With the growing increasing in the popularity of fantasy games and statistical methods to evaluate sports, even casual fans are caught up in using numbers to compare players. One thing that has always been obvious is that baseball is a game of numbers. Bill James and other sabermatricians may have increased the reliance on numbers to assess players, but they certainly didn’t start America’s love affair with baseball and mathematics. There are just so many iconic numbers: 400 average, 61 homers, 56 straight games played, 190 RBIs, etc. Thanks to fantasy football the love affair with numbers is growing with football. Ask any fantasy degenerate and he can rattle off how many touchdowns every player in the league has. They can recite how many targets every receiver on a particular team has, and they know how many yards per carry every running back has had in the last five years. All of that is well and good to the general public, but numbers matter for every position except quarterback. Not that stats are irrelevant for quarterbacks, it’s more so that the only thing that matters for them is winning Super Bowls.
The whole notion of wins being the only thing that matters for QBs is stoked by the controversy surrounding Timothy Richard Tebow. More on Tebow in a moment, but thinking about quarterbacks and their stats has always been a source of complication. Consider Tom Brady breaking the touchdown record in 2007. No one really pays attention or cares about that record because the Patriots didn’t win the Super Bowl that year. I guarantee that if Brady and Belichick won the Lombardi trophy in the 2007 season we would all be calling Brady’s season the best ever for a quarterback. Ironically enough, everyone celebrates Randy Moss breaking Jerry Rice’s touchdown reception record with 23. Moss broke the record in 2007. Going back to quarterbacks, does anyone consider Dan Marino one of the best players in NFL history? Despite having better or comparable career stats to Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Steve Young, he’s never mentioned as an all time best simply because he has one less ring than they all do (Young actually has more than one ring, but only one as a starter). The ring is the thing for quarterbacks. People rightfully say Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Walter Payton are the best running backs of all time. Emmitt Smith doesn’t vault ahead of them just because he has three championships. It’s not all about jewelry for any other position.
Trent Dilfer was essentially a pretty mediocre quarterback his whole career. He finished with more interceptions than touchdowns, a career completion percentage of 55%, and was only 3 games over .500 for his career. Those are pathetic stats, but he is remembered as being the guy who didn’t keep Baltimore’s defense from winning the Super Bowl. He sounds a whole lot like David Carr, except everyone agrees that Carr is pathetic
Consider the plight of these three quarterbacks:
- Has 2 more career touchdowns than interceptions for his career
- Has a career completion percentage of 51.9%
- Has a career winning percentage of 68%
- Has 47 more interceptions than touchdowns for his career!
- Has a career completion percentage of 50.1%
- Has a career winning percentage of 48%
- Has 3 more touchdowns than interceptions for his career
- Has a career completion percentage of 55%
- Has a career winning percentage of 60%
Two of these quarterbacks are considered icons, the other is considered overrated and essentially replaceable. Without knowing names one would easily assume that QB2 doesn’t really belong in the NFL, but everything is about the ring for quarterbacks. QB1 is Terry Bradshaw, QB2 is Joe Namath, and QB3 is none other than Mark Sanchez.
Tim Tebow doesn’t look like an NFL quarterback at all. He’s built like a fullback, his throwing windup literally includes a windup, and so far is accuracy is well below average. But all he does is win. No he hasn’t won the one game that counts, but he’s only played in essentially 11 games in his career, and he’s won 8 of them. Not to compare him to an all time great, but Magic Johnson didn’t look the part of a point guard either. How many point guards have there ever been in the NBA that are 6’9” and couldn’t really shoot? Tebow is only completing 47.5% of his passes and is averaging less than 7 yards per completion. Both of those numbers are figures keep him near the bottom of the pack for NFL quarterbacks. He’ll probably not be an all-time great, but he deserves to be given a chance by his coach John Fox and team president John Elway. Speaking of Elway, he was the perfect QB prospect coming out of Stanford University. He was 6’3” with a cannon arm, good speed, good footwork, and he was incredibly smart. Everyone knew Elway was great because he looked great. The thing most don’t remember is that he was never mentioned as an all time great until he won the back-to-back Super Bowls. Just like Tebow, Elway struggled as a first year starter. He completed only 47.5% of his passes and had twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. In fact, Elway only surpassed 60% completions for a season 3 times in his career. Of course none of that matters because he has a ring for each of his hands. As its always been and will always be, for quarterbacks, the ring is the only thing that matters.