The ring’s the thing for QBs

Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys

What a quarterback accomplishes with his arm is important. But what he accomplishes with his team carries even more weight in the pages of history.

We asked our listeners and readers last week in our Talk of Fame Network poll to identify Line 1 on the Hall of Fame resume for any NFL quarterback. We offered up eight options, ranging from individual to team accomplishments.

Super Bowl victories, the ultimate team accomplishment, won out with 41 percent of the vote. Victories, another team accomplishment, finished a distant second with 20 percent of the vote.

Passer efficiency rating was next at 11 percent. Finishing with scant single-digit support were yards-per-attempt, MVP awards, touchdown-to-interception ratio, completion percentage, passing yards and passing titles.

The three Talk of Fame Network hosts – Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge — were in unanimous agreement with the poll result, which is rare.

“Quarterbacks are judged by their jewelry and their won-lost record,” said Borges, who has spent the last 16 NFL seasons as a Boston columnist watching Tom Brady quarterback the Patriots. “In the end that is their only job – to win. Everything else is window dressing. Think not? Go ask Dan Marino.”

The Hall of Fame itself stands as proof that championships matter. Of the 30 modern-era quarterbacks enshrined in Canton, 24 of them won NFL titles and four others took their teams to championship games.

Brady has five championship rings, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana four apiece and Troy Aikman three. Brady is still active, but Bradshaw, Montana and Aikman were all first-ballot Hall-of-Fame selections. Bart Starr, Roger Staubach and John Elway all won two Super Bowls apiece. All were first-ballot Hall-of-Fame selections as well.

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  1. Rasputin
    April 19, 2017

    What would the results have been if you had made “stats” one category instead of breaking it up into hopelessly lesser subcategories? As it is stats combined for 34% of the vote with 25, only 6 short of the 31 “Super Bowls” garnered.

    How many HoF QBs have lousy stats? Having at least good stats is a prerequisite for being HoF worthy. That’s why Jim Plunkett and Trent Dilfer aren’t in Canton. By contrast there are several Super Bowl era HoF QBs with zero SB wins, as bad as you can possibly do in the Super Bowl metric. Not winning a SB isn’t a disqualifier for the HoF. Ask Marino, Fouts, Moon, Tarkenton, Kelly, Jurgensen, and John Elway if he had retired two years earlier.

    Personally I look to passer rating first when evaluating HoF candidates, since that encompasses several salient stats. But Super Bowls and all these other metrics are important too. As a fan I prize Super Bowls first and foremost, which is why I consider the 2016 Cowboys season a failure. But HoF evaluation is different.

    I wouldn’t be shocked if Ken Anderson makes it to Canton some day. I would be surprised of Jim Plunkett makes it, despite his 2 Super Bowl wins eclipsing a majority of Super Bowl era HoF QBs. Of the 20 Super Bowl era HoF QBs, 13 have 1 or 0 rings. Four are tied with Plunkett at 2 rings.

    That means only 3 HoF QBs, Aikman, Bradshaw, and Montana, have won more Super Bowls than Jim Plunkett. Only 3 HoFers have eclipsed him in what you consider to be the most important category, and yet he’s not even seriously considered for the HoF. What does that say?

    PS – In case your picture selection is meant to imply otherwise, Aikman had great stats. In some important areas he has among the greatest stats of all time, though it may take a deeper than amateurish, quick glance to see them.

    • April 19, 2017

      I look to winning, period. Why I love Brady. Passer rating is meaningless to me. Unitas is ranked 81st in passer rating. Guys like Testaverde and Dalton are ahead of him. Meaningless, especially considering that it’s become a horizontal passing game and that completion percentages start at 60 percent. I look at winning percentages, which is why Staubach is one of the most underrated QBs of all time. To me, it’s more than what numbers tell you. It’s about leadership. Why Brady is magnificent. He lifts everyone around him. Patriots haven’t had great teams over the years, but they have had a great QB and great chemistry. Brady’s winning percentage is second only to Otto Graham, another guy who doesn’t get the attention he deserves because he played in a non-ESPN age. For me, the hallmark of a great QB is the last two minutes of a game. When you absolutely, positively have to have a score, he delivers. In my lifetime, nobody better than Unitas, Brady, Montana, Elway … and Staubach.

      • Rasputin
        April 21, 2017

        Whoops, that reply below was meant for you.

  2. Rasputin
    April 21, 2017

    Unitas retired #1 in career yards by a large margin and with a top 5 career passer rating, and really top 4 if you exclude Len Dawson’s pre-full merger AFL years. He was tied with Otto Graham at 78.2 and everyone ranking above him is in the Hall of Fame too.

    Career Winning Percentage as a Starter (regular season)

    Johnny Unitas – 0.652
    Jim McMahon – 0.691

    McMahon won a Super Bowl with the Bears and has an even higher winning percentage than Unitas. Does he belong in the HoF? I’d say no because he’s lacking in general stats compared to his contemporaries.

    I’m not completely disagreeing with you. I agree that winning is very important. I just don’t think HoF analysts should put all their eggs into one basket. All the salient metrics are important, and there is more than one path to being a legitimate HoFer.

    Usually QBs who win a lot will also have great stats (the aforementioned Brady, Otto Graham, and Staubach), so there’s heavy overlap, but sometimes a QB clearly rides to a team to Super Bowl glory or even a high winning percentage, which is why they’re rightly excluded from Canton, while others were great and put up awesome stats but were never on a team good enough to win a SB, which is why they’re rightly inducted anyway.

    The bottom line here is that, while it rightly helps, a QB doesn’t and shouldn’t HAVE to win a SB to be a HoFer.

    • April 22, 2017

      And they don’t. Marino. Fouts. Kelly. Moon. Tarkenton. All examples. But it enhances the resume. Can be a difference maker when talking two candidates. McMahon not only doesn’t belong in the Hall; he doesn’t belong in any conversation about the Hall. I covered the guy, and he’s the classic example of the right guy at the right time … with Chicago. Great college QB. But nothing exceptional about him in pros except his behavior. That made him different. Was he a leader? Yes. But he was not a great pro QB. Had the benefit of a great supporting cast.

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