Tuesday, January 24, 2006

John Elway: Master of the Universe

He did this a lot during his career.

One of the bad things that happens when your favorite football team gets destroyed in the playoffs, aside from the obvious end to their season, is that friends who dislike your team will make all kinds of asinine remarks, even though his team (Kansas City) was sitting at home watching it all on TV, as they have been for the last 36 years. Yes, it's been 36 years since the Chiefs actually played in a Super Bowl. Len Dawson was their QB. Since we'll be talking about Hall of Fame QBs, this is the last reference in this post to Len Dawson, and probably the last one you'll ever hear in your entire life, even if you're somehow related to him.

You can see how 36 years of football futility can drive a person to such lengths as to contend that John Elway sucks. There's no doubt that the Broncos took one up the ass from the Steelers this weekend, but to say that John Elway is merely decent, and then later to say that he's in the same league as Elvis Grbac is ridiculous at least, and destroys any credibility a person has when it comes to their opinions on sports. But, I will give you statistics to show why that is the case.

I do not think John Elway is the greatest QB ever to play the game. That is, without a doubt, Joe Montana. I hate Joe Montana, but you can't deny his place in history as the greatest QB. Much like CowboyLaw, I grew up with the same level of disappointment in the Broncos Super Bowl appearances that he did. And Joe Montana had an awful lot to do with that disappointment. But just because I hate the guy doesn't mean it changes his place in history. I also didn't abandon my team because they lost a Super Bowl. Herein lies some serious irony, CowboyLaw abandons the Broncos for losing in the Super Bowl, yet cheers for a team that hasn't even been to a Super Bowl in 36 years. And he's not even old enough to have been alive in 1970.

John Elway is either the 2nd or 3rd greatest QB ever to play the game. What metric should we use? Elway won 147 games as the Broncos starting QB. That's more than any other QB in NFL history. He was the starting QB in 5 Super Bowls, another NFL record. That's more than the entire Chiefs franchise has ever even been to. He's won 2 Super Bowls. More than the Chiefs entire franchise. 47 game-winning or game-tying drives in the 4th quarter, another NFL record. Basically, when it comes to winning the game, he's the best of all time. If winning doesn't make you a good QB, I guess you either don't understand football or you're just a jealous Chiefs fan.

CowboyLaw mentioned that Defense wins games and championships, and uses the pathetic Chiefs as an example of this fact. I'll give him that the Chiefs have a pathetic defense, but I think this has a lot to do with coaching. The problem with applying this logic to the Broncos is that they never had a great defense in John Elway's entire career. During John Elway's career, the Broncos were rarely in the Top 10 in total defense and never rated better than 6th in the league. There were no Hall of Fame Defensive players in Denver. Champ Bailey might be the first, but not after how he played on Sunday against Hines Ward.

CowboyLaw also uses Career Passer Rating as one of his ways to show how Elway doesn't measure up to the greats. What he does by doing this is illustrate why people who understand football don't rely on Passer Rating to encapsulate a QB's entire career. If Elvis Grbac and Steve Bono, former Chiefs QBs have similar pass ratings to Elway, it shows you how flawed the Passer Rating is at looking at a QB. No one would try to make the case that Elway is in the same league as those two mediocre guys, except perhaps CowboyLaw.

Elway is 2nd all-time in the NFL (behind Dan Marino) in completions and passing yards and 4th overall in TDs thrown. If Elvis Grbac has nearly the same Passer Rating as a guy with this kind of passing resume, it only goes to show you the shortcomings of that statistic. Elway also has over 3000 yards rushing in his career, something that wouldn't be included in a passer rating, but obviously came in handy when they beat Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII and Elway ran for a first down that essentially sealed the game for his team. The Passer Rating is a weak metric, and CowboyLaw proved our point here for us.

He goes on to site the number of interceptions Elway averaged. Given the fact that he's got more victories and Super Bowl starts than any other QB in NFL history, I guess it seems a little silly to even address this one, but again, his logic is highly questionable. You see, Elway not only had the 2nd most completions behind Dan Marino, but also the 2nd most passing attempts as well. John Elway, as evidenced by his 47 career comebacks, played from behind a lot. And consequently threw the ball a lot as well. And Elway NEVER had a Hall of Fame Receiver, like Jerry Rice, and as CowboyLaw pointed out, only had a great running back his last 3 years in the league.

If you break down Elway's Interceptions per Passing Attempt (0.031) and Interceptions per Completion (0.055), you see that he ranks close to some of the more accepted greats like Joe Montana (0.026/0.041), Steve Young(0.025/0.041), and Brett Favre (0.033/0.055). If you just look at the number of Interceptions, it will obviously be skewed in favor of a QB who didn't throw as many passes just based on simple probability. This is how a Passer Rating works against a guy who plays for a really long time and throws the ball a ton. You can see that his Interception Rate was only different from Young and Montana by a statistically insignificant margin, when you're talking about 7,250 passing attempts (Elway's 2nd place mark).

The Broncos may have been humiliated by the Steelers on Sunday, but that doesn't make the KC Chiefs better than the Broncos, since the Chiefs didn't even make the Playoffs. John Elway is one of the greatest QBs of all-time, no matter what metric you choose.

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