Raise your hand if you remember Robert “Tractor” Traylor. For those of you whose hands are at their sides, let me refresh you. Traylor was a McDonald’s high-school All-American the same year as Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce. At the University of Michigan, Traylor’s impressive size (6’8″, and north of 300 pounds) helped lead the Wolverines to the 1997 NIT title and was named the tournament’s MVP. Traylor cemented his status as a big-time big body in his junior year when he averaged 16.2 points and 10 rebounds while leading his team to the inaugural Big Ten Tournament championship.
After his career at Michigan (which ended under some controversy and NCAA sanctions for the Wolverines) Traylor was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the sixth overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, after which he was promptly traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for one guy you never heard of (Pat Garrity), and one guy you may know (Dirk Nowitzki). Traylor’s NBA career also included stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets, and even a failed trade to the New Jersey Nets. The stat line showed Traylor as a 14.3 minutes, 47% from the field, and 3.7 total rebounds per game.
Traylor’s planet-like girth also carried him tto the world of global hoops; teams like Antalya Kepez Belediyesi in the Turkish league, NSB Napoli in the Italian league, Halcones UV Xalapa in the Mexican league, and Cangrejeros de Santurce and Bayamon Cowboys in Puerto Rican league all got to have 5XL uniforms made to fit the “Tractor.”
Sadly, the “Tractor” passed away in 2011, but the first weekend of this NCAA Basketball Tournament showed us several guys who could easily match up to Traylor’s carriage. The trouble is that all of the guys we found in this yearr’ tournament have already had their “March Madness come to an end. So, in case you missed them, here are the five starters on our All-“Tractor” Traylor Memorial team.
The Alanis Morrisette-level irony is that as heavy as this team is, it is also not-so-shockingly light on guards.
Let’s be honest, every major league baseball manager could get fired…that’s what they do. They aren’t like popes who usually get to die in office; being a major league manager means having your ass welded to a revolving door. But there are some who simply have a much better chance of getting revolved out of town because they lead teams that have expectations which if not lived up to…well, somebody’s got to take the fall.
Having said that, there are a few managers who have almost no chance of being fired, because nobody expects anything from their teams. This includes guys like:
- Bo Porter, Houston Astros
- Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins
- Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
- Dale Sveum, Chicago Cubs
There’s also a group who are simply untouchable, because they’ve delivered lately.
- Bruce Bochy, San Francisco giants
- Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
- Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals
- Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
That leaves us with a group of ten managers I see as most likely to be looking for work by Opening Day 2014. Somebody’s door is going to revolve, and here are the ten I see being the most likely to turn.
Let’s face it. Your city sucks. You may not see why your city sucks, because you live there. Much like skunks can’t smell themselves, being a resident may blind you to the mountains of suck that surround you. Trust me, I’ve lived in several of these cities; one of them is essentially my “hometown,” and believe me, it sucks. While I currently do not reside in a municipality on this list, I live in between two of them which are close enough together that they both bombard me with their suckiness. This is how I came to this perspective.
It is important for you to understand that I’m not writing this to insult your particular locale, rather as a bit of a fair warning so that in your journeys through you fair cities, you don’t stumble into a vortex of suck from which you cannot escape. Think of it this way…if one of Kanye West’s home-boys had shown him the caution flag on his involvment with Kim Kardashian, he might not now be forever shackled via paternity to that bloated ball of preg-whore.
With that, here’s what to watch for in your sports city…
Free agency came to baseball in the 1970’s, which coincidentally happens to the same decade in which I became a baseball fan. In that time, I’ve watched many team make great moves in to secure that “one piece they needed” to win. I’ve also seen lots of complete gag-jobs; a team drives a dump truck full of money off a cliff over some guy who immediately after signing his contract completely forgets how to play the goddamn game, or better yet blows every joint in his body.
Bear in mind, these may not be the ten worst deals of all time, but they are ten of my personal favorites.
10) Chan Ho Park – Signed by the Texas Rangers in 2002, Five Years, $65 million
I distinctly remember this guy pitching in Dodger Stadium, and loving the fact that it may be one of the most forgiving ball parks for a meatball artist like Park. He manage two season in Los Angeles in which he posted records of 18-10 and 15-11. This “success” prompted the historically-pitching thin Texas Rangers to cough up one of the fattest contracts ever given to a pitcher at that time. Of course, the Rangers forgot that home plate in their ball park outpaces Cape Canaveral for the number of moon-shots which have been launched there. This is why Park posted ERAs in Texas of 5.75, 7.58, 5.74, and 5.66. Those number very well could have been worse had a slew of injuries not kept him off the mound for big chunk of his time in Arlington. At least he had a sense of humor.
9) Gary Matthews Jr. – Signed by the Los Angeles Angels in 2006, Five Years, $50 million
The inverse of Park…If you think signing a 31-year-old guy who just had a great year (.313, 44 doubles, 19 home runs, 79 RBIs, and an .866 OPS) in a great hitters’ park (Texas, oddly enough), you should probably have your checkbook locked up. The Angels signed Matthews to that fat deal on the basis of his best season ever, only to watch him become a .247 hitter with marginal power. The proof the Angels knew they blew it came the very next year when they signed Torii Hunter for $90 million to take Matthews place in center field.
Naturally, this all stems from the Dwight Howard trade. For purposes of full disclosure, SportsChump is one of the few bloggers we here at Dubsism have any respect for; in fact J-Dub been interviewed on his site, and has appeared on SportsChump’s podcast.
Having said all that, the Chump saw fit to launch a Scud Missile directly into the heart of Downtown Dubsylvania with his rantings on the Los Angeles Lakers; he came up with what he considers ten perfectly valid reasons to hate the Los Angeles Lakers. Since SportsChump lives in the greater Central Florida area and therefore has allegiances to the Orlando Magic, he owns a tremendous level of butt-hurt over the trade that sent “Superman” to the shadow of the Sunset Strip.
Despite his personal stake in all of this, he still manages to make some valid points; yet points that nevertheless need a patented Dubsism breakdown.
10) Their team is better than yours at pretty much everything.
Well, what can I say? The Lakers don’t suck and the Magic do. That’s not the Lakers’ fault. I know it’s fashionable in this country now to play this “working class hero” game and cry about how the big guy got big by screwing the little guy, but nothing could be further from the truth, especially in sports.
First of all, the only reason anybody gives a dribbling fuck about the NBA is because of teams like the Lakers. Face it, the NBA is a league which is literally carried by about 5 or 6 “big” franchises. You can bitch about salary caps and the like all you want, but at the end of the day, it is those “big” franchises that pay the freight for this league. If you think that is a problem now, wait 20 or so years when the NBA has legitimate overseas competition. Wait until guys are bolting for Spain, Italy, or China as well as Los Angeles.
Here’s what it comes down to…Jerry Buss didn’t force Orlando to hire a knucklehead like Otis Smith or any other microencephalic the Magic have had in the front office. Maybe if thew Magic had hired Ron Jeremy instead of his look-alike, they might now how to screw somebody.
9) Courtside tickets to home games cost more than you make in a month.
So, now all of sudden the Laker Haters want elbow-rubbing seats with Jack Nicholson? Puh-leeze. This is but one of many ways how the Lakers pay the electric bill for the league bottom-feeders.
8 ) Ron Artest still plays for them under perhaps the most, inappropriate pseudonym ever.
Completely, undeniably valid. I can’t stand Ron Artest; I would personally pay for his ticket our of town if the Lakers could find a taker for this ass-loaf. Furthermore, I refuse to use that stupid name he conjured up for himself.
7 ) Jack and Dyan
This one is pretty valid too, and not just because we’ve all grown really weary of the “celebrity in the seats” routine which Fox morphed into one of the most obnoxious cross-promotional tools ever. Realistically, I couldn’t care less who is in the crowd, so long as they actually understand just what the hell they are watching.
However, I think this is on the Chump’s radar because because nobody of any real importance ever lived in Orlando. If you were to put the three biggest Orlando celebrities in the crowd, get ready for Wayne Brady, Carrot Top, and Casey Anthony.
By the way, this point is only made worse by the fact that I hate John Mellencamp nearly as much as I hate Ron Artest. To top it off, I now live in Indiana, where I have to hear that fucking “Jack and Diane” song about 200 times a day, and each time it gives me hemmorhoidal flare-up so bad the veins in my ass throb like Neil Peart’s kick-drums.
6) Over the past forty years, they are the most successful team in terms of overall winning percentage in professional sports. It’s true, do the math.
5 ) They got Mark Madsen and Isaiah Rider a ring but couldn’t get one for Gary Payton and Karl Malone.
This one is also undeniably true, but to be fair, Karl Malone really belongs on the list of guys all true Lakers fans should really hate. On another note, on behalf of Lakers fans everywhere, I apologize for unleashing the “Madsen Dance” on the world.
4) Steve Nash will reach 10,000 career assists in a Lakers uniform this season and then pass Magic Johnson for fourth all-time a few weeks after that. One of those assists will be to either Kobe or Dwight. He’ll celebrate by placing his bangs behind his ears.
Another utterly true statement. It’s also true that assist won’t be to Hedo Fucking Turkoglu. However, it is also true that by the time he gets to make that assist, Nash may be honestly mistaken for grayed-out punk rock icon Iggy Pop.
3) Laker fans have never, not for one minute, known an ounce of suffering. (Sorry, Bleed, Dub and JM, but you know it’s true.)
That’s not true. While it may be true that Laker fans have not known very much suffering, we have see some horrors, as evidenced in the following photo:
Yes, that is the one and only Don Nelson in his days as a Laker. Many people forget about Don Nelson and his role in defeating several Laker teams, especially the ones he played on from 1963-1965, which is hard to imagine considering he a) also played for the Celtics and b) coached every single team in the NBA except the Lakers, and at least 40 or 50 in Europe. This, of course, led to a rule here at Dubsism: “If Don Nelson is the answer, I don’t want to know the question.”
2) Players from those 1980s championship teams STILL don’t have to buy a drink in that town.
1) Oh yeah…. Dwight friggin’ Howard.
Ok, I’ll take another “rich get richer” shot, but be honest, it’s not like Howard wasn’t leaving anyway. Face it, Orlando…you were just Howard’s high-school girlfriend. You may have had some tender moments in the back seat of his car, but once he hit the big-time, handjobs with Bon Jovi on the radio just weren’t going to cut it anymore.
That’s not your fault, Orlando; it really isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s just the way it is.
Editor’s Note: This article is a collaborative effort between Dubsism and Ryan Meehan from First Order Historians. Ryan also has his own blog, East End Philadelphia, which is featured in our BlogRoll and it is well worth the read.
This time last year, we were just getting over a labor dispute with the players which threatened to wipe out the season. Once that nightmare was over, we got a lot of teary embraces, joining of hands, and a lot of song and dance about how we would now have a decade of labor peace in the National Football League. Like most things which come out of Roger Goodell’s mouth, that was a freight train loaded with bullshit.
While this dispute with the referees won’t kill the season, it make fans literally blow their eyeballs out of their skulls at the level of incompetency you can expect if the NFL goes through with its plan to use “scab” officials. This would be such a horrible public relations fiasco for the NFL that they are really keeping quiet about how bad this might be. This is why Meehan and J-Dub have collaborated to shine some truth on the situation being created by Kommissar Goodell. Here are some basic facts Goodell really would prefer you didn’t know.
1) The soul of this labor dispute is really all about union busting.
It should a huge indicator what a flaming asshole Roger Goodell is when I (who happens to be exceptionally anti-union) have some empathy for the referees. Just look at how the NFL put a strong-arm job on the players, which just happens to be the one union that matters to the NFL. The league learned the hard way in 1987 that people won’t watch a game full of replacement players, but they are gambling that you won’t care about scab referees. Therefore, you can bet the NFL will put the long, unlubricated, Turkish-prison-style rape-job to the referees.
Just like they did to the players, the NFL has offered pay raises of 5 to 11%, which is far under those previous labor negotiations. This is being done in an era when referees are coming under increased scrutiny since most of them are lousy anyway. However, this is also an era in which the NFL expects to see its yearly revenues go from $9 to $16 billion per year. This is also an era where we’ve introduced salary caps, franchise tags, and rookie pay scales. That means this is all about squeezing every last kidney stone out of the golden-egg laying goose.
Here’s the bottom line. It is one thing to make prudent, financially-responsible decisions to keep an enterprise profitable. It’s entirely another to be a money-grubbing scum-bag. Ever since the advent of free-agency, the scum-bag role has been reserved for the unions. Roger Goodell’s level of assholery has managed to reverse that polarity. Worse yet, he has political cover for now; it’s going to take a train-wreck of monstrous proportions by the replacement refs for the locked-out officials to get public sentiment on their side. Until that happens, Kommissar Goodell holds all the cards.
Goodell does hold all the cards. Which is total horseshit when you think about it, because we’re not playing cards. We’re supposed to be playing football. There’s this ridiculous idea that the NFL developed a few years back that says that there’s one figure that represents the total annual revenue accrued by the NFL. And that once that figure is in place, there is only that money to pay everybody involved with the league at any level. But there’s two fundamental problems with that:
a) The original number is WAY lower than the actual amount of money they are making. It’s no different than trying to lowball a guy when you’re buying a used car. You look for every possible excuse that you can to say that your multimillion-dollar sports league isn’t worth as much as it really is (which is of course hilarious since all of the merchandise is made in Korea) so that when it comes time to pay everybody you can just say that there’s “just enough money to go around”, leaving very little room for a pay increase.
b) The number that they are originally providing you with doesn’t take into account brand equity, or the fact that the NFL isn’t going bankrupt anytime soon. It’s not Major League Soccer, there are no worries that the NFL is going to all of a sudden be in the red tomorrow morning. All of this basically means that they are lying to you about how much money they’re making because they’re assuming that you’re not going to look anything up about the massive deal they signed with Direct TV that makes the original AOL Time Warner merger look like it’s ordering a fucking grilled cheese sandwich off of the children’s menu. Beware, there’s another grilled cheese sandwich metaphor coming later.
2) The replacement referees will be terrible.
If you were going to replace NFL officials, it would make sense to get them from the same place you get the majority of the players’ right?
Forget it…that ain’t gonna happen.
You won’t see many major college conference officials among the replacements because a number of big-conference officials supervisors are former NFL referees and they are refusing to lend out their officials as a show of solidarity for their locked-out brethren. Not to mention, it has been widely reported that several former NFL officials such as Red Cashen, Ron Botchan, and Jerry Markbreit, have steadfastly refused to assist in training the replacements. That means all of the “scab” referees” will have very little training and very limited resources to prepare.
Sunday night’s Hall-of-Fame Game was a preview of coming attractions. Craig Ochoa, who has eight years of experience in BCS conferences and 16 years officiating Division III games, was the referee for the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals. Ochoa flipped a commemorative coin at midfield to start the game, then incorrectly announced the result to the crowd, saying that New Orleans had won the toss and deferred. It was only after he started to walk away that he caught his mistake.
This one is kind of self explanatory. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you have second tier people doing a particular task that the task will not be done to specs. Refereeing is a very complex skill that takes many years of practice, determination, and willingness to blow all of your credibility at the end of a Chargers-Broncos game. And that’s if you’re lucky. There’s a reason that the scrub refs aren’t in the bigs…because there’s either no room for them or they just aren’t good enough. The first might not be their fault, but such is life and such is any other position in the working world.
Now, a lot of people are glazing over this whole thing because they watch the game for the players and teams involved. And they’re right. But what the NFL is doing is making it glaringly obvious to all involved that don’t have their head crammed up their ass that since the referees aren’t directly related to their revenue stream, they could really care less about them.
The scrub refs are essentially the “open mike crowd” from your local lame-ass Comedy Club. Goddell is the emcee and he has to sell you on the idea that for the next five minutes this dude who is a dishwasher at Shoney’s is going to have you falling out of your seat laughing. But it’s hard to feel sorry for him, because he’s the one who wanted to host the show.
3) It Took A Terrorist Attack To End The Last NFL/Referees Dispute
The most recent labor agreement between the referees and the NFL expired May 31, and the zebras got locked out three days later, right after the NFL broke off a marathon negotiating session with a federal mediator. This is the same tactic the NFL used to strong-arm the players, with the league upping the ante by hiring replacement officials to work the exhibition season and possibly the regular season.
As ugly as the lockout with the players got, the NFL never brought in scabs, having learned the aforementioned lesson in 1987. That lesson didn’t carry over to the last dispute with the referees. The NFL used replacements briefly in 2001 during the exhibition season and for the first week the regular season. Then came Tuesday, September 11th. In the aftermath, the league and the union figured out that not doing everything within their power to help America “get back to normal” would have been a cataclysmic approach.
This is much what Dubs was saying earlier about it being a union busting issue. There is so much pride involved with unions that it’s difficult for them not to take everything personally. It certainly isn’t going to happen overnight and it’s going to get a lot uglier before it gets any prettier. And from the way it already looks you’d have an easier time freebasing Woolite than trying to get these two sides to come to an agreement.
Growing up I vaguely remember the 1987 season, but I definitely know that if there are any asterisks anywhere in the NFL record books they’re probably going to be associated with that year. There is always the chance that the product’s quality will drop, but since you don’t have an Ed Hochuli jersey it’s going to be very easy for the NFL to overlook. The likelihood that this doesn’t get resolved anytime soon is precisely what makes it such a crisis in the first place. This is serious, serious business.
4) If this goes into October, the chance that President Obama makes this a campaign issue could be disastrous.
Regardless of your political stripe, there is no denying some crucial facts:
a) Obama loves to get involved in union negotiations, from the government takeover of General Motors and its pension fund, to his close relationship to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
b) Obama is desperate to toss out smoke-screens which misdirect attention away from important issues. This is why we keep hearing exceptionally stupid shit about some rich guy’s tax returns from a guy who can’t kill a controversy about a birth certificate. If the aforementioned train-wreck in the NFL happens during the election season, you can count on Obama to come charging to the rescue, because Lord knows, the single-most important problem in the world at the time will be the well-being of a bunch of insurance salesmen who just happen to wear stripes on Sunday.
c) If Obama does get involved, he has no choice but to fuck it all up. Before you start writing me the usual dip-shit political comment, consider the following. If Obama were a waiter, he’d be the kind that brings you a burnt grilled cheese sandwich when you ordered a cheeseburger, and when you complain about it, he tries to make you feel stupid for wanting a cheeseburger in the first place. When you get pissed and demand to speak to the restaurant manager, he cops out with some bullshit about “he didn’t understand which cheese thing you really wanted.” In other words, despite all that “Hope” and “Change” crap America swallowed four years ago, Obama is exactly the same as every other politician since the dawn of time.
Here’s why that matters. If he does inject himself into this situation, he’s got no choice but to piss off one of his core constituencies. On one hand, if he sides with the NFL, he will piss off his union-based backers who really are the backbone of his political base. However, if he sides with the union, he’s going to piss off a large chunk of the richest people in America, and despite what you may believe about American politics, there is no such thing as somebody who got elected President without the backing of a lot of rich people.
Now for the real turd in the punch bowl. Obama has been a big supporter of women’s rights, and if the NFL goes into the regular season with replacement referees, one of them is going to be a woman. The league has announced that the first-ever female official will be used in tonight’s preseason game between the Packers and San Diego Chargers. The NFL has also stated that they have several more female officials waiting in the wings, and there were rumors the league had considered hiring a full-time female official this past season but didn’t pull the trigger.
Think about what that means. The first female NFL referee’s job will be the result of a labor dispute. If Obama gets involved in this matter, it will be a lose-lose-lose situation. Since this female official will lose her job if the locked-out referees are re-instated, Obama’s opponents could easily claim gender equity isn’t an important issue for him, so long as he makes “Big Business” happy. If he ensures the locked-out referees lose their jobs, his union support becomes problematic. Worse yet, any intervention bolsters Goodell’s position that he is running an enterprise so crucial to the American soul that he should be given unlimited power to run it. After all, if it takes the President of the United Fucking States to solve a problem in the NFL, then it is only logical that Kommissar Goodell should have “executive order” (read that “dictatorial”) powers.
If that happens, you can start the countdown from now until the day soccer becomes the most popular sport in America.
Man, it’s so hard for me to get a beautiful opportunity to bag on soccer after that kind of an introduction and then not do it. Let it be known the only reason that I’m not is because I already took a shot at them in the first segment.
The Obama thing is tricky because he is a sports fan, but with the current sad state of affairs that has become everyday life in the United States today he has absolutely no business getting involved with sports. AT ALL. He used the BCS thing as leverage during his first campaign, and it was one of those zero statements – All he basically did is say that he was in favor of a playoff system, which most of the country agreed with anyway because it makes sense and that’s why we’re headed in that direction now. I just think any politician who does that is just weak. Seriously…This is the equivalent of when a politician says “I support harsher punishments for sex crimes involving children”. WELL NO SHIT. Of course you do, because unless you count Chuck E. Cheese, there are no sex offender lobbyist groups hassling Congress to go easy on guys like Jerry Sandusky. Obama will try and do the same thing, and Romney will be able to use it as leverage and say things like “Shouldn’t we be worried about the real issues here?” Only he’ll do it with that really slick voiceover sounding thing that he does and people will actually think for a brief moment that they can relate to him.
To be honest, I don’t really care what Obama’s point of view is when it comes to something like this. As far as I’m concerned, this is a crop dusting plane and he needs to keep his eyes on the road because he’s doing 70 on the interstate. Which happens to be torn up as hell and shrunk down to one lane, so you could understand why this would be a much unnecessary distraction. I don’t think he’ll get involved as this will likely be handled by a federal mediator, if it even gets to that point. I would love to see a female referee on the regular staff in the very near future, instead of someone that will (as J-Dub said) just lose their gig as soon as this is resolved.
5) The NFL thinks you are all sheep who will watch football no matter what.
J-Dub: Whatever happens, the reality of the situation is quite clear: Football will take place regardless of who is wearing the stripes. As long as you keep watching, the NFL couldn’t give a shit less about the quality of the product they are putting on the field. Face it. They’ve already got you paying full price to watch pre-season games loaded with guys who will be loading trucks at UPS next week.
He’s right, and there’s nothing you can do about it. However, I do believe that if the quality of the NFL’s product begins to dip, the sports fans that are real die hards will begin to make their voices heard and criticize it to greater lengths. But even then…BAAAAAAAAA…
Since J-Dub did the intro, I’ll go ahead and close this one out. What we are trying to get across in this piece is that this is a huge deal that is getting what I believe is not nearly enough press when you consider the severity of the situation. We’re talking about the biggest sports machine in the entire world not having its officials, and I consider that to be very serious. While there is plenty of news about what cereal Tim Tebow is eating and how Peyton Manning is still media-friendly, a major issue is for the most part almost becoming buried under a lot of all that other garbage.
As with any entertainment production, it takes a lot of people to put on a show. The NFL is one of the best shows in the world. And let’s not forget, the referees are on the field. In many ways they manage the pace of the game. Without the first string referees, we have a product that isn’t nearly as precise as the fans would like it to be. When these things happen, it’s up to the commissioner to get his shit together and figure out how we can keep this from happening in the future.
Once again thanks for stopping by First Order Historians and Dubsism for more information on how to be undeniably awesome.
-J-Dub and Meehan
Editor’s Note: Mr. Rockford is a private detective based in Malibu, California. We here at Dubsism have retained Mr. Rockford at his standard rate of two hundred dollars a day plus expenses to investigate matters of crime and other general shadiness in the world of sports, then report back to us when needed. If you would like to contact Mr. Rockford, at the tone, leave your name and number and he’ll get back to you.
Divorces in sports don’t necessarily have to be the actual and messy kind, like the matrimonial train wreck to which Frank and Jamie McCourt treated us. There have been plenty of on-the-field relationships that exploded in various states of severity, ranging from the “we can still be friends” style break-up like the one Peyton Manning and the Colts had. Or, it can be the “domestic violence waiting to happen” split as in the case of Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox.
As a private investigator, I try to avoid domestic cases. But, to be honest, I’ve had to re-finance my trailer five times in the last ten years, and let me tell you those “balloon payments” can put a major skid on the wallet. That means whether I like it or not, I’ve peeked through more keyholes than I care to admit. That’s why J-Dub asked for my thoughts on ten notable sports divorces.
10) Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers
If you thought the Indianapolis Colts wouldn’t run Peyton Manning out of town, you forgot about the 1993 divorce between the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana.
Yep, Joe Montana, the four-time Super Bowl champion, back-to-back NFL MVP in 1989-90, and arguably the most beloved athlete in the history of San Francisco got handed a suitcase by the 49ers.
It all started after a “should-have-killed-him” hit by the New York Giants’ Leonard Marshall in the 1990 NFC title game. The 49ers were on their way to an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl, but Marshall’s jarring blow blew out Montana’s elbow, which not only ended his stint in this game; it would be almost two full seasons before Montana would see the field again.
The trouble is by then the 49ers had become enamored with Montana’s replacement, Steve Young. Not only that, but Young had entrenched himself as the starting quarterback and was the reigning NFL MVP when Montana was ready to return for the 1993 season. 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo and coach George Seifert gave Montana the “run-around” as to whether he’d get a shot to compete for the starting job, so he demanded a trade.
At 37, Montana landed in Kansas City, where he had two good seasons; he took the historically insignificant Chiefs to the AFC Championship game in 1993. Young finally escaped Montana’s shadow by leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl win the next season. The story did have a “happy” ending as through a one-day contract, Montana had the opportunity to retire as a member of the 49ers.
9) Bobby Hull and the Chicago Blackhawks
In the annals of NHL history, Bobby Hull will be best remembered as the first player to light the lamp 50 times in a season and the first guy to hold a gun to the head of ownership for a big payday. Hull went for the big dough twice; first for $100,000, then later for $1 million.
The “Golden Jet” was the Gretzky of the 1960’s; he led the NHL in goals seven times that decade and took the the Chicago Blackhawks to the 1961 Stanley Cup. In 1962, Hull matched previous standard for hitting the twine with the 50 goal tally of Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion in 1962, then Hull used his legendary slap shot to become the sole standard bearer with 54 goals in 1966.
With that level of success, it should come as no shock to current-day sports fans that Hull decided he wanted more money. He demanded $100,000 a year in 1968, and threatened to quit if he didn’t get it. in 1968. That tactic worked, and it encouraged Hull to do it again in 1972, only this time the price escalated. Hull used the fledgling World Hockey Association (WHA) as leverage, but this time he wanted $1 million, which was a ridiculous amount at the time.
However, the Winnipeg Jets jumped at the chance to land a superstar; they were more than happy to pony up $1 million per year in a 10-year deal. Hull had four more 50-goal seasons in Winnipeg, including what was a then-professional record of 77 goals in 1975.
In one fell swoop, Hull made a huge payday, solidified the WHA to the point it would eventually merge with the NHL, and became a major reason the Blackhawks would need 50 years to win another Stanley Cup.
8 ) Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are notorious for bad marriages; they could be the Elizabeth Taylor of sports. It’s always amazed me how they ran Terry Francona out of town after he led that franchise to two World Series championships in four seasons after the Red Sox had gone 86 seasons as a bridesmaid and never a bride. But the list of bad Boston marriages could be it’s own blog.
Let’s focus on Manny Ramirez also fits that bill, but a good case of “Manny Being Manny” helps to explain why what should have been a New England honeymoon turned into a Boston bitch-fest. Manny took a swing at local hero Kevin Youkilis. Manny shoved 64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the ground. Manny even pulled himself out of multiple games citing a knee injury that many thought was an act of protest because he was upset with his contract.
The Red Sox finally had a belly full of Manny and dealt him to the Dodgers in July 2009. Ramirez showed exactly why the Red Sox had put up with him for so long. Manny had such an impact with the Dodgers that despite the fact he only played in 53 National League games, he finished fourth in the NL MVP voting. However, it was the next season when Manny’s reputation began it’s major slide when he got popped for the first of his suspensions for violating baseball’s drug policy.
7) Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers
It wasn’t just Shaq and Kobe who were battling over who was the leader of the team; the Lakers’ management was Pacific-deep in the same issue. Owner Jerry Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak were dealing with two show ponies and felt they had to pick the one they were going to ride following the loss to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals.
In Shaq’s book, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” he claims Kupchak promised him a contract extension during the 2003-04 season but then made comments that O’Neal’s future with the Lakers was up in the air. During an exhibition game, Shaq yelled to Buss, “pay me.”
Shaq never had a good relationship with Kupchak, and matters only got worse when he replaced Jerry West as the Lakers’ general manager after the 2000 season. According to Shaq, “Mitch looked out for two people: himself and Jerry Buss. The rest of us were afterthoughts.” O’Neal was traded to the Heat during the offseason and oddly enough, the next day Bryant signed a huge contract extension with the Lakers.
As an “afterthought,” Shaq won an NBA Championship the very next season with the Miami Heat. But Kobe and the Lakers would outdo that by winning back-to-back titles in 2009-10 after acquiring Pau Gasol.
6) Eric Lindros and the Philadelphia Flyers
Just like Mary’s little lamb, everywhere that Lindros went, controversy was sure to follow. After he flatly refused to play for the Quebec Nordiques, his rights were traded to the Flyers. Philadelphia gave away the moon and the stars, and possibly a few planets for the number one overall pick; the spoils of that trade and a relocation to Colorado morphed the quasi-lousy Nordiques into the championship Avalanche.
Lindros went on to become an All-Star in six out of eight seasons with the Flyers, yet by the time he left town, the City of Brotherly love had none for him. The end of the affair began on April 1, 1999 when Lindros was misdiagnosed by Flyers’ medical staff with a rib injury. Later, Lindros’ teammate Keith Jones found him pale and cold in a hotel bath tub during a roadtrip. The Flyers told the trainer to put him on a flight back to Philadelphia, but Jones insisted Lindros go to a local hospital. He was diagnosed with a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. Lindros’ father, who was also his agent, ripped the organization for its treatment of the injury and the two sides would never again be on good terms. get back on good terms.
Matters only got worse when Lindros suffered a series of concussions; Lindros heaped criticism on the Flyers after they performed yet another misdiagnosis regarding the bell-ringing he got in March 2000. After that incident, Flyers general and legendary asshole Bobby Clarke stripped Lindros of his captaincy and demanded he apologize to his teammates. The concussion Clarke insinuated was no big deal kept Lindros off the ice for the rest of the regular season. Lindros did skate again in the playoffs, but another head-shot ended his season, after which he was summarily shipped of to the New York Rangers.
Lindros did have a few more moderately successful season in New York, but he always maintained the Flyers’ medical staff helped to shorten his career.
5) Marcus Allen and the Los Angeles Raiders
Would everybody who had a feud with Raiders’ owner Al Davis please stand up? (Insert sound of floor creaking from everybody standing simultaneously). Marcus Allen is in no way the first or last person to have a feud with Al Davis, but his was among the ugliest. For the first few years , the marriage of Allen and the Raiders was of the story-book variety. Allen was a Los Angeles from having been a Heisman Trophy winner at USC, and now he was tearing up the field of the L.A. Coliseum for the relocated L.A. Raiders. Allen was Rookie of the Year and an NFL All-Pro in his first season. If that weren’t enough, Allen trucked the Raiders to an NFL Championship in Super Bowl XVIII, picking the Super Bowl MVP honors via his 191 rushing yards.
Then, the honeymoon cruise hit the iceberg, and the marriage morphed into an ugly, California-style divorce. Allen got into a contract dispute with the Raiders during which Davis called him a “cancer to the team.” Suddenly Allen, arguably the premier running back in the league at the time, found himself on ass-duty on the Raider bench, due to Davis benching him and using the arrival of two-sport phenom Bo Jackson as an excuse. Five years of this went by before Allen finally struck back in 1992 during a Monday Night Football halftime interview. Allen said Davis was out to get him and that he thought Davis was trying to ruin Allen’s chances of making the Hall of Fame.
The next year Allen finally got out of Los Angeles by joining the one of the Raiders main rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. In Kansas City, Allen earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors while helping Kansas City reach the conference championship game.
In 2003 when Marcus Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Allen buried the hatchet by thanking Davis in his induction speech.
4) Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens
Roy’s downfall in Montreal was almost Paterno-esque in both it’s quickness and shock value. Roy was a two-time Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner, a three-time Vezina Trophy winner and a native son of Quebec. This meant Roy was beloved for most of his time in Montreal; the fans loved his brash and combative spirit and for 10 years he was a hero on skates for Les Habitants.
That was until December 2nd, 1995. On that night against the Detroit Red Wings, Roy got smoked like a convenience store cigar; he gave up 9 goals on 26 shots. When th score plummeted to 7-1, the crowd sarcastically cheered after Roy gloved a routine save. Roy responded by mockingly lifting his arms in celebration. After the socre hit 9-1, Canadiens’ coach Mario Tremblay finally gave Roy the hook, after which Roy stormed directly up to the face of president Ronald Corey and essentially demanded a trade Denis Lemieux-style. Naturally, this led to a shouting match in the locker room, and the next day Roy was suspended and the Canadiens announced they would trade him. One night, and the marriage was o-v-e-r.
Four days later, Roy was on a plane to the Mile High City, thanks to a one-sided trade with the Colorado Avalanche. In Denver, Roy would go on to lead the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup and Tremblay would only last one more year in Montreal. In 2001, Roy and the Avalanche won a second Stanley Cup as Roy took home his third Conn Smythe trophy. Before Roy left, the Canadiens were the greatest franchise in hockey. Since then, then have won a total of six playoff series. Some fans call this “The Curse of St. Patrick.”
3) LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers
Here’s another case of hometown hero turned prodigal son who just ain’t coming back. LeBron and the Cavaliers had a warm, loving relationship right up until the end. There was no posturing and no public squabbles between the two sides in LeBron’s last year in Cleveland. The Cavs loved LeBron and seemingly did whatever they could to appease him, and he rewarded them with two MVP seasons and the NBA’s best regular season record in both 2009 and 2010.
LeBron clearly had his eyes on another suitor, and really nobody can blame him for wanting to leave. After all, Cleveland did nothing to live up to their end of the marriage which was based on winning a championship. LeBron lived up to his end of the deal, the Cavaliers did not. All you have to do is look at the supporting cast the Cavaliers put around James. If LeBron had simply left the marriage, nobody would have faulted him.
It was how he did it that killed him. If one were to imagine hosting a birthday party for a cancer-stricken wife, laden with friends and family, knowing full well this may very well be her last one as evidenced by the little pink turban where her hair used to be, and one used that opportunity to a) announce one is leaving, and b) introduce Tiffany, the 22-year old surgically built fuck-toy for which one is leaving, and c) stating Tiffany “sucks it” way better than the wife ever did and one can begin to understand why every Cavalier fan everywhere will hate LeBron James until the day he dies.
2) Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers
Farve dicked over three teams, but for purposes opf brevity, we will stick the the first one, if for no other reason, he was a legend in Green Bay. On the frozen tundra of Lambeau field (fuck you, Chris Berman), Favre was a three-time NFL MVP who set nearly all meaningful passing records while never missing a start. He took the Packers to back-to-back Super Bowls and brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay since the man for who it was named patrolled the Packer sideline.
For that, given enough time, he will again be venerated in Titletown…once everybody who remembers his douche-tastic departure is in the home drooling on the armrests of their wheelchairs.
For years, Favre left the Packers hanging either by threatening to or actually announcing his retirement, only to come keep coming back. But after Green Bay’s loss to the Giants in the 2007 NFC title game, largely thanks to another late-game Favre interception, the Packers management had had enough and told Favre in no uncertain terms to either shit or get off the pot. Green Bay was ready to had the future to Aaron Rodgers, who had been patiently playing understudy to Favre for three seasons.
In what should have surprised no one who hadn’t been living under a rock at the bottom of the deepest crater on the dark side of the moon, Farve dished more waffles than an IHOP. He retired, but once again changed his mind, which led to an acrimonious and public spat with Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson, who both told Favre he couldn’t have the starting job back and at the same time refused to grant Favre his unconditional release, thus dooming Favre to the bench. Green Bay even went so far as to file tampering charges against division rival Minnesota fro talking to Favre about coming to Minnesota.
Favre forced matters when he reported to training camp for the 2008 season, knowing he was persona non grata in Green Bay. After an awkward standoff, the Packers traded him to the New York Jets. It didn’t help matters that Favre finished his career in Minnesota.
1) Jackie Robinson and the Los Angeles Dodgers
It what may be my original reason to hate the Dodgers, no organization treated a hero worse than the Dodgers treated Jackie Robinson. Not only was he unceremoniously traded after the 1956 season to the Dodgers’ arch-rival, the Giants, he was traded for essentially nothing after what he had done for baseball (the Dodgers got Dick Littlefield (a career 33-54 pitcher with a 4.71 ERA) and $35,000 for Hall-of-Famer and icon of the game.
The end of the relationship between Robinson and the Dodgers began ironically as an off-shoot of the dissolution of the relationship between Branch Rickey and the Dodgers. Remember, it was Branch Rickey who promoted Robinson from the Triple-A Montreal Royals in 1947 to break baseball’s color barrier. Unfortunately, Rickey lost a power struggle with Walter O’Malley for the ownership of the Dodgers, which led to Rickey leaving to accept the general manger position with the Pittsburgh Pirates. O’Malley wasn’t terribly interested in Robinson’s achievements, and to be fair, had noticed that Robinson’s skills were on the wane due to age and his worsening diabetes. However, O’Malley would later be loyal to many iconic Dodgers (see Roy Campanella), but for some reason Robinson was not accorded the same favor. Hence, Robinson was dumped.
In another indicator that the relationship ended badly, despite the fact Robinson had already decided to retire in favor of accepting an executive position the restaurant/coffee house chain Chock Full o’Nuts (good luck remembering that place if you are under 60), he took the trade so personally that he quietly cleaned out his locker at Ebbets Field and never set foot in it again before it was torn down, despite several events held there to honor the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Another give-away indicating the Dodgers and Robinson had mutually shunned each other was the fact his official retirement announcement was conducted through LOOK magazine instead of by the franchise for which he played his entire career. The Dodgers never offered Robinson any role within the organization, and despite his iconic role, they let pitcher Ray Lamb wear his number 42 before they finally retired it merely months before his death in 1972.
Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s number across baseball in1997. Players who wore that number before are grandfathered to the right to wear it. If Mariano Rivera ever pitches again, he should be the last player to wear it. In comparison, short of MLB’s Jackie Robinson Day where everybody wears number 42, it took the Dodgers 16 years to retire Jackie Robinson’s number.
12) Minutes Played
Let’s be honest. In basketball, it isn’t about how often you get on the floor, it’s what you do when you get there. That’s probably why all the leaders all-time in minutes played are (or will be) in the Hall-of Fame. This statistic gets even more worthless when you add the divisor “per 48 minutes.” To quote the great Charles Barkley, the only reason you need to calculate what a player would do in 48 minutes is because he’s not good enough to play all 48 minutes.
11) Penalty Minutes
In general, the more penalty minutes you have in hockey, the more of a goon you were. It would make more sense to me to simply count fights won vs. fights lost like we do with boxers. If you have a lot of penalty minutes and weren’t a goon, you were just a cheater. Either way, a minute count just tells me how often you weren’t available because you broke the rules.
10) Time of Possession
Fans of football have been duped into believing this statistic is an excellent predictor of wins. The logic is that the more you can control the ball, the more you can control the outcome of the game. This thinking ignores some crucial issues, such as quick scores – as in long passes, kick returns, and turnovers in general. Plus, hanging on to the ball for eight minutes then settling for a field goal after stalling inside the 20 doesn’t really help a team.
9) Shots On Goal
This one really perplexes me. If you think about it, this stat really counts the number of time a hockey player fails to score, and uses that as an indicator of success, as if the team who takes the most shots scores the most goals. Actually, the team that makes the most shots scores the most goals, which should seem pretty obvious.
8 ) Wins
This statistic applies to baseball pitchers, hockey goalies, and Tim Tebow. Remember last fall when we were in the throes of Tebow-Mania? Remember how his defenders obfuscated the discussion about his lousy number by claiming “he just wins?” See, the problem is that in team sports, individuals don’t win; teams do. The Tebow-philes never seemed to remember that in almost all of the Broncos wins with Tebow at quarterback, it was the defense who kept the team in position to have a shot at winning the game.
Many baseball purists may revile at this thought, but that a pitcher has the sole determination in whether his team wins or loses completely defies logic, because the is no hard correlation between the pitcher’s performance and that pitcher earning a win. How many times have I watched Tim Lincecum pitch eight scoreless innings, then give up a solo home run and lose because the Giants can’t score? Conversely, how many times have I watched (insert Yankee pitcher here) serve up half a dozen earned runs and still get a win because the Bronx Bombers plated 10 runs?
Don’t even get me started how a “win” recorded by a relief pitcher is usually just a blown save…
The same applies to netminders, with the distinction being goalies are far more dependent on their team’s defense, specifically it’s ability to kill penalties. A goalie who has a bad won-loss record very easily can be a guy who has to play short-handed too often. Imagine what would happen to a pitcher if he had to play an inning without a shortstop?
While holds are not an official major league baseball statistic, they do show up in some box scores, and they are exceptionally worthless. While intended to measure the effectiveness of middle relievers, it lacks a uniform means of calculation. In some means, particularly that used by the now-defunct SportsTicker, it doesn’t even matter if pitchers can get batters out. A pitcher can get shelled, not even record a single out, but still be credited with a hold if the next pitcher out of the bullpen cleans up his mess without giving up the lead.
Saves are really just “wins” for the guy designated to pitch the ninth inning. But, just like wins for a starting pitcher, this is a flawed measure of a reliever’s performance. First of all, the criteria are completely arbitrary; it really can be just a circumstance such as being the last guy to pitch for the winning team. If a pitcher enters the game with a lead and pitches the final three innings and the team wins – even if he comes into a 10-0 game and gives up 9 runs – that pitcher gets a save. Pitchers also can earn a save for pitching with a three-run lead in the 9th inning.
5) Plus/Minus Rating
This may be the ultimate in useless statistics, because a player can rack up numbers here simply by being on the ice. While being specifically defined as a measure of a player’s “goal differential,” it really is just “minutes played” combined with “minutes where good stuff happened.” In other words, anytime a goal is scored (not including penalty shots or power-play goals) the Plus/Minus rating is increased by one (“plus”) for those players on the ice for the scoring team; likewise for those players on the ice for the team giving up the goal, their rating decreased by one. While this is purported to be a measure of defensemen and forwards who largely play a defensive role, two of the top three single-season ratings belongs to two of the great scorers of all-time (Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr).
4) Championships (as an individual statistic)
The two groups of people most responsible for using championships as an individual statistics are basketball fans and people judging the greatness of NFL quarterbacks. You’ve heard the argument; a player can’t be truly great without having won a championship. It’s a complete load of crap because championships are team accomplishment. Charles Barkley never won a ring, yet he is one of only 4 players with 4,000 assists, 10,ooo rebounds, and 20,000 points. Stacy King has three rings and only led the league in weight gained on the bench. Which would you rather have?
3) Batting Average
Baseball fans love this stat; and as much as I love baseball, I find it to be largely irrelevant on its own. To me the prime example is in a comparison between the average season’s of a high-batting average player like Tony Gwynn (.338/9 HR/76 RBI/92 runs scored) and a run producer like Jay Buhner (.254/34 HR/106 RBI/88 runs scored). Gwynn collected more unproductive hits, whereas Buhner produced more scoring. Scoring wins ball games, not singles.
2) Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
Here’s the first example of a statistic that was created by ESPN. PER attempts to account for just about anything a basketball player does by mashing positives like points, rebounds, shooting percentages, blocks, et cetera into a gargatuan complex formula with negatives like turnovers and fouls. The trouble is that it is nearly impossible to understand, and it does almost nothing to quantify defensive contributions other than rebounds.
1) Any System for Rating Quarterbacks
Whether it is the Passer Rating or that goofy Total Quarterback Rating that ESPN dreamed up, they are both so convoluted they manage to do exactly the opposite of what they were intended to do. The entire concept of either of these formulas was to give a clear and quantifiable value accounting for all the things quarterbacks do. Of course, you could just watch the damn game and figure that out. Besides, when’s the last time you heard somebody say “Wow, did you see that game last night? That quarterback must have had a rating of at least 95!”
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10) Troy Williamson: 2005 Draft: Round 1/Pick 7; Wide Receiver – South Carolina taken by the Minnesota Vikings
When the traded Randy Moss to the Raiders, this pick was part of the deal. The Vikes used it hoping Williamson would at least replace Moss’ speed. He did have 4.32 speed; he also had bad eyes and had trouble seeing the football to catch it. Williamson finished up his three-year career in Minnesota with 79 catches, 1,067 yards and three touchdowns.
Could have Drafted: Antrel Rolle (8th overall), DeMarcus Ware (11th overall), Jammal Brown (13th overall), or Aaron Rodgers (24th overall)
9) Jamal Reynolds: 2001 Draft: Round 1/Pick 10; Defensive End – Florida State taken by the Green Bay Packers
The Packers traded Matt Hasselbeck and the 17th pick to move up to draft a guy who racked up three sacks for his entire 18-game NFL career.
Could have Drafted: Dan Morgand (11th overall) or Steve Hutchinson (17th overall)
8 ) Wendell Bryant: 2002 Draft: Round 1/Pick 12; Defensive Tackle – Wisconsin taken by the Arizona Cardinals
If it weren’t for Andre Wadsworth, Wendell Bryant might be the worst Cardinal draft pick in recent memory. Bryant’s career totals: 29 tackles and 1.5 sacks; it only took him three years to do it.
Could have Drafted: Jeremy Shockey (14th overall)
7) Mike Williams: 2005 Draft: Round 1/Pick 10; Wide Receiver – USC taken by the Detroit Lions
Mike Williams had two great seasons at USC; he notched 176 catches in only 26 games. The problem is that his entire NFL career only lasted 30 games which contained a scant 44 receptions. Naturally, this isn’t the only Matt Millen draft choice on this list which helps to explain why the Lions were one of the worst franchises of the last decade.
Could have Drafted: Antrel Rolle (8th overall), DeMarcus Ware (11th overall), Jammal Brown (13th overall), or Aaron Rodgers (24th overall)
6) Matt Jones: 2005 Draft: Round 1/Pick 21; Wide Receiver – Arkansas taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars
Jones was a 6’6″ converted quarterback who could run a 4.36 40 and had a 40-inch vertical. He also had the ability to snort the 50-yard line. He finished his Jaguar career with just 15 starts in four seasons, during which he was arrested twice on felony drug charges.
Could have Drafted: Aaron Rodgers (24th overall), Roddy White (27th overall) or Logan Mankins (32nd overall)
5) Peter Warrick: 2000 Draft: Round 1/Pick 4; Wide Receiver – Florida State taken by the Cincinnati Bengals
Peter Warrick proves what can happen when you get called a “can’t miss” prospect. A two-time All-American, Warrick’s career in the NFL amounted 6 sub-par seasons; 79 games, 275 catches, and 2,991 yards total.
Could have Drafted: Jamal Lewis (5th overall) or Brian Urlacher (9th overall)
4) Charles Rogers: 2003 Draft: Round 1/Pick 2; Wide Receiver – Michigan State taken by the Detroit Lions
In yet another example of what I like to call a “Millen Type Decision,” the Lions took Charles Rogers believing him to be their receiver of the future. Within five years, Rogers was in jail for assault and battery.
Could have Drafted: Andre Johnson (3rd overall)
3) Joey Harrington: 2002 NFL Draft: Round 1/Pick 3; Quarterback – Oregon taken by the Detroit Lions
Two fact say all you need to know about this pick. One, this is the Lions’ third appearance on this list, which explains a lot about the evaluation of talent in the Millen era. . Two, the only other quarterback besides Joey Harrington to average less than 6 yards per attempt was fellow draft-bust Rick Mirer.
Could Have Drafted: Quentin Jammer (5th overall)
2) Ryan Sims: 2002 Draft, Round 1/Pick 6; Defensive Tackle – North Carolina taken by the Kansas City Chiefs
Tony Mandarich may be the poster child for draft busts, but Sims may in fact be worse. In five seasons, he had 65 total tackles and five sacks. He was so unproductive that he was traded to Tampa Bay for a seventh round pick, meaning he may have been a waste of two draft picks.
Could Have Drafted: Dwight Freeney (11th overall)
1) JaMarcus Russell: 2008 Draft, Round 1/Pick 1; Quarterback – LSU taken by the Oakland Raiders
Russell’s 2009 passer rating of 50.0 was the lowest rating by a starting quarterback in the NFL since 1998. His final stats during his tenure as a Raider were 52.1 % completion precentage, 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, a passer rating of 65.2, and 15 lost fumbles. For this, the Raiders signed him to a contract worth $32 million guaranteed. In three seasons with the Raiders, Russell finished 7–18.
Could Have Drafted: Calvin Johnson (2nd overall)
If you recall back around the Super Bowl, there was a spirited debate about quarterbacks. On one hand, if Brady had won, would he be the greatest of all time? On the other, since Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl, where does he rank amongst the all-time greats? Let’s cut through the crap here…the best way to get a bunch of football fans arguing is to start a debate over a list of all-time greats, and no position gets a bigger reaction than the quarterback.
There are three main problems inherent in creating lists like this. For openers, everybody has personal biases and/or their favorites. Trust me, as you read this list, you are likely to find a guy who you will think I rated too low. Conversely, you are likely to find a guy who I rated too high or you may find a guy you don’t like rated above your favorite. The second issues is the subjective nature of “greatness;” this feeds into the “personal bias” issue and it isn’t easily solved by merely clinging to statistics, which leads to the third problem. The argument over “greatness” takes a major trip over the difference in eras; let’s face it, professional football is not the same game in 1940 as it is today. This is why I developed a list of criteria designed to mitigate those problems as much as possible.
Ability as compared to others in a player’s era – 30% of grade: This is what I consider the true measure of greatness. It is safe to assume that the players in the NFL at any time were the best football players on the planet, and standing out amongst the best of the best is a pretty good definition of greatness.
Athleticism – 20% of grade: Great quarterbacks have to make great plays, and that requires athletic skill. Another factor is that one-dimensional quarterbacks tend to rate lower in this criteria; the immobile pocket passer who can’t avoid a rush suffers in this category as well as the “scrambler” who can’t throw. To be at the top of this list, a quarterback really needs a high score here.
Performance in the “Clutch”- 15% of grade: Here’s where you get the play-off performances, fourth-quarter comebacks, and all those sort of greatness-defining moments. Conversely, if we are going to value winning championships, we also have to examine big-game failures.
Skill as a Passer – 15% of grade: This would be the statistic-heavy criteria on this list. Regardless of era, passing has been largely a sole responsibility of the quarterback.
Winning as a Team – 10% of grade: In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.” Winning is winning, and while regular-season wins are important, play-off wins and championships carry most of the weight for this criteria, but in the sense that football is a team sport, and quarterbacks are measured in this case as to how well they contributed to the performance of their team. In other words, a quarterback who never won championships can certainly make the list, yet one who didn’t have a regular-season winning record would find it very difficult. Also, A quarterback with winning-regular season record but a bad play-off record would suffer.
Leadership – 5% of grade: I’ve always thought this criteria for quarterbacks was a bit over-rated. Teams do need leaders, but that doesn’t always have to be the quarterback. It’s a bonus when that is the case, but it isn’t essential.
Toughness/Durability – 5% of grade: This is rather simple; you can’t be great if you can’t play, and you can’t play if you can’t stay on the field.
Really I’m trying to expand beyond the shopworn “who won more championships vs. who had better stats debate;” ESPN gives us a steady diet of that, but it also presents us the problem that really isn’t solvable. Not only is that debate an important part of the discussion, but any list of criteria is going to leave somebody out. Thankfully, this is why blogs have comments section. Peruse this list and share your thoughts.
First, look at the notable quarterbacks who didn’t make the cut. It’s a safe bet Eli Manning cracks the top 30 by the time he’s done, and of the current quarterbacks who aren’t included here, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers seem to be the best bets to be in this discussion by the time their careers are done.
- Archie Manning
- Bob Griese
- Bob Waterfield
- Boomer Esaison
- Craig Morton
- Dave Krieg
- Donovan McNabb
- Drew Bledsoe
- Eli Manning
- Jack Kemp
- Jim Hart
- Jim Plunkett
- John Hadl
- Joe Namath
- Joe Theismann
- Ken Stabler
- Kerry Collins
- Phil Simms
- Randall Cunningham
- Roman Gabriel
- Ron Jaworski
- Vinny Testaverde
Now, for the actual Dubsism list of the 30 Greatest Quarterbacks to date:
30) Ken Anderson
Never a champion, but never a loser either. Despite the fact that Anderson played for some bad Cincinnati Bengal teams, that might be the best way to describe him. Anderson is the best quarterback who isn’t going to get into the Hall of Fame. The best thing on Anderson’s “great quarterback resume” is the fact he made the Bengals relevant for close to a decade and a half despite the fact the “Queen City Kitties” are one of the historic dysfunctional franchises in all of sport.
Even though he likely never gets into Canton, Anderson does have Hall of Fame worthy numbers as a passer; his stats are better than several guys long since immortalized in bronze. Granted his won-loss record in the regular season isn’t spectacular, but Anderson may be the best post-season quarterback who never won a championship. Anderson’s post-season passer rating is second only to Joe Montana, and that also happens to be the guy to whom Anderson lost his only Super Bowl appearance. Not to mention, Anderson’s 1982 single-season record of a completion percentage of 70.6% stood for 27 years; since when it has been passed twice by a guy who is likely to end up in the top ten of this list: Drew Brees.
29) Steve McNair
Steve McNair is the first example on this list of a quarterback who could beat you with his arm or his feet. His career year in 2000 with the Tennessee Titans exemplifies that. McNair registered career passing highs with 3,350 passing yards, 264 completions, 21 passing touchdowns, and a 90.2 quarterback rating. On top of that, he was also one of the team’s most effective rushers, tying for the team lead in rushing scores with five. This multi-faceted attack allowed McNair to become both the Titans’ all-time leading passer and one of the great running quarterbacks in NFL history.
McNair led the Titans to the playoffs four times, as well as once with the Baltimore Ravens. He came within one infamous play – the last-second, just-short-of-the-goal line completion to Kevin Dyson – of winning a Super Bowl. McNair was a three-time Pro Bowler and was All-Pro and Co-NFL MVP in 2003.
28) George Blanda
Throughout 26 seasons and 340 games in professional football as a quarterback and place-kicker, George Blanda was known for his toughness, versatility and longevity. He led the Houston Oilers to the first two AFL titles in 1960 and 1961. It took the Dallas Texans (later the Kansaa City Chiefs) double -overtime to keep Blanda and the Oilers from a “three-peat.”
Blanda’s professional career started for $600 in 1949. While the Chicago Bears primarily used Blanda as a quarterback and placekicker, he also saw time on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker. It would not be until 1953 that Blanda would emerge as the Bears’ top quarterback, but an injury the following year effectively ended his first-string status. For the next four years, he was used mostly in a kicking capacity.
Blanda retired after the 1958 NFL season because of Bears owner George Halas insistence of only using him as a kicker, but returned in 1960 upon the formation of the American Football League. He signed with the Houston Oilers again as a quarterback and kicker. He was derided by the sports media as an “NFL Reject,” but he went on to lead the Oilers to the first two championships in AFL history, and he was the All-AFL quarterback and won AFL Player of the Year honors in 1961. During that season, he led the AFL with 3,330 passing yards and a record 36 touchdown passes. That record, although tied by the Giants’ Y.A. Tittle in 1963, was not surpassed in pro football until 1984 when the Dolphins’ Dan Marino tossed 48 scores.
In 1962, Blanda had two 400-yard passing days for the Oilers; a 464-yard, 4 touchdown effort against the Buffalo Bills and a 418-yard, 7 touchdown blasting of the New York Titans. Blanda threw at least 4 touchdowns 13 times during his career and once attempted 68 passes in one game. Blanda would have easily been comfortable in today’s pass-happy game; from 1963 to 1965, Blanda led the AFL in passing attempts and completions, and ranked in the top ten for attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns during seven consecutive seasons. A four-time member of the American Football League All-Star team, Blanda’s already-long career seemed over when he was released by the Oilers in 1967. However, the Oakland Raiders signed him later that year, seeing his potential as a contributing backup passer and a dependable kicker.
During the 1967 season, Blanda’s kicking saw him lead the AFL in scoring with 116 points. The Raiders went on to compete in Super Bowl II, but the following two seasons ended in heartbreak as they lost in the AFL Championship games both times. In 1970, Blanda was released during the preseason, but bounced back to establish his 21st professional season with one of the most dramatic comebacks in sports history. Beginning with the game at Pittsburgh, Blanda put together five straight clutch performances.
Against the Steelers, Blanda threw for three touchdowns in relief of an injured Daryle Lamonica. One week later, his 48-yard field goal with three seconds remaining salvaged a 17–17 tie with the Kansas City Chiefs. Against the Browns, Blanda once again came off the bench to throw a touchdown pass to tie the game with 1:34 remaining, then kicked a 53-yard field goal with three seconds left for the 23–20 win. Immediately after the winning field goal, Raiders radio announcer Bill King excitedly declared, “George Blanda has just been elected King of the World!” In the Raiders’ next game, Blanda again replaced Lamonica in the fourth quarter and connected with Fred Biletnikoff on a touchdown pass with 2:28 remaining to defeat the Denver Broncos. The streak concluded one week later when Blanda’s 16-yard field goal in the closing seconds defeated the San Diego Chargers, 20–17.
In the AFC title game against the Baltimore Colts, Blanda again relieved an injured Lamonica and had a superb performance, completing 17 of 32 passes for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns while also kicking a 48-yard field goal and two extra points, keeping the Raiders in the game until the final quarter, when he was intercepted twice. At 43, Blanda became the oldest quarterback ever to play in a championship game, and was one of the few remaining straight-ahead kickers in the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs’ owner Lamar Hunt said in jest, “Why, this George Blanda is as good as his father, who used to play for Houston.” Although he never again played a major role at quarterback, Blanda would serve as the Raiders’ kicker for five more seasons. Blanda played in his last game at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium on January 4, 1976, in the AFC Championship Game at age 48. Blanda went out on a 41-yard field goal and one extra point as the Raiders lost to the Steelers 16-10.
Blanda finished his 26 professional football seasons having completed 1,911 of 4,007 pass attempts for 26,920 yards and 236 touchdowns. Blanda also held the NFL record for most interceptions thrown with 277, until Brett Favre broke in 2007. He rushed for 344 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, kicked 335 of 641 field goals, and 943 of 959 extra points, giving him 2,002 total points. Additional stats include 1 interception, 2 kickoff returns for 19 yards, 22 punts for 809 yards, and 23 fumble recoveries.
In 1976, at the age of 48, he retired as the league’s all-time leading scorer, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
27) Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger became the youngest Super Bowl-winning quarterback to date when he led the Steelers to a 21–10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in his second professional season at the age of 23. Four years later, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a second Super Bowl Championship. Roethlisberger never gets credit for what an efficient passer he is because of his ability to scramble and extend plays. He currently ranks 11th all-time in NFL passer rating (92.1), 5th in yards per attempt (8.0), and 12th in completion percentage (63.1%) among quarterbacks with a minimum of 1,500 career attempts. He also has a .700 winning percentage in the regular season. Having said all that, Roethisberger has plenty of time to move either up or down on this list.
26) Bart Starr
Starr is the quintessential model of efficiency and not beating one’s self. Starr is not the guy who will blow you away with his huge stats or game-winning plays, but he did lead the Packers dynasty that won five championships in seven years during the 1960s. His .900 winning percentage in the post-season e may be the most efficient passer ever and his 9-1 post season record is the best by a quarterback. As I said, Starr doesn’t have the huge stat sheet, but he does have 5 championships, an NFL MVP award, and 2 Super Bowl MVP’s. Let’s be honest, the great ones win when it matters.
25) Kurt Warner
Warner might just be the ultimate NFL “rags-to-riches” story. During journey from the fields of Iowa to the NFL, Warner at times bagged groceries and starred in the Arena Football. Nobody drafted him out of Northern Iowa and ended up having one the great careers of all time. He was the NFL MVP twice, Super Bowl MVP once, and owns the three highest single-game passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history.
24) Bobby Layne
For a guy who was never considered an “elite” passer, when Layne retired he held the league record’s for most career pass attempts, completions, passing yards, and touchdown passes. He was also one of the best running quarterbacks on this list. He won NFL Championships in 1952, 1953, and 1957, and just missed a fourth in 1954. The Lions haven’t won a championship since the shipped Layne to the Steelers in 1958. Bobby Layne is also the only player on this list who has a Dubsy Award named for him.
23) Norm Van Brocklin
‘The Dutchman” is the only quarterback to split the signal-calling duties with two other Hall of Famers during his career; Bob Waterfield in Los Angeles and Sonny Jurgensen in Philadelphia. Van Brocklin played in 9 Pro Bowls and was a first-team All Pro selection in 1960. He won two NFL championships and is the only quarterback to beat a Vince Lomabardi-coached Packers team in a championship game.
22) Drew Brees
This is a guy who is only going up on this list. After only 10 seasons, he already has 40,000 passing yards, 281 touchdowns, six Pro Bowl Selections, one first-team All-Pro selection and a Super Bowl MVP award. Barring injury, Brees has at least four or five high-level seasons left. Seems to me 400 touchdowns and 60,000 passing yards is in reach. Tack another championship to those numbers and Brees looks to be a top ten quarterback waiting to happen.
21) Len Dawson
Dawson was never flashy, and he never blew your mind with eye-popping statistics, but he was great nevertheless. Efficiency was his main weapon. Dawson led the AFL in completion percentage and passer rating six times and led the Chiefs to three championships. Along the way, he was a six-time AFL All-Star and was the MVP of Super Bowl IV.
20) Y.A. Tittle
Tittle’s is like the 1960’s answer to Jim Kelly. Tittle had the pieces around him and he was good enough to get his guys to the Championship on multiple occassions, but was never able to get over the hump. He came the closest in 1963 when he set a single-season record with 36 touchdown passes; a record that stood until Dan Marino threw 48 touchdowns in 1984.
19) Jim Kelly
Kelly is another quarterback who spent time in an inferior league (the USFL wasn’t a bad league, but it was closer in terms of talent to the CFL than the NFL). Even though he lost them all, playing in four straight Super Bowls was impressive, one can make an argument the Bills were over-matched in talent in two of them. If Scott Norwood makes that field goal in 1991, so many thing change. The Bills become discussed as one of the great teams of all time, the Bills likely win at least one more Championship, and Kelly moves up this list.
18) Warren Moon
The fact that Moon had over 49,000 passing yards and 291 touchdowns in the NFL is astonishing considering he spent the first five years of his pro football career in Canada. Even if one were to consider his CFL stats in the total (which is a bit ridiculous since one would need to assume the talent levels of the two leagues are comparable), he becomes the the only guy besides Brett Favre with 70,000 passing yards and one of only three quarterbacks as of this writing (Favre, Marino) with 400 touchdowns. Moon was never a successful play-off quarterback, but he was selected to nine Pro Bowls was named NFL MVP in 1990.
17) Dan Fouts
If Dan Fouts isn’t the best pure passer on this list, there’s no denying he is in the top three. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and was twice a first-team All-Pro. He was the first to throw for over 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, and his 4,802 passing yards in 1981 was a single-season record. However, his won-loss record was only 86-84-1, and he never appeared in a Super Bowl, having gone 0-2 in conference championship games.
16) Terry Bradshaw
Bradshaw started out as a bumpkin in cleats, and ended up winning four Super Bowls. However, in between, Bradshaw was a model of inconsistency. He would rapidly alternate between greatness and gruesome. He put together seasons which made him a 3-time Pro Bowler and once was named first-team All-Pro; he also had seasons in which he threw 25 interceptions, or only completed 45% of his passes, or got benched for some other reason. Inconsistency is a brutal enough factor to keep a league MVP and two-time Super Bowl MVP in the bottom half of this list.
15) Fran Tarkenton
Tarkenton greatness as a passer gets overlooked largely because he was such great runner (3,674 yards) and he was the first quarterback to lose three Super Bowls. His 47,000 career passing yards was #1 all-time when he retired. He completed 60 percent of his passe sin five of his final six seasons, which is incredible given that he played for 18 seasons, and at the time a completion rate that high was not common.
14) Brett Favre
Brett Favre was the ultimate riverboat gambler. He played at a high level into his 40’s. Of all the records he set, the one that nobody who is alive today will live long enough to see broken is 285 consecutive starts. He’s got 70,000+ passing yards, 500+ touchdowns, and he was an 11-time Pro Bowler, 3-time first team All-Pro, and a 3-time league MVP. That seems like a guy who should be in the top five. So, why isn’t he?
For starters, the fact that he threw 336 career interceptions, which is almost 60 more than the 2nd-place guy. More importantly, he threw way too many of those picks in crunch time, which helps to explain how a quarterback with a 186-112 regular season win-loss record was only a 13-11 performer in the play-offs, and only 3-6 in conference champiosnhip games and Super Bowls.
13) Troy Aikman
The New York Mets offered Aikman a contract when he came out of high school, but instead he chose to pursue football. 94 career wins, three Super Bowl championships and six Pro Bowls later, Aikman landed in the Hall of Fame as the quarterback with the most wins in any decade until he was surpassed by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Aikman retired as the Cowboys passer despite the fact his career was cut short by injury issues.
12) Roger Staubach
The only reason Roger Staubach isn’t higher on this list is his career simply wasn’t long enough to rack up big numbers. He was a 27-year-old rookie in 1969 because he had a four-year service commitment after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. His career gets even shorter when you consider that head coach Tom Landry didn’t name him as the full-time starter until 1971. But when he was on the field, there was none better. Between 1971 and 1979, Staubach won two Super Bowls and was a six-time Pro Bowler. The fact that he put up over 22,000 passing yards and 2,2200 rushing yards in what really amounted to only 9 full seasons, it isn’t hard to see that if Staubach had a more traditional-length career, he would easily be a top ten guy.
11) Tom Brady
Here’s where this is going to get ugly. I’m positive I’m going to get a lot of comments about how Brady should rate much higher than #11. No offense, but anybody who thinks that right now Tom Brady is a top ten quarterback now is blind to some crucial facts. But first, let’s look at the things that got Brady on to the list in the first place.
Brady’s NFL record of 358 consecutive passing attempts without an interception would be astounding in any era. So would the fact that he has three NFL Championships and two Super Bowl MVP awards. So would his .700+ winning percentage as a starting quarterback. Oddly enough, Brady’s accomplishments are somewhat over-valued by the era he played in.
First of all, he shares a major problem with Peyton Manning. Their lack of mobility coupled with rule changes made in the last twenty years mean neither would have been able to play before the 1970’s when quarterbacks really were “fair game.”
Second of all, Brady is great, but he simply isn’t that much better than many of his current colleagues…his 50 touchdowns or 5,000 passing yards aren’t such shocking numbers as they were in 1984 when Dan Marino was the first to approach them. The league values the forward pass, and has made rule changes to facilitate the passing game.
Lastly, I understand that Brady’s 5 Super Bowl appearances and 3 Super Bowl wins is a major accomplishment, but it’s also fair to look at Brady’s playoff performances in the years since the last of the those Super Bowl wins at the end of the 2004 season. In 12 play-off games since the last Super Bowl win, Tom Brady and the Patriots are only 7-5. More astounding are the stats for an average Tom Brady performance in those games: 23/36, 64% completion percentage, 256 yards, 2.17 touchdowns, and 1.42 interceptions.
Most of those numbers are acceptable, the touchdown to interception ration is the killer. For a guy who is supposed to be a great pure passer, and for a guy who holds that record of 358 consecutive passing attempts without an interception, having more three INT games than 0 INT games in your last 12 playoff performances kills ratings in categories like “Skill as a Passer” and “Performance in the Clutch”
10) Peyton Manning
Obviously, as of this writing, we have no idea if Manning’s career is over or not. As it stands right now, I believe Manning has earned the accolades which make him top ten all-time quarterback. Given the criteria we’ve established for making this list, the only way he moves up is to win another Super Bowl or league MVP award, neither of which seem very likely. Conversely, the only way he moves down is if another quarterback passes him.
Having said that, let’s look at what has made Peyton Manning a top ten quarterback. Nobody as of this date has won four NFL MVP awards. Peyton is the fastest quarterback in history to reach 4,000 completions and 50,000 passing yards. He is also an 11-time Pro Bowler and has been selected All-Pro eight times. Given all that, why is he only at #10 on this list?
For starters, Manning suffers greatly in two categories, Performance in the “clutch” and athleticism. Manning’s play-off record is dismal and Manning, like Brady, is an immobile pocket passer who would have only flourished in this league in the last twenty years. Put him and Brady in the 1960’s when defenders were allowed to literally beat the stuffing out of quarterbacks and neither of them would have survived.
9) Sid Luckman
To understand why Sid Luckman is in the top ten, you really have to consider the power of the difference in eras, and the length of season and individual careers. Considering Luckman played in an era when the forward pass was treated as a “trick” play, it’s difficult to look at sheer numbers and appreciate his greatness without considering the difference in eras. While Sammy Baugh (see #6) was inventing the modern passing game in the 1930’s and 1940’s, Luckman’s 2,194 passing yards and 28 touchdowns in 1943 seemed like an impossiblilty in those days; it would be roughly equal to a quarterback tossing for more than 6,800 yards and 57 touchdowns today. Luckman won four Championships and still holds the NFL record for touchdown pass percentage (7.9), and his 8.4 yards per pass attempt is second only to Otto Graham.
8 ) Sonny Jurgensen
Jurgensen is perhaps the #2 or #3 pure passer of all-time. Vince Lombardi once said that Jurgensen was the best he’d ever seen. Jurgensen was the dominant quarterback of the 1960’s. He led the NFL in passing yards five times (good for second-place all-time which he shares with Dan Marino) and led the league in passing touchdowns twice. Even though he spent time as a back-up early in his career, if he played today, an average Jurgensen season would be ~ 4,800 passing yards, yards and 37 touchdowns against 11 interceptions per season.
7) Steve Young
In terms of athleticism, Young ranked second behind John Elway. Young had a run of dominance emjoyed by only a select few in league history, but it was only long enough to rate him at #7 on this list. Young easily could have rated as high as Elway in the overall rankings had he not wasted two seasons in the USFL, two seasons in Tampa Bay, and played back-up to Joe Montana for four more. By the time he became the starter in San Francisco, half his career was over, but in the seasons he started, Young was a seven-time Pro Bowler, first team All-Pro three times, two-time NFL MVP and won a Super Bowl in which he was also the MVP. By the way, in that Super Bowl, he threw a record six touchdown passes. That’s just for openers on Young’s impressive stats. He retired with the highest career passer rating (98.6), he had a passer rating of 100 or greater in seven seasons, while racking up 4,239 career rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns.
6) Sammy Baugh
Without a doubt, Sammy Baugh is the greatest all-around football player on this list. At one time, Baugh held 13 NFL records at three different positions (quarterback, punter, and defensive back). As a quarterback, spot number six may be too low. Even though he retired 60 years ago, Baugh is still the record-holder for most years leading the league in passing yards. Baugh is still the record-holder for most years with the lowest interception percentage. Baugh was a 6-time Pro Bowler, a 4-time first team All-Pro, and he won two NFL Championships. The most amazing performance was Baugh’s 335 passing yards when he led the Washington Redskins over the Chicago Bears in the 1937 NFL Championship game. Remember, the league average for passing yards that season was 102.2 yards per game, so Baugh’s performance would be like somebody throwing for about 750 yards today. Oh, and he was a rookie when he did it. It’s still the best performance for a rookie quarterback in a playoff game.
5) Dan Marino
Marino is the highest ranked guy on this list that never won a Championship, and it really doesn’t matter. No matter what your criteria, if Marino doesn’t grade out as a top five quarterback, your list is wrong. His 48 touchdown, 5,000-yard campaign in 1984 is one of the great single-season performances in all of sport, not just football. Marino retired holding many NFL passing records, including total yards, touchdowns, and career completions.
4) John Elway
Not only is Elway perhaps the best pure athlete on this list, he also made so many mediocre players around him better. Tremendous athleticism. He was Vince Young, except he could throw it accurately to any place on the field. Elway made legitimate receiving threats out of no-names like Ricky Nattiel, Mark Jackson, and Vance Johnson, and the threat of Elway’s passing game meant defenders played back in coverage, which allowed bench-jockeys like Gaston Green, Bobby Humphrey, and Sammy Winder to become Pro Bowlers at running back. all earned Pro Bowl berths taking handoffs from Elway.
Elway’s five 5 Super Bowl appearances ties him (as of this writing) with Tom Brady, and while he lost three of them, Elway’s dominating performances were the sole reason the Broncos mattered for a decade and a half. Along the way, Elway won two championships, was selected to nine Pro Bowls, was a Super Bowl MVP, and 1987 NFL MVP. Not to mention, he was nicknamed “Captain Comeback” because pulling a fourth-quarter comeback might as well be called an “Elway.”
3) Joe Montana
Montana wasn’t big and athletic. Montana wasn’t lightning quick. Montana didn’t have the quickest release. But he was the definition of “cool under pressure;” the ice water which flowed through his veins allowed him to dissect defenses with surgical precision. This is why in a 10-year span in San Francisco, Montana won four Super Bowls, was named Super Bowl MVP three times, and was NFL MVP twice.
2) Johnny Unitas
Unitas was a three-time NFL MVP and was first-team All-Pro five times. Unitas has 3 championships, 10 Pro Bowls, was voted All-Pro 6 times., and still holds the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (47) ; a record which has been on the books for 52 years.
More importantly, he was the inventor of the modern passing game. Unitas revolutionized the game, without him there would be none of the guys the under-40 crowd will try to claim are greater than he was.
1) Otto Graham
Anything you say about Otto Graham starts with this sentence: Graham was the greatest winner in the history to date of pro football. Given the listed criteria this list with which this list was built, “Automatic Otto” was a lead-pipe cinch for the top spot. Graham was the living, breathing definition of what being a pro quarterback is. Stack him up against the criteria:
Toughness/Durability: Graham played in an era when there were few rules to prevent defenders from turning quarterback into potted plants. Graham never missed a game, even after having his face split open in a game in 1953. Graham returned to that game with 15 stitches in his mouth to lead his team to a comeback win.
Leadership: Before his career in football, Graham served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. After his pro football days, he served as the head football coach and athletic director at the U.S. Coast guard Academy
Winning as a Team: In his entire 10-year professional football career, Graham never finished a season without playing in a championship game. That means in 10 years, he played in 10 championship games and won 7 of them. That’s more than twice as many championship appearances as Joe Montana or Terry Bradshaw, with nearly twice as many victories. Not to mention, his regular season winning percentage of 80% is still the all-time record as well.
Athleticism: With 44 career rushing touchdowns, there’ really no question that Graham was top-flight athlete. Not to mention, he spent a year playing professional basketball with the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings).
Skill as a Passer: Just look at the numbers. 9.0 yards per pass attempt still ranks #1 on the all-time list, his career passer rating is the highest on this list and his interception percentage is the lowest.
Performance in the “clutch:” .700 winning percentage in championship games, and an .800 winning percentage overall. That ought to cover it.
Ability as Compared to Others in his Era: Because Graham spent the first four years of his career with the Cleveland Browns while they were still part of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC), and because the NFL doesn’t recognize AAFC championships or statistics, Graham rarely gets a high ranking in most discussions. That’s just ridiculous for a host of reasons, not the least of which was the fact Graham and the Browns dominated the NFL after the leagues merged in 1950. In many respects, the AAFC was a better league than the NFL, and the NFL recognizes AFL records.
Administrative decisions aside, there’s really no debating Otto Graham is the greatest quarterback of all-time.
Now for the fun part: I’m hoping you will comment on this list, but before you do, consider the following. When you are going to tell me about how wrong I am, be sure to include what you would have done differently. Otherwise, go make your own list
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