Friday, December 10


Michael Wilbon, writing in his introductory article on

Peyton Manning, God bless him, isn't the best QB in the history of the NFL; John Elway is. (Remind me again how many Pro Bowl teammates Elway had on the first three AFC championship teams he dragged to the Super Bowl by himself?) And if not Elway, then Otto Graham. And if not Graham, then John Unitas. And if not Unitas, then Joe Montana. I'm an enormous fan of Manning's, professionally and personally. He could be, for all the right reasons, the most popular player in the NFL today. But he's not the best QB playing today. Tom Brady is. I don't know how you vote Manning ahead of Brady, the way that NFL Network survey turned out. Doesn't Brady have three Super Bowl championships and doesn't Manning have one? I presume most people can count to three.

Yes, Brady has three Super Bowl Championships and Manning has one, but it's utterly and completely ridiculous to use Super Bowl wins as a single-number metric for determining quarterbacking greatness. Trent Dilfer has one and Dan Marino zero - does that mean Dilfer was a better NFL QB? I presume Wilbon can count to one.

Plus, despite his strikingly arrogant final sentence, Wilbon's own math doesn't add up. He proclaims Brady as superior to Manning on the basis of a 3-1 team Super Bowl win edge (because, and I can't stress this enough, individuals win Super Bowls), right after declaring Elway, who won two Super Bowls (fewer than three, if I'm not mistaken 3), the best quarterback of all time. I presume Wilbon can count to two.

Let's look at some numbers in more depth than Wilbon's cursory, misleading fashion. Elway had a career passer rating of 79.9 (Tim Couch: 75.1), passer rating+ of 105 (allowing us to normalize and compare across eras, with 100 being league-average) and career winning percentage of .643. Manning, while we're here, has a career passer rating of 94.8 (rating+ of 118), and a winning percentage of .682. Manning also has more career passing yards and ninety more TD passes in 40 fewer games, has made the Pro Bowl more (10-9; Wilbon mentioned Pro Bowls first, not me) and has many more 1st team All-Pro selections (5-0). All better than Elway, though Elway did manage to recover more fumbles. On the "Best QB now" tip, Brady's rate stats are on par with Manning's, though his counting stats lag, and he does enjoy the highest win % of the group at a remarkable .763. Also, has anyone heard of a fellow named Drew Brees? Just to tie up our loose ends, Nick suggests Brady and Steve Young in a "QB to win one game" selection, to which I'd add Joe Montana.

The point of my career stats comparison is that you can't just definitively proclaim by fiat that Elway is the best QB ever and support that only with the fact that Tom Brady-led teams have won more Super Bowls than have Peyton Manning's Colts. After all, Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls, Montana four, Brady three, Troy Aikman three, and, I'm going to try not to vomit while typing this, Ben Roethlisberger seems poised for a run at a third (and Brady a fourth). So if Wilbon's going to decide Brady/Manning just on Super Bowl victories (and ignore the other 52 men on a football team), then Elway can't be any higher than 5th. I presume Wilbon can count to five.

And for the record, Denver had six Pro Bowlers in 1986 (including Elway), just one in 1987 (not Elway), and three in 1989 (again no Elway). This doesn't strike me as one man single-handedly dragging a team to the Super Bowl get kicked around by various NFC squads.

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