Inking the Quarterbacks (UPDATED)

So my defense of Peyton Manning‘s Hall of Fame candidacy…

Just kidding. 

While I’m not going to bore you with a long and passionate (oh, so passionate) defense of Peyton Manning‘s merit of being including in Canton, I did want to run ink tests on quarterbacks, just to get a feeling for where guys stood.  I rank the ink on all the quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame, plus:

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger.

I also wanted to throw in a couple of ‘control’ cases.  Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe had long, successful NFL careers, but are not Hall of Fame material, so I threw them in the mix too.  I also tested Ken Anderson who has long been considered the best player not in Canton (excluding guys still going through the election process).

The categories I selected were yards, touchdowns, passer rating, YPA, completion percentage, and interception percentage.  I figured that was a nice cross section of both counting and rate stats.  Again, the idea is to see how often a player led the league (black ink) or finished in the top 5 in the league (grey ink) in a category.  By adding those up, it gives you an idea of greatness of a player.

First the black ink.  Like with the wideouts, for years in which there were multiple leagues, a player only got credit for leading BOTH leagues in the category.  The number in the column is the number of times the player led football in the statistic for a season.

Hall of Fame players are in italics.  Active players have an asterisk. Note: chart updated to include Sammy Baugh

Yards TD Rating YPA Comp% INT% Total
Sammy Baugh 2 2 3 2 9 5 23
Steve Young 4 6 5 5 2 22
Otto Graham 4 1 4 4 4 3 20
Johnny Unitas 4 3 3 3 1 2 16
Ken Anderson 2 2 2 3 3 12
Joe Montana 2 2 1 5 1 11
Kurt Warner 1 1 2 3 3 1 11
Dan Marino 5 3 1 1 10
Dan Fouts 4 2 3 1 10
Roger Staubach 1 4 2 3 10
Peyton Manning 2 3 3 1 1 10
Tom Brady 2 3 2 1 1 1 10
Bart Starr 2 2 2 3 9
Y.A. Tittle 3 1 1 2 2 9
Norm Van Brocklin 1 2 4 1 8
Sonny Jurgensen 2 1 1 1 2 1 8
Brett Favre 2 4 1 1 8
Bobby Layne 3 1 1 1 1 7
Drew Brees 2 2 1 2 7
Bob Waterfield 2 1 2 1 6
Fran Tarkenton 1 1 2 2 6
Len Dawson 0 2 2 1 5
Joe Namath 3 1 0 1 5
Terry Bradshaw 2 2 4
Bob Griese 1 1 1 3
Jim Kelly 1 1 1 3
Warren Moon 2 1 3
George Blanda 1 1 2
Troy Aikman 1 1 2
John Elway 1 1
Ben Roethlisberger 0 1 1
Drew Bledsoe 1 1
Vinny Testaverde 0

Observations:

  • Sammy Baugh was amazing.  Possibly the best quarterback in history. 
  • Steve Young!  Young may be the most underrated quarterback in NFL history. Every time I look at his numbers, I’m astounded. These metrics don’t even give him credit for his incredible running ability.  Young absolutely dominated football when he played.
  • Ken Anderson certainly acquitted himself very well.  John Elway did not.  More on both later.

  • The control candidates (Bledsoe and Testaverde) served their purpose.  Both had long and excellent NFL careers, but ink tests separate out the elite players from the guys who were pretty good for a long time.

Now the grey ink.

Yards TD Rating YPA Comp % INT% Total
Sammy Baugh 10 10 9 11 11 10 61
Y.A. Tittle 10 7 10 10 11 10 58
Peyton Manning 10 13 8 8 10 3 52
Otto Graham 9 8 9 9 9 7 51
Fran Tarkenton 9 9 9 4 10 9 50
Johnny Unitas 8 6 8 10 9 7 48
Norm Van Brocklin 9 8 8 9 7 6 47
Joe Montana 5 7 9 2 10 9 42
Brett Favre 11 11 6 4 6 3 41
Dan Marino 11 8 6 4 5 4 38
Bobby Layne 7 8 5 7 4 4 35
Steve Young 4 4 8 7 8 4 35
Sonny Jurgensen 6 7 6 3 7 5 34
Ken Anderson 5 5 5 4 7 7 33
Len Dawson 4 5 6 5 8 2 30
Roger Staubach 6 4 5 6 3 5 29
Dan Fouts 5 5 5 6 6 1 28
Bob Waterfield 4 4 5 4 6 4 27
Bart Starr 0 0 5 7 9 6 27
Warren Moon 7 5 4 3 3 2 24
Jim Kelly 3 5 2 5 5 1 21
Drew Brees 4 5 4 3 4 1 21
Troy Aikman 1 1 4 4 6 3 19
Bob Griese 0 3 3 6 5 1 18
John Elway 5 3 4 2 2 2 18
Tom Brady 3 5 2 2 3 3 18
Kurt Warner 3 3 4 3 4 1 18
Terry Bradshaw 3 4 2 5 1 2 17
Ben Roethlisberger 1 5 5 2 1 14
Joe Namath 5 4 0 4 0 0 13
Vinny Testaverde 1 2 3 5 1 1 13
George Blanda 4 3 3 1 0 1 12
Drew Bledsoe 4 2 1 1 8

Observations: 

  • UPDATE:  I’ve corrected the ‘two league advantage’, and did it ever make a huge difference.  Namath and Blanda plummetted.  Unitas and Tarkenton drop below Manning.  This chart reflects a true ‘top 5 in football’ point total.  Namath really was as bad as everyone says.

  • Ok, Ken Anderson got screwed.  The black and grey ink tests definitely show that this guy was consistently one of the best passers in football.  When people say he’s the best player not in the Hall, I can buy it.  Remember that this list is mostly populated by guys in the Hall of Fame.  Anderson fits right in.

  • The Brady Manning debate gets some serious ammo from this one.  Brady’s black ink score was a respectable 10. His grey ink score is near the bottom at 18.  Remember that the grey ink includes the black ink.  Brady has had two amazing seasons, but other than that, he was rarely in the top 5 in anything. His score will settle in the mid-20s. Take away the rings and you have a solid Hall of Famer, but no one would mention him as one of the best ever. By the way, I added interception percentage at the last minute to try and boost Brady’s score, since that is his great skill, I’ve been told.  It got him one point of black ink, and gained him nothing on Manning (both with 3 grey points).

  •  Manning’s score, on the other hand is insane.  Remember that Tittle, Unitas and Tarkenton all get the ‘two league bump’.  Manning also lost some points (especially in the yards category) for his late season ‘vacations’ in week 16.  What an incredible career he has had.

  • John Elway…wow.  Again, I recognize that this doesn’t account for running yards, but I am astounded by how poorly he fared in these tests.  Elway was rarely among the best QBs in the league.  His legend far outstrips his numbers.

  • If Drew Brees has a couple more solid years, he’s going to the Hall of Fame.

  • Favre or Marino?  I’m taking Marino. Given how long Favre played, it’s amazing he’s not higher on both of these lists.

  • I think this is good news for Roethlisberger.  He’s near the bottom of the list, but he’s played the least of anyone on the list. In a couple of years, he’ll be in the 20s, firmly in the company of other Hall of Famers.
  • Again, Testaverde and Bledsoe did their job. There’s a difference between a truly elite QB and a guy who goes to a few Pro Bowls but plays for 20 years.  This is where it shows up.

UPDATE:  I was asked to add McNabb to the test, and I went ahead and did McNair as well. Both are considered long shots for the HoF.  With reason.  McNabb scored 11 grey and zero on the black ink test.  McNair was 8 on the grey and 3 on the black.

Additionally, I ran a test of to measure grey points/season played. It’s tricky, because I had to judge a threshold to by which to count the year, since some years guys were backups.  This is what I came up with:

It’s helpful to see that Bradshaw was still about twice as good per season as Testaverde.  This helps Roethlisberger and Elway some and Graham a lot.

Grey points Seasons Grey points/season
Otto Graham 51 10 5.10
Sammy Baugh 61 15 4.07
Peyton Manning 52 13 4.00
Norm Van Brocklin 47 12 3.92
Steve Young 35 9 3.89
Roger Staubach 29 8 3.63
Y.A. Tittle 58 17 3.41
Bob Waterfield 27 8 3.38
Joe Montana 42 13 3.23
Johnny Unitas 48 16 3.00
Dan Fouts 28 10 2.80
Fran Tarkenton 50 18 2.78
Sonny Jurgensen 34 13 2.62
Dan Marino 38 15 2.53
Ken Anderson 33 14 2.36
Jim Kelly 21 9 2.33
Bart Starr 27 12 2.25
Brett Favre 41 19 2.16
Len Dawson 30 14 2.14
Bobby Layne 35 17 2.06
John Elway 18 9 2.00
Ben Roethlisberger 14 7 2.00
Drew Brees 21 11 1.91
Tom Brady 18 10 1.80
Kurt Warner 18 10 1.80
Warren Moon 24 15 1.60
Troy Aikman 19 12 1.58
Terry Bradshaw 17 13 1.31
Bob Griese 18 14 1.29
Joe Namath 13 14 0.93
George Blanda 12 15 0.80
Vinny Testaverde 13 17 0.76
Drew Bledsoe 8 13 0.62
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