both as being considered for an all-time best list, which is commonly done for both of them. Namath is more egregious than Erving to be sure.

Ok, can we get back to arguing about Favre? That was fun for a while. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

62
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 1:39am

Yeah I forgot about Winters.

So basically during his entire prime Favre only had 1 lineman (a center) make the Pro Bowl (and only 1 time at that - 96) and he wasn't even originally on the team but instead later added as an alternate.

Favre's Career

Winters (96)
Rivera (02,03,04)
Flanagan (03)

Marino's Career

Kuechenberg (83)
Newman (83, 84) Stephenson (83,84,85,86,87) Foster (85,86)
Webb (90,91,92,93,94,95,96) Sims (93,94)

-Favre played with 3 Pro Bowl Linemen who combined for 5 Total Pro Bowls

Marino played with
6 Pro Bowl Linemen for 19 Total Pro Bowls

63
by PackMan (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 2:10am

62.
Not that it makes that much difference, but Wahle should have made at least one or two probowls in the '01-'04 range.

64
by kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 2:53am

Re #15: -For example the year they got destroyed by SF in the Super Bowl they had the top ranked defense in the league that year. Not sure how having a top defense indicates him doing it all himself

And the other two superbowl appearances in the '80s came with defenses ranked 21st and 9th. It's not like having a good defense one year totally invalidates the point that he took some pretty mediocre-or-worse teams to the big game. ESPN ranked all 80 superbowl teams in history after SBXL, and two of the three Denver teams from the 80s were in the bottom 10 (and Elway himself was probably the only think keeping them from being bottom 3).

John Elway didn't play with a pro bowl receiver until his 13th season in the league. His running game was ATROCIOUS- in fact, if you remove Elway's own rushing yardage, the 1980s Denver Broncos averaged as many rushing yards per season as Dan Marino's "Imagine if he only had a running game" Dolphins. In his first 12 years with the Broncos, Elway's offensive teammates accounted for 10 total pro bowls (7 in his first decade). In his first dozen season, Denver's defense ranked 18th on average (out of 28 teams), finishing in the bottom 10 eight times compared to three finishes in the top 10. And despite this, Elway made three superbowls (versus just 2 losing seasons), and had a 65+% winning percentage during that span.

Re #52: Jason, Marino didn’t have better players than Favre. Nor did he have an “excellent� offensive line, as another poster states. He had good receivers (he always did) and good pass protecting offensive lines. And a great punter. That’s it. The bare essentials. He never ever had a good running game, and he rarely had an above average defense. He was under tremendous pressure for the duration of his career, because whatever he did was all the team had. And opposing teams knew that (by pressure I don’t mean a psychological thing, I mean that defenses would focus on stopping the passing game exclusively).

Meh, Marino was no Jim Kelly, but he had plenty of offensive talent around him. In his first two seasons in the league, he had 3 pro-bowl WRs and 5 pro-bowl OLs. That's more pro bowl offensive help than Elway had in his first decade in the league. Over his first four seasons, he had 6 pro-bowl WRs and 9 pro-bowl OLs- that's almost 4 a season. In his first 12 years with the dolphins, he had 10 pro-bowl WRs, 15 pro-bowls OLs, and 3 pro-bowl TEs. That's 28 pro bowl teammates on offense, or FOUR TIMES as many as Elway had. He had an embarassment of riches when it came to talent at the positions that directly impact passing performance (WRs, OLs, TEs)... and as I said, his running game was really no worse than Denver's (the difference in yardage was the result of Elway's scrambling), and his defense was 1 or 2 ranks behind Denver's, on average.

65
by D (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 2:56am

I must I say while he was not as good as Farve, Jim Kelly was better than Aikman, Bradshaw, and Namath.

66
by Jim G (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 2:58am

"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."

I'm very surprised to find such a false critique of any pre-1980s QB here of all places.

John Unitas, hailed as "the best ever" just below, had multiple All-Pro years with negative or even TD/pick ratios. That's how the game was played back before the rule changes that hyped the passing game, boosted the completion rates and slashed the number of picks.

Comapring the interception rate of a QB of today with that of a QB of that era is just a plain howler.

As to Namath, and what seems to be the consenus around here that it might even be a joke that Namath is mentioned on the list at all, I'll just note that Bill Walsh called Namath "the perfect passer" (and was first attracted to Joe Montana when Montana's footwork reminded him of Namath's) ... Vince Lombardi called Namath the best passer he had ever seen (and on his death bed cried out about Namath,"You are not bigger than football") ... and John Madden has said Namath is the QB who put the most fear into defenses of any QB he has ever seen, and named Namath to his "Top 10" (not top 20) All Time team (with peers dating back to Sammy Baugh).

I dunno, maybe Walsh, Lombardi and Madden were insufficiently impressed by statistics comaparing non-comparable statistical eras.

Another very basic omission of the whole discussion is the difference between ranking players by peak value and career value -- if you don't make that clear then endless argument will never be resolved. E.g., in baseball among Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, the "best" player is very clearly Mickey Mantle by peak value, while he is just as clearly the least player by career value.

By career value, Namath may not even belong on a top 100 list, due to his gruesome series of injuries that limited him to about four good years. Testeverde might have more career value. But at his peak, as the three coaches said, he was up right at the top with anybody.

67
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 4:07am

"In his first dozen season, Denver’s defense ranked 18th on average (out of 28 teams), finishing in the bottom 10 eight times compared to three finishes in the top 10. And despite this, Elway made three superbowls (versus just 2 losing seasons), and had a 65+% winning percentage during that span."

This is largely attributable to the fact that almost all of the power in the NFL during the 80s and early to mid 1990s was in the NFC. His Broncos teams might not have been great but he benefitted from playing in a conference that was far inferior at the time. This was demonstarted time after time in the Super Bowl. If Denver had been in the NFC Elway wouldn't have even sniffed the SB until his last 2 years. Likewise if Den had played in the NFC his win % would have been far lower (imagine if they were in the NFC East at that time).

(A similar thing happened in the NBA this last year. Lebron lead a highly flawed team to the Finals. Once they got there they predictably got destroyed. If the Cavs had been in the West they wouldn't have even gotten out of the 1st Round.)

68
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 4:57am

Jim G., as someone who has previously said that Namath is in the HOF in large part due to reporters having a conversation with him poolside, playing in New York, and a terrible performance by Earl Morrall, I appreciate your remarks about the quality of Namath's best seasons. I gues my major objection to Namath could be said about Sayers as well; I just don't think four great years is enough.

69
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 5:04am

Also, to emphasize again the extreme player interdependence in football, I'll rephrase something that caused some consternation the last time I posted it: Switch Bradshaw's and Archie Manning's birthdays, and thus the teams they were drafted by, and Archie Manning likely is in the HOF, with people arguing whether his son is as good as he is, and Bradshaw is simply seen as guy who had a lot of talent coming out of college, but never got much of a chance to do anything with it.

70
by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:04pm

Still, Jason, Kibbles, the fact is those offensive linemen, probowls and all, couldn't run block at all... that's Webb, Simms and Foster I'm talking about. Many people thought they made it to the probowl more on reputation than anything else.

Still, I'm really interested in your last point Kibbles. I know Denver didn't score many points in general in those Super Bowl teams, so I have no reason to disagree about the running game (though there was at least Bobby Humphries (sic) that I remember), but I'm pretty sure I remember Denver's defenses were among the very best in the conference when they made it to those Super Bowls. I don't know where to look for those kinds of stats. Can anyone check on that?

Ok, I looked points scored against. Now, there are several ways to look at this, but on average, the Dolphins allowed about 16 more points a season over that span of time. More importantly, the only really good Dolphin defensive efforts were in 83 (rooky year) 90 (44 points to the Bills in playoffs) and 98, the year they finally got past the Bills, only to land in the Broncos lap (38-3 is how bad the Broncos got them). The Broncos best efforts came in 89 (no playoff meltdown for that D as they got to the Super Bowl), 84 (only second year in the league... too bad it wasn't for Marino), 91 (lost 10-7 to the Bills... can't blame the D). 96-98 were decent efforts (as were the other 2 Super Bowl years, especially 87), but the real difference was the offense, which scored almost as many points as the 84 Fins. The reason? A running game (but what a running game).

These are the very limited facts I could gather. Apparently, the biggest advantage the Broncos had was to play the Browns, who had maybe a better 87 team than the Broncos and Marty Schottenheimer (for good or for worse) and that's it. The 86 Browns were nothing special, and the Broncos beat them in the playoffs (while the Dolphins were giving up more than 400 points to the opposition). The good Fin teams had to go against the very good Bill teams. I would have to give credit to Elway for outscoring the 87 Browns to get to the Super Bowl, but in general, those early Super Bowl teams benefited from good defenses (though nothing special) and a lack of strong competition, or (89) a very good defensive effort (14.1 points a game).

I tried to be fair, so there you have it. Oh, and it's true that, except for Bobby Humphrey in 89 and 90, the Bronco's running game was comparable to the Fins'... a real zero.

71
by Mike W (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:06pm

Good points about Namath, I'll admit. The peak vs career issue is particularly on point as regards Namath as well. I'm wary of the argument-from-authority angle though, as hyperbole runs rampant when people are asked to pontificate. Madden in particular - I remember one Dallas game during which he spoke of not one or two but three (yes, three) Cowboy offensive linemen as the best lineman in the NFL. Still, have to give some credence to the idea that for a while Namath was very very good.

As for peak vs career, I think we have to shade things quite a bit toward career value. As with baseball players, it's almost impossible to have a long career without being outstanding for at least a few years. Conversely, there are a number of QBs that had a few big years as part of otherwise undistinguished careers - QBs that none of us would want to admit into the discussion. It's too easy to find them, and even harder to rank them due to less data.

72
by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:13pm

"That span of time" being 83-98. I guess Jason said it best when he said the AFC was crap. But still the Bills (the opponent of the Fins' decent teams), were much better than the Browns (the opponent of the Broncos' decent teams). It's odd when you look at it this way, to see how sometimes being good and playing against good is much better than being very good and playing against excellent.

73
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:25pm

I will never understand the lack of love for Aikman.
He made very good decisions, didn't throw many int's, and was uncannily accurate.
In his prime he would just routinely outplay Favre and Kelly.
If you want to say Favre is better cause he played in so many consecutive games fine, I agree.
That is amazing.
Aikman didn't really make amazing plays, just one good play after the next

74
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 1:22pm

I think Aikman was a great qb. I also think he was aided by a dominant defense, dominant offensive line, and the running back who rushed for more yards than any other back in NFL history. In other words, especially in regards to the rushing offense, he had superior help surrounding him a good portion of the time, which is no criticism of Aikman, but explains why some might see another qb performance, without benefit of the NFL's all time rushing leader in the backfield, as being more impressive, especially if Aikman didn't play as long.

75
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 1:39pm

Aikman's interception rate isn't all that great by HOF standards. Yes, it is better than Favre's, but higher than Steve Young's. It is interesting to note that Mark Brunell, who is not going to get to the HOF, has put up some big career numbers, with a fabulously low interception rate of .023. There's a qb who might be underrated.

76
by Rick (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 1:51pm

I take issue with the concept that "staying healthy is a skill". True that maintaining one's overall, general, health is a skill. But you can't avoid accidents. I maintain my health tremendously well. I'm at my right weight, eat well, and while I could work out more I'm in great shape.
Yet I've fallen victim to accidents that had nothing to do with maintaining health. A torn ligament due to a slip, a busted elbow due to a fall, etc. In football, it isn't maintaining health that's a skill - many do that very well. It's the fact they get out there when they are badly injured. McNabb playing with a sports hernia (not the best idea in the world), TO playing with a broken finger last year (again, very questionable decision), etc. When they don't aggravate the injury further, we give them credit for "being tough". When they aggravate it, we "have to question their decisions".
It's a double edged sword.

Given the physical nature of football, the fact that Favre hasn't spent any time on the bench says more about his willingness to play through nagging injuries, which is hardly a positive trait, in my estimation. If he were to aggravate something and miss a season, then we'd all call him stupid. He's just lucky he either didn't have a nagging injury, in which case I'd say he didn't put himself out on the line enough, thus possibly costing the team a few games, or he just got lucky and didn't aggravate minor injuries he had....which again implies he may not have played to his fullest.

That said, Favre is a great talent. I don't think staying healthy is what made him great. Staying healthy certainly helped his records because he got more playing time. But it's hardly something to applaud him for doing.

77
by Fire Millen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 1:53pm

Fran Trankenton was the player I loved to hate the most. The things he could do by himself were just remarkable, but why did he have to do them to my Lions. Without a doubt the best/most effective scrambler of all time. I remember seeing him scramble and seemingly make each DL miss him twice and then heave a perfect wobbler for a 20 yard gain. Favre is IMHO a top ten QB among the those I have seen play (since late 60's)

78
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 2:03pm

Rick, there some value to what you say, but your post seems to imply that all NFL qb's have equally durable bodies, that is, that they are equal in their chances of being injured while playing, assuming their bodies are subjected to the same physical forces. I see no reason to think that this is true, anymore than it is true that they are equal in arm strength or foot speed.

Yes, there is an inherent random factor in injuries, but it is not completely random. I think it likely that some bodies are more durable, and the decisions a qb makes on the field will affect the odds of catastrophic injury. I suspect that nearly any qb who decided to take on multiple tacklers in the manner that Daunte Culpepper did, when he shredded his knee, greatly incarease his odds of catastrophic injury, so it is not inaccurate to say that there is a skill set, along with genetically determined physical properties, which also greatly affects durability.

79
by Bill Barnwell :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 3:00pm

I just wanted to add:

- It made me happy to see that little flame war up there end itself. Sometimes, I'm proud of you guys.

- I'm pretty sure Chmura's career ending because of statutory rape charges has nothing to do with Sterling Sharpe's turf toe. But hey, maybe.

80
by Mike W (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 3:19pm

I thought Aikman was a guy with incredibly well-defined strengths and weaknesses. He was extremely accurate, and moreover threw mostly intermediate and deep balls. That's the most important thing a QB can do - hit guys in the chest with regularity. However, he had probably the best OL in history. He wasn't elusive; in fact later in his career, probably because he never had to learn to move around, he just sat back like a statue, and wound up with an impressive concussion collection. He was a phenomenal passer, but he had the best situation imaginable, and may not have adapted well to more difficult situations. Still, Dallas was lucky to have him.

It's seems many people often fail to notice how one guy can throw maybe two or three bad, uncatchable balls all game, and another guy can throw 10 or more. Asking them to notice that an Aikman or Montana is more accurate still, and hits most receivers in stride, in the chest, while other QBs just get it in the vicinity, is wishful thinking. That has a big impact on YAC, which I think QBs should get full points for.

81
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 3:39pm

To revist the Namath thing, it's pretty hard to be a supporter of the idea that Namath is a worthy HOFer without also being a supporter of the same honor being given to Kurt Warner.

82
by kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 9:08pm

Re #67: This is largely attributable to the fact that almost all of the power in the NFL during the 80s and early to mid 1990s was in the NFC. His Broncos teams might not have been great but he benefitted from playing in a conference that was far inferior at the time. This was demonstarted time after time in the Super Bowl. If Denver had been in the NFC Elway wouldn’t have even sniffed the SB until his last 2 years. Likewise if Den had played in the NFC his win % would have been far lower (imagine if they were in the NFC East at that time).

(A similar thing happened in the NBA this last year. Lebron lead a highly flawed team to the Finals. Once they got there they predictably got destroyed. If the Cavs had been in the West they wouldn’t have even gotten out of the 1st Round.)

Oh, yes, clearly if the NFC wins the superbowl it must be the better conference... despite the fact that the AFC had a winning record against the NFC in the 1980s. But hey, if only one team in the NFC had a winning record, and that team won the superbowl, it must be clear evidence that the NFC is superior to the AFC, right?

The teams at the top of the NFC might have been better than the teams at the top of the AFC, but the teams at the bottom of the AFC were better than the teams at the bottom of the NFC. If you want to say that Elway wouldn't have 3 SB appearances if he was in the NFC, that's fine... but his winning percentage would have been the same no matter which conference he was in. Fewer tough games in the AFC, but a lot fewer gimmes, too.

But hey, if you want to continue judging a conference based entirely on who wins the superbowl, be my guest.

Re #70: Still, Jason, Kibbles, the fact is those offensive linemen, probowls and all, couldn’t run block at all… that’s Webb, Simms and Foster I’m talking about. Many people thought they made it to the probowl more on reputation than anything else.

Still, I’m really interested in your last point Kibbles. I know Denver didn’t score many points in general in those Super Bowl teams, so I have no reason to disagree about the running game (though there was at least Bobby Humphries (sic) that I remember), but I’m pretty sure I remember Denver’s defenses were among the very best in the conference when they made it to those Super Bowls. I don’t know where to look for those kinds of stats. Can anyone check on that?

Hmmm... a dominant passblocking OLine with little runblocking skills and no real RBs? Perhaps Marino's amazing numbers had less to do with how good of a passer he was and more to do with how the fact that every single element on that team was pretty much totally designed to get him insane numbers. I still believe that if you give Elway Marino's 1980s teammates, then Favre would be breaking HIS record for passing yardage right now.

As for Denver's defense... check out www.pro-football-reference.com. According to conventional NFL stats, Denver's defense ranked 15th in points allowed and 21st in yards allowed in 1986 (and remember, this is out of 28 teams, so both of those are bottom 50%). In 1987, they ranked 7th in points and 9th in yards, which is good, but hardly spectacular (good for an average rank of 8th, which is what Indy's defense was ranked last season, so I don't think it's unfair to say that Denver's defense in '87 was only as good as Indy's last year, which is hardly a ringing endorsement). In 1989, though, Denver's defense was legitimately awesome- 1st in points, 3rd in yards.

Re #72: “That span of time� being 83-98. I guess Jason said it best when he said the AFC was crap.

That "crap" conference had a 50% winning percentage against the "awesome" NFC during that span.

83
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 9:56pm

"Denver’s defense ranked 15th in points allowed in 1986"

In 1986 they allowed the 4th fewest points in the AFC and were only 2 points away from having 1 of the AFC's top defenses in terms of points.

In 1987 they allowed the 3rd fewest points in tha AFC.

I'd say Elway received alot of help on his teams. Having essentially a Top 3 defense within your conference is far from doing it all by yourself.

" the teams at the top of the AFC, but the teams at the bottom of the AFC were better than the teams at the bottom of the NFC."

All that mainly matters is which conference is dominant at the top. This year if the AFC has the Best 5 teams and teams 22-32 and the NFC has the teams ranked 6-21 few people would consider the the NFC the stronger conference.

In 1986 and 1987 it is highly likely Denver doesn;t even get to the 2nd round much less the SB if placed in the NFC. In 1989 they likely would have not even gotten to the NFC title game, where if they had we say what happened vs SF.

*So in Conculsion during Elway's 3 SB seasons in the 80's he had a Top 4 defense in the AFC, a Top 3 defense in the AFC and the top defense in the NFL

(I am going by points over yards since yards are next to meaningless)

84
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 11:30pm

(good for an average rank of 8th, which is what Indy’s defense was ranked last season, so I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Denver’s defense in ‘87 was only as good as Indy’s last year, which is hardly a ringing endorsement).

Huh? Indy was 23rd in points against and 17th in yards against, for an average rank of 20th, which doesn't do justice to their suckage because they had very few plays run against them. This year, they're ranked 11th in points against and 5th in yards against, which is pretty consistent with their ranking of 5th in VOA after 3 games.

85
by Jim G (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 12:42am

To revist the Namath thing, it’s pretty hard to be a supporter of the idea that Namath is a worthy HOFer without also being a supporter of the same honor being given to Kurt Warner

If one takes "fame" out of HoF so it becomes a Hall of Statistical Measures, yes.

Namath and Ali were the bigger-than-sports sports figures of the 1960s, and Namath's fame had a material effect on the development of football. Sonny Werblin, who had been a top talent agent in Hollywood and its #1 television deal maker, as general partner of the Jets and the AFL's deal-maker used Namath's contract, personality, 4,000-yard season (long before anyone else had one), et al., as a key element in revolutionizing sports marketing in a way that got the AFL the television contracts, fan support and credibility that enabled it to become the only upstart league to ever successfully challenge the NFL -- literally changing the shape of football in the merger. That was all well before SB III, and Namath's winning football's most famous game ever in a "call his shot" manner, which was only a capper to it all.

One qualification to get into a Hall of Fame is frankly to be famous for something significant in the development of your sport (something good, not throwing a world series) which is why non-players can get in. Namath and Warner may have similar stat lines, but on the fame line Warner has zero to match Namath,

It's very hard to imagine Vince Lombardi ever having such angst about Kurt Warner becoming "bigger than the game". Stat lines don't show history.

86
by kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 12:48am

Re #83: All that mainly matters is which conference is dominant at the top. This year if the AFC has the Best 5 teams and teams 22-32 and the NFC has the teams ranked 6-21 few people would consider the the NFC the stronger conference.

No, all that mainly matters is *NOT* who is dominant at the top. Tell me, who would you rather have your team face- New England 4 times and then Buffalo 12 times, or Baltimore 16 times? I'd imagine any team would compile a much better winning% against the first schedule than the second. In terms of playoffs and superbowls, yes, all that matters is how strong the conference is at the top (because the playoffs are essentially just a new season with only the top teams)... but in terms of overall winning%, the bottom of the conference matters just as much as the top, and from top to bottom, the AFC was every bit as good as the NFC.

Besides, most of the time people make the argument that Elway carried mediocre teams to championships, they're comparing him to guys like Dan Marino (who played in the same conference, so relative strength of conference is irrelevant) or Brett Favre (who has played the last half of his career in an NFC which is far more inferior to the AFC than the AFC has ever been to the NFC, and has no championship appearances during that span).

Re #83: (I am going by points over yards since yards are next to meaningless)

Oh?

First off, going off of points is a horrible method because how many points a team gives up is as much a factor of offense and special teams as it is of defense. I'm reminded of the 2003 StL/Balt game where StL managed just 157 yards of offense, but scored 33 points because Baltimore turned the ball over 7 times. If you pay attention, you'll notice a very strong correlation between average drive start and points scored, and a defense has little to no control over where the opposing offense starts with the ball. I'm not saying that yards allowed is not a flawed statistic, too, but at least a defense can only give up yards while it's on the field. Besides, field position is fluid- a defense that gives up very few yards results in better field position and more scoring for the offense. I really think the best (non-DVOA) way to evaluate a defense is to look at a combination of points and yards allowed.

If you want some support for the idea that yards are not "next to meaningless"... the top 5 defenses this season in terms of yards allowed are ranked 2nd, 1st, 4th, 7th, and 5th in defensive VOA (avg: 3.8). The top 5 defenses this season in terms of points allowed are 1st, 17th, 2nd, 6th, and 3rd (avg: 5.8). Yards allowed correlates with defensive success far too much to be dismissed as meaningless.

Re #84: Huh? Indy was 23rd in points against and 17th in yards against, for an average rank of 20th, which doesn’t do justice to their suckage because they had very few plays run against them. This year, they’re ranked 11th in points against and 5th in yards against, which is pretty consistent with their ranking of 5th in VOA after 3 games.

Yup, you're right, I was looking at this year's rankings.

87
by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 1:09am

Yeah, the NFC had all of the best teams, but also all of the worst. Hence the interconference games thing going the AFC's way. It's hard to argue against the fact that the NFC was way better, especially considering that they won every single Super Bowl for years on end, even when the favorite was upset during the playoffs, like in 89(?) when the Giants beat a great 49er team and eventually beat the Bills in the SB (though the Bills probably deserved to win... it was close anyway).

Again, kibbles, Dan had receivers and lineman who could protect him, but nothing else. It's harder to succeed when the defense knows what's coming every single play, especially when you need to score so many points to just have a chance to win. No QB who has absolutely nothing around him can achieve any degree of success, no matter how good he is. Now the Marks brothers were better than the 3 Amigos, but there's a reason those guys had a cool nickname... and there's strength in numbers too.

But I don't even remember what we were originally arguing about... wasn't it Favre-Marino? How come it came to Elway-Marino? I'm going out on a limb and say that, if it's #1, MVPs are not a good point of comparison, since the voting is so subjective and greatly influenced by W-L records.

88
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 2:37am

#85, I really don't like the "it's the hall of FAME, not the hall of accomplishments" line. If that's the case why not just call it the Hall of Hype or the Hall of "well TV announcers and journalists say this guy is good and who are we to disagree"?

89
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 2:43am

"No, all that mainly matters is *NOT* who is dominant at the top"

It does when speaking about which conference is easier to get to the Super Bowl from. People like to point how Elway was able to drag inferior teams to the playoffs (which isn;t even true due to the defenses he had).

You would be hard pressed to find many people who would not say the AFC was FAR easier than the NFC to get to the SUper Bowl from.

"or Brett Favre (who has played the last half of his career in an NFC which is far more inferior to the AFC than the AFC has ever been to the NFC)"

This is not true either. In terms of Favre's career in GB, the NFC dominated the AFC from basically 1992-2001. In 97 GB was a 14 point favorite due ot the dominance of the NFC and were then upset. In 1998 the power was basically evenly divided. In 1999 and 2001 the NFC was dominant which is why STL was a gigantic favorite. In 2002 it was pretty evenly split as well.
So in reality the AFC has been dominant from 2003-2007, hardly half of Favre's career

90
by Alex (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 2:59am

“No, all that mainly matters is *NOT* who is dominant at the top�

It does when speaking about which conference is easier to get to the Super Bowl from.

No, it doesn't. In order to get to the Super Bowl, you have to get to the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs is a lot harder when you face more quality opponents.

91
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 4:37am

"No, it doesn’t. In order to get to the Super Bowl, you have to get to the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs is a lot harder when you face more quality opponents. "

If your entire goal is to get to the Super Bowl, I would MUCH rather play in a conference where many teams are decent than in a Conference with 3-5 amazing teams.

In a conference with 3-5 amazing teams, at best your team is looking at having to win 3 games in the playoffs, with 2 on the road against vastly superior teams.

In a conference where almost all of the teams are "decent" it MIGHT be harder to make the playoffs themselves but advancing through the 2-3 rounds in the Conference are significantly easier. Also without dominant teams it means 2 "decent" teams by definition will be set up with a bye and home field thereby boosting their chances of making the SB.

92
by JeffW (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 6:23am

Basically a puff piece... very disappointed at the lack of objectivity.

"Favre already has almost twice as many interceptions as Montana had in his career."

Are you kidding me? This is very low level analysis. At the very least, compare the interception rates(3.3% for Favre vs. 2.6% for Montana).

93
by ammek (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 7:13am

The question of "dominating an era" and of Favre's multiple MVPs has arisen.

Favre is the ONLY hall-of-fame standard quarterback of his vintage. Between Aikman (drafted in 89, career cut short) and Manning (98) there was a QB famine. Favre, who is a great player, is perhaps slightly over-rated (and over-fêted) by default. Example: the rivalries and interminable debates of Marino-Montana, Elway-Young, Brady-Manning. Who would you compare with Favre? Brad Johnson? Drew Bledsoe?

From about 1996 to the emergence of the Manning-McNabb generation, Favre really had the position to himself.

And in all the discussion about Favre's weapons, I think the value of excellent pass-catching RBs (Levens, Henderson, Green) and TEs (Chmura, Jackson) has been overlooked. Oh, and he had a coach who wasn't Dan Reeves or Wade Phillips.

94
by RickD (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 9:01am

This article's argument about Ken Anderson is baffling. Dismissing Anderson because the Bengals' "had a passing attack that was so far ahead of the rest of the league" is like dismissing OJ Simpson as a running back because the Bills had a running attack that was so far ahead of the league. OK, not exactly, but you get the point. After citing a relevant statistic, accuracy, you just throw away all analysis and say Favre would have thrived under a Bill Walsh system.

Uh, right. Not exactly the most rigorous of arguments.

And I have very little to say about Namath other than:
"in Namath's entire career, he had just two seasons in which he threw more touchdowns than interceptions." So why the hell would he be on anybody's list of the best QBs ever?

On the whole, I would have preferred to see a bit more depth to the arguments. How does one "objectively" compare Favre to Montana, Elway, and Marino? (Not to mention Baugh, Unitas, Starr or Graham.) Judging on the QBs I've seen play (and excluding Manning and Brady), I would say that on talent alone, Favre was a top 10 QB, and on accomplishments definitely a top 5, with players like Aikman and Young falling by the wayside because of shorter careers. Among those groups, it's very hard for me to differentiate. I used to be off the mind that Marino was light years beyond Elway, whom I always viewed as overrated, but then Elway kept his game at a high level in the last few years of his career, while Marino seriously dropped off at the end.

95
by Alex (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 2:17pm

Favre is the ONLY hall-of-fame standard quarterback of his vintage. Between Aikman (drafted in 89, career cut short) and Manning (98) there was a QB famine. Who would you compare with Favre? Brad Johnson? Drew Bledsoe?

Steve McNair, but even then, it's not that much of a contest.

96
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 3:14pm

"Favre is the ONLY hall-of-fame standard quarterback of his vintage"

This is not true at all. Young and Aikman both enjoyed their best years while Favre was entering his prime, and then from the late 90s to now there has been Manning and McNabb

97
by stan (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 5:50pm

I don't mind a subjective take. Stats are so dependent on protection, receivers, running game, even the quality of your defense. Arguments based on stats may seem more objective, but that's only an illusion.

The Packers under Lombardi won with defense and the running game. Starr was never considered the linchpin of his team. Same with Bradshaw. One of the Steeler Super Bowl years had him on the bench for five games in favor of Joe Gilliam.

If you want to make any kind of sound evaluations of QBs, you have to know what kind of protection they generally got, how open their receivers generally were, and how much their offense and their team required them to produce in order to win.

The great QBs make everyone around them look better. They raise the level of play of their teammates. Tarkenton did this as well as anyone. Manning does it today (perhaps better than any QB ever).

Be careful comparing how many Pro Bowlers a QB played with. Were the other players pro bowl quality without the QB? Or did he put them in the pro bowl? [Not trying to start an argument here, but Tarik Glenn and Jeff Saturday may be the best examples of this ever.]

98
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 10:39pm

No way is Favre better than Young. Young in his prime repeatedly passed for 8.5+ yards per attempt. That's basically unique to him. Manning averages around 7.7, and most Hall of Fame level quarterbacks fall into the 7.0 to 7.7 yards/attempt range. (Favre is on the very low end of this range.)

Steve Young's passing productivity is such an extreme outlier, even among Hall of Fame QBs, that he has to be considered one of the top five of all time. And that's not even considering that he's also one of the all-time leaders in QB rushing yards.

99
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 12:02am

"No way is Favre better than Young. Young in his prime repeatedly passed for 8.5+ yards per attempt"

What a shock, playing with amazing offensive talent and great coaches all around him Young was able to put up great numbers.

100
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 12:08am

Peyton Manning has all that, and he's only a 7.7 y/a passer. Joe Montana had all that, and he was a 7.5 y/a passer.

Brett Favre's problem is that he's closer to Drew Bledsoe in career yards/attempt than he is to the legitimate top five-type greats. Meanwhile, nobody, with the lone exception of Johnny Unitas, approached Young's efficiency as a passer.

101
by MC2 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 1:17am

#73: I think the thing with Aikman is that he put up merely good (but not great) numbers, even though he was surrounded by one of the greatest collections of talent ever (including 4 or 5 HOF-caliber players on the offense alone). Of course, that's not his fault, but it does tend to detract somewhat from his accomplishments, especially considering that when he was not surrounded by so much talent (at the very beginning and the very end of his career), his numbers were pretty bad. I still consider him to be a very good QB, but not quite on the same level as the other guys we've been discussing (besides Namath).

102
by MC2 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 1:24am

#81: I agree with your point about Namath vs. Warner. I would also add that in order to be consistent, those who rank Gale Sayers as one of the greatest RBs of all time should say the same about Terrell Davis, and maybe Priest Holmes as well. But I doubt that will happen. Certain players from the past seem destined to be forever romanticized, while many of their less flashy counterparts are all but ignored.

103
by Shawn (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 1:50am

The big problem with rating Young ahead of Favre is this:

Young was never able to defeat Favre in head to head games.

He was 1-8 against Favre lifetime (maybe 1-7) and the one win was in a playoff game, where the 49ers won because a referee "accidentally" blew a play dead with a Jerry Rice fumble about to be picked up and returned for a touchdown in the open field. That was the game that spawned Terrell Owens.

As for Elway and his "hall of fame wideouts", Favre never had a HoF wide receiver either. I would put Favre ahead of both, but I don't think he's the "greatest" ever, either.

104
by D (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 2:27am

#100

Actually Graham put up efficiency numbers (specifically Y/A and passer rating) that look great by todays standards even though he played in a far less passer friendly environment.

105
by t.d. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 4:55am

Marino is overrated in these discussions because it was obvious so early in his career that he was one of the all-time greats. He was incredible for about four years, and then 'just another guy' for about a decade. They do seem really similar, but Favre did more with less.

106
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 11:07am

Re 18

How do you say Favre has been surrounded by great talent? I mean, they've been good, but it's not like favre has had great receivers to throw to his entire career. And Reggie White retired awhile ago.

I don't see how anyone can say he's a 'good' QB... look at his career numbers compared to other 'great' QBs... he stacks up. He's got the stats, the awards AND the rings.

107
by gasman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 11:56am

Aikman, not Namath is the one who does not belong on this list. He is Bob Griese revisisted, with the exceptions that he played for Americas team, didn't wear goofy glasses and was the first player drafted. Most over-rated player ever.

Elway's accomplishments in the 1980s are perhaps the closest thing I have seen to a one man team winning a championship. Elway's ability to will his team to a victory that his team did not deserve to win are unlike anything I have seen.

Fortunately he was able to vindicate himself with the Shanahan/Davis SB teams, but it was his accomplishments in the 80s that put him above Favre and most others on this list.

108
by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 12:31pm

Re 85:
Why does this so-called Hall contain rooms? Where's the Fridge and Leon Lett?

109
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 12:57pm

"Young was never able to defeat Favre in head to head games"

Thats the dumbest argument I've ever heard. There are 22 men on a football field.

110
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 2:43pm

#32, 79: The injuries (and other circumstances) that consistently hurt Favre's receivers are easily explained, actually. Favre siphons off their life force for his own needs, eventually leaving them crumpled in piles on the field while he starts another consecutive game.

111
by John Kim (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 3:14pm

Wait, no actual comparison to Blanda? Despite Blanda basically being Brett Favre's gunslinging predecessor?

Brett Favre is basically George Blanda transplanted by about 20-30 years.
(And I don't mean this in the numbers sense, before any of you go crazy on me for saying that)

112
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 4:18pm

Re: Elway

From my perception and in watching football the past 25 years, Elway is the best QB I've ever seen, with Montana next (made it look so easy), then Young (similar to Elway, but less longetivity), then Marino (amazing pure passer), then Farve (great all around). All were great, and would be successful in whatever system they were in.

Marino 100% pass-oriented system. Montana, Young, and Farve were in "West Coast"-ish, pass friendly systems as well. Yes, Marino & Farve may have had similarly crappy players around them, but system-wise (in terms of putting up stats) they were light years ahead of Elway.

Elway put up much of stats under Dan Reeves, basically running the same offense as the Cowboys of the 1970s... I would yell repeatedly at the TV as Reeves ran Sammy Winder (who? exactly.) into the line on 1st and 2nd down, only letting Elway throw once it hit 3rd and long, unless it was too long and then we'd get a draw play. It was like playing with Herm as your coach, except with a crappy RB.

Not sure how he compares, but to see similar numbers in a system, Elway needs to be compared to Roger Staubach in the mid70s (who had better supporting talent), not any peers from the 1980s...

Elway was pretty much out of his prime by the time Shanahan arrived and finally instituted a passer friendly system... it revitalized Elway (along with finally getting a decent RB in Davis...) and allowed him to put up those good final seasons as Marino, etc. tailed off. By then he was however, just a shell of the QB he was in the 80s... its scary how good his numbers would've been with a Shanny offense in the 1980s.

As a note: Shanahan/Elway's "rebellion" against Reeves' stupid play-calling is what originally had Shanny run out of Denver.

I subjectively would guess that Elway in his prime in the systems Montana/ Marino/ Young/ Farve were in could have consistently put up 4000 yards & 30-40 TDs a season as opposed to the very good, but not great stats lines he actually had. That said, he did (like Farve) have a bit of a "gunslinger" mentality (with associated stupid throws into coverage), so my guess is his INT numbers would've stayed pretty high.

Haven't watched enough pre-1980 football to judge those players.

Thinking about reputations, etc. I think Farve is probably top 10-15ish. That is down-right great, and is in no way an insult. For those folks getting all incensed that their guy should be "top 5" or "top 10" I just say, every single one of these guys we are discussing are the best of the best... with very little seperating them. The "best" is probably all a matter of subjectivity, and NO ONE is right.

113
by senser81 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 4:23pm

A lot of good discussion in this thread. Some points...

Dr. J is one of only a few players who averaged 20 ppg and 20 rpg for a college career.

I thought Elway was more impressive in the 80's with worse stats than in the 90's. People are discussing the Denver defense, but his offense wasn't that good either. Sammy Winder?

I always thought Favre was better than Young during the time their careers overlapped.

Someone mentioned that Namath was overrated and only had 4 good seasons, and wanted to replace Namath with Ken Stabler. I'd like to say that Stabler was overrated and only had 4 good seasons.

Someone also mentioned that George Blanda wasn't put in the HOF because of his kicking skills. I disagree. Blanda was an average to above average QB at best. If he didn't score 2002 points with his kicking, he wouldn't be in the HOF.

Ken Anderson set a then-record for single game completion percentage when he went 20 or 22 against the tough Steeler defense in 1974. He only gained 148 yards.

114
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 4:34pm

Oh, and one more thing... Elway is known for his 2-minute offense and late game "come from behind" offense. This is yet more support for how crappy a passing system Reeves ran, as this was really the only time Elway had a chance to throw the ball on non-3rd downs.

Oh, and not to knowck on Reeves completely... I think to some extent in the Elways first 2-3 years, the discipline and focus on the fundementals he forced on Elway was very helpful to him. I also think Reeves was good for Vick for the same reasons... but once Elway was in his prime and figured it out, Reeves completely wasted his talent.

115
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 4:43pm

Oh, and for what its worth, I probably would rate Peyton equal to Elway, and Brady ~equal to Young/Farve. Both are truly exceptional.

Oh wait... do I have to rate Peytom Branning equally?

116
by John Kim (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:03pm

#113 - Blanda an Average to Above-Average QB at best? You certainly cannot take his statistics in Houston at face value. Just about everyone not named Len Dawson was hovering around 50% completion and 1:1 TD/INT ratio. That's just the nature of the game that was played in the AFL. You certainly cannot blame him for the offensive environment that he played in. Actually, comparatively, he did far better than his contemporaries in terms of TDs and Passing Yards, always ranking in the top-5. He also has a couple of MVPs to boot, IIRC.

117
by JeffW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 6:59pm

Going by QB Rating+(compares QB Rating to league avg) Blanda had one great season and then a slew of slightly above average to bad seasons. Hardly HOF quality even when his stats are normalized.

118
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:27pm

For a QUANTITATIVE, and far, far superior ranking of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, click the link on my name.

He normalizes all QB stats to 2006 numbers and compares.

Favre ends up at #9, but he's only counting quarterbacks since 1950. Favre's behind Elway, Young, Anderson, and Fouts, and his reasons for thinking so are considerably less hand-wavy than MDS's.

119
by Crza (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 11:27pm

If Favre would have started his career in San Francisco with Bill Walsh coaching him, there would be no discussion as to who was the greatest ever.

120
by gasman (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 1:28am

crza

That is the most foolish post on this thread. You could say that about every QB on this list. Having Bill Walsh as coach is a huge advantage.

You could even argue that having a Bill Walsh inspired system (aka Mike Holmgren his Off. Cdr.) is a significant advantage towards compiling statistics. Favre had Holmgren @ the beginning of his career and through his prime years. Elway put forth his best statisical years under Shanahan (49er Off Cdr) as well.

121
by Jim G (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 6:41pm

"Going by QB Rating+ (compares QB Rating to league avg) Blanda had one great season..."

The NFL's QB Rating system is terrible however you use it, highly biased towards the short completed pass.

How biased? A completed pass that loses yardage can increase a QB's rating.

This terribly penalizes the QBs of the pre-1978 rule change era, long-throwers like Unitas, Jurgenson, Bradshaw, Namath, etc., while highly favoring the ball-control, high-percentage passers that the rule changes escorted in.

John Unitas, very credibly picked as "the best ever" in the original story, has a career QB rating of just 78 -- the same as Cleo Lemon. That wasn't in the top 20 in the NFL last year, much less "all time".

The number of people here at this statistically informed cite who keep dimly citing pre-rule change era stats as evidence of how bad QBs from back then were compared to today is kind of startling.

E.g. “in Namath’s entire career, he had just two seasons in which he threw more touchdowns than interceptions.� So why the hell would he be on anybody’s list of the best QBs ever?

At #118 above bravehoptoad links to excellent data normalizing performances from different eras to a 2006 standard.

Well, normalizing the data from Namath's era to today, those negative TD-pick ratio years go away and turn to pluses. Shouldn't the stat-heads here know the statistical standards of different eras?

Let's compare Namath to Favre. I mentioned peak and career values earlier. Namath's PAR/game for his best three years was 4.8, Favre's is 4.7. Over best five years both are at 4.3.

The big difference being that those were the only five healthy years Namath had, while Favre's best 3 and 5 years are cherry picked from 16 -- a huge advantage for Favre.

On the basis of those numbers one would have to say Namath was "better" than Favre, though if you want to hold it against Namath that on a career basis he had only five good years because of his injuries, fine, that's fair, career value counts. But as a QB Namath was at least in Favre's class. Summarily dismissing him is ridiculous.

Now I'm not making a pro-Namath argument but an anti-stupid bias argument. If I was going to argue for a slighted QB of the earlier era it wouldn't be Namath, it'd be Sonny Jurgenson -- PAR/game best three years 5.2, five years 4.8, much better than both Namath and Favre, and Sonny had 10 more good years beyond those.

The point is that many people today think all the best QBs ever must have been the ones they've seen play on ESPN ... to back it up they look at the stupid biased all-time NFL QB rating list which says the same thing and say "See!" ... and then they go further and ask "How can a 1960s-70s QB with negative TD-Int seasons, or a completion pct only a little over 50% (like Unitas) even be considered on anybody's list"?

Which is just dumb. The game changes across eras. The meanings of numbers change. Stats should be used to better inform judgment, not replace it.

122
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 10:34pm

Amen Jim B

Namath changed the game. Injuries and off the field activities kept him from fulfilling his potential. He was great, but I don't think he belongs in the best of all time argument. However, I do not hink it is a stretch to say that he is the most important QB who ever played. Pro football's first and probably biggest superstar ever along SB III which forced the merger.

The new era of QBs has the advantage of rule changes and much more exposure and highlight footage, even when compared to guys from the 70's (Bradshaw, Staubach).

123
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 10/03/2007 - 9:54am

Let's give a few QBs the same passing attempts as Favre (prior to Week 4) and see how the TDs and INTs match up:

Unitas, 464 TDs, 408 INTS
Tarkenton, 442 TDs, 343 INTS
Elway, 345 TDS, 260 INTS
Marino, 420 TDS, 252 INTS
Favre, 420 TDs, 275 INTS
Montana, 421 TDs, 216 INTS

For all the talk about Favre's "gunslinging," Unitas and Tarkenton have much higher interception rates. Between Elway, Marino, and Favre, the differences in INT rate is negligible, about 1.5 INT per season difference. Montana averages about 4 INTS per season less than Favre.

Favre has his pitfalls, but he's definitely in the top three all-time at QB.

124
by MC2 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/03/2007 - 3:22pm

#123: So, I guess you've just decided to ignore all the previous posts (e.g. #121) that totally invalidate the kind kind of argument that you're making?

125
by toolkien (not verified) :: Wed, 06/22/2011 - 1:32pm

#123 -
Comparing Favre straight-up to Unitas and Tarkenton is not correct. They were in a different era. Compare them to their contemporaries and they were decent as far as INT's. pro-football-reference.com has a calculated index which compares particular stats for QB's as measured against the three year average of their contemporaries (e.g. Unitas in '65 against the average for all QB's from '64-'66, etc). Every year for every QB back to 1920. Favre stands as the 81st best QB INDEXED with regard to INT's. Hardly elite. And since INT's were ultimately his downfall, particularly in the playoffs, his penchant for being fast and loose was obviously not good.

Favre was a system QB who was tops in TD's and yardage and 20th or below on just about everything else. When he played within the WCO things worked well, just like it did for every team that has ever used it, from the Bengals in the early 70's on up to the Packers, Eagles, and Seahawks. But when Favre got too excited he'd revert back to Favreball - lack of discipline and backbreaking INT's.

Based on the composite of all the pro-football-reference.com indexed stats, Favre is about the 22nd best QB of all time, even WITH the yardage and TD's. If you want to toss out a couple of guys ahead of him, fine, but there's no way that Favre is top ten, much less the greatest of all time. Favre is about 12th in QB's of the last 30 years, and that is really being about 17th and factoring out some guys ahead of him to get there. Just too wild and killed too many post seasons for his teams.

When you have certain stat(s) in your favor, even #1, but SO MANY others that are against you (81st in INT's for example, 52nd in yards per attempt for another), you have to eventually side with the SYSTEM instead of the man. The WCO works. Favre took forever to grasp it, hated having to subsume himself to it (or any system or coach for that matter), and tossed it when it would have mattered the most. Favre was a mediocre QB (at best) without the system.

If Favre had not been fished off Atlanta's third string, been given a great WCO system only one step removed from the source (Walsh to Holmgren), and given several chances other teams would not have extended to "get it", Favre would have been a nobody. And when Favre rewarded the team with a pill addiction and a series of ruined playoffs, they still were extending him courtesies. But since he couldn't be the de facto GM and dictate the team to be constructed his way, he quit. And when the Pack had the gall to move on without him and not beg him to come back, he sought revenge on the team that gave him everything he was (he did bring longevity, but what use is that if no one cares to give you second, third, and fourth chances?).

Favre simply forgot or never learned what everyone else did that allowed him to do what he did. He didn't seem to get that the system is what gave him his numbers, he always assumed it was his gunslinging ways, which hurt the team more than it ever helped. Packer backups Brunell and Hasselbeck, appended together, could have done as much for THE TEAM as Favre ever did, without so much pain. Eighty percent of Brett Favre was personal stats, that again owed much to THE SYSTEM. Team success was thin, and mostly due to Favre's arm.