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The Arms Race

The NFL has seen its share of great passers, but who's the best? We crunch the numbers for the top 10 of all time
Kenneth Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Francis Ford Coppola, Sept/Oct 03

(continued from page 3)

 

#3 Joe Montana: 7.08

Bill Walsh once said of Joe Montana, "When the game is on the line, and you need someone to go in there and win it right now, I would rather have Joe Montana as my quarterback than anyone who ever played the game."

In 23 post-season games, he won 16, including four Super Bowls without a loss. In Super Bowls alone, Montana connected on 83 of 122 passes for 1,142 yards—an astounding 9.36 yards per attempt—with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. His superb play in the post-season earned him the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award a record three times.

Montana is one of eight quarterbacks to reach 40,000 yards, finishing at 40,551. He threw interceptions on just 2.58 percent of his passes and passed for 7.52 yards per attempt for his career—ahead of greats like Dan Marino and John Elway. It is often noted that he had astoundingly good mates on his side of the ball, like Jerry Rice and Roger Craig, but what helped his yards per attempt even more than Rice's catch-and-run ability was his uncanny knack for putting the ball in the receiver's hands.

 

#4 Dan Marino: 7.05

Few things in life are quite as aggravating as a broadcaster ranting about "how many rings" a player has, and since Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl during his tenure with the Miami Dolphins, the talk always surfaces when his name is mentioned.

Forget it. Marino didn't win because Miami was usually shortchanged on running backs and just as frequently deficient on defense. Just consider the 18 post-season games he played. Miami won eight and lost 10, and in those 10 losses, the defense allowed 345 points for an average of 34.5 per game. That kind of "defense" spells an early exit in the playoffs.

In this ranking, Marino is rewarded for three virtues: effective longevity—an astounding 61,361 yards; 7.34 yards per attempt; and a low interception rate of 2.58.


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