Legends of The Fall: John Constantine Unitas

The name that comes to mind when it comes to quarterback – John Constantine Unitas…  I can’t remember hearing his complete name for the first time, but feel it needs to be brought up for the fans who need to know the greatness of this man. So glad they finished the documentary in 1999 before he passed. An old school American hero. The best ever quarterback conversation has this man’s name in it. Not Peyton Manning and Tom Brady where all the rules have been changed to manufacture what looks like greatness.

Unitas! Pictured in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium one last time.

Unitas! Pictured in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium one last time.

At the time of Unitas retirement, he held the record for passing yards (40,239) & touchdown passes (290). He was the first NFL quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in 1960 and once held the record for TD passes in a 12 game season with 32. In an era where the NFL game was rooted in the ground, Unitas took to the air where purists scoffed he was ruining the game. Through it all he raised quarterbacking to an art form by the way he played, his play calling ability, and field generalship in leading the Baltimore Colts. In fact, it was Unitas that invented the 2 minute drill in the most important game in NFL history…. the 1958 NFL Championship.

The ’58 NFL Championship ignited the passion for pro football for the masses as it overtook baseball for America’s heart. Lamar Hunt after this game decided to start the American Football League on the heels of this game’s popularity. A sense of irony between the AFL and Unitas’ would come to the fore later. Yet it was Unitas that became a superstar. Football had been booming with television in the 1950’s and it culminated with his championship heroics.

For an encore, when all eyes were upon him, he had his greatest season in 1959. Johnny U went 193 of 367 (52.6%) for 2,899 yards 32 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions in leading the Colts to a 2nd consecutive championship. By the way for those keeping score, this was in a 12 game season and the yardage and touchdowns were NFL records at the time. At the pace he was on, had it been a 16 game season, he would have thrown for 42 touchdowns. This was in an era where his receivers were hit everywhere on the field not just within a 5 yard contact zone. Legacy cemented.

His 47 straight games with a touchdown pass stood for nearly 50 years. After 40 of those years no one had come within 18 of that record. Drew Bees finally broke it because of all the rule changes…but if you dared to say Brees is in league with Unitas, you and I can’t talk football anymore. A final look back at his jersey retirement at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium in 1977.

In watching the HBO documentary Unitas is where I first learned the plight of former players fighting for benefits from the NFL. When the elbow injury came up I immediately yelled out “1968!” That was the year he tore the tendons that attached the lower and upper arm, causing him to sit out the season and the late Earl Morrall played in his absence. They wound up losing Super Bowl III. Unitas wound up losing the ability to fully use the right hand that made the NFL what it is today. Not only was that a travesty but the anger that swelled in me is why I back all the former player’s groups, Footballer’s Wives, Dignity After Football, and Gridiron Greats to this day.

Sports Illustated cover featuring Johnny U.

Sports Illustated cover featuring Johnny U.

Whenever the mantle of greatness at the quarterback position is cheaply thrown around, as a historian I bristle. What would Unitas accomplish playing in the rules set up today?? How much greater would he have become training all year around like today’s players?? What would his stats look like if he played where he could hardly be hit??  He dwarfs all quarterbacks without the changes. With them he would have left marks that quarterbacks would still be chasing.

Unitas and his receivers, Lenny Moore, and Raymond Berry all made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The next time someone mentions greatest ever quarterbacks, start with Unitas and work your way down.

hof-unitasJohn Constantine Unitas: May 7, 1933- September 11, 2002

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SUPER BOWL V CHAMPION 1970 BALTIMORE COLTS

When you think of the old Baltimore Colts, the first flashback that comes to mind are the black and white films with Johnny Unitas leading the team in the 1950’s. Then another thought stirs up images of Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and the mid 1970’s version with Head Coach Ted Marchibroda. You follow-up that thought with the green and yellow Mayflower trucks moving the team to Indianapolis in the middle of the night in 1984. Yet sandwiched between the first and second of these events is the most forgotten champion in modern football history. The 1970 Baltimore Colts.

The bauble won for becoming the first champion of the post AFL/NFL merger.

The bauble won for becoming the first champion of the post AFL/NFL merger.

There are varied reasons why this team is so overlooked when you think of this franchise.  Did you know this is the only Super Bowl winner where the franchise was sold just one year later?? Before the 1972 season, Robert Irsay (Los Angeles Rams) and Carroll Rosenbloom swapped franchises.

Carroll had one of the most successful tenures as an owner in NFL history. Yet after losing Super Bowl III, one of the landmark games in league history, he lost Head Coach Don Shula to the Miami Dolphins after the 1969 season.

The last ring won by John Constantine Unitas and Carroll Rosenbloom.

The last ring won by John Constantine Unitas and Carroll Rosenbloom.

So is it ironic or part of the story that his last game as Colts owner, was a 21-0 loss to Shula’s Miami Dolphins in the 1971 AFC Championship Game?? Another twist was it was played in the Orange Bowl which had been the site of Super Bowl III.

Another reason this champion wasn’t remembered is there wasn’t a main powerful character. Yes the Colts had an aging fading John Unitas at quarterback. In 1970, he finished with a career low 51.7% completion percentage, and was the only qb to win the Super Bowl in a year he threw more interceptions (18-14) than touchdowns. He was 3 seasons removed from 11 straight Pro Bowl seasons and 5 player of the year awards.

By this time he was getting by on inspiration and finding the touch at the right time. As was the case in the first ever AFC Championship Game. Clinging to a 20-17 lead late in the 4th,Unitas had reserve WR Ray Perkins motion from the backfield and lofted a perfect sideline floater just past Raider CB Nemiah Wilson for the decisive touchdown. It was the only touchdown he threw in the game as he went 11 of 30 for 245 yards.

Super Bowl V was the first NFL championship game not played on natural grass.

Super Bowl V was the first NFL championship game not played on natural grass.

It was echoed in Super Bowl V as he went 3 for 9 for 88 yards with 2 interceptions and 1 TD before being knocked out of the game. The lone touchdown was the bizarre 75 yarder to John Mackey where the ball bounced from Colt Eddie Hinton and Cowboy Mel Renfro first. So the late Earl Morrall had to come off the bench to save the Colts season just as Unitas tried to in Super Bowl III.

The game was played at a frantic pace with 11 total turnovers in what was nicknamed The Blunder Bowl. The Colts outlasted the Dallas Cowboys, they didn’t beat them. A last second interception by Mike Curtis put them in position for Jim O’Brien to win it with a field goal 16-13.

Another reason they weren’t remembered were they were coached by the late Don McCafferty. He was the hand picked successor once Don Shula departed for Miami having been the long time Offensive Coordinator. By the time we make it to 1972 the Colts were winless in their first five games. General Manager Joe Thomas wanted Unitas benched. When McCafferty refused he was fired.

super-bowl-logo-1970Less than 1 1/2 years after winning Super Bowl V, Carroll Rosenblom was no longer the owner, John Unitas was no longer the quarterback, Don McCafferty was no longer the coach, and the magic was gone from 33rd Street in Baltimore. The romantic era starting with the 1958 NFL Championship Game win over the Giants, ended with the 1971 AFC Championship loss in Miami.

In many ways the Super Bowl V championship had a lifetime achievement feel more than a best of the league feel. Would they have won Super Bowl VI had they rematched with the Cowboys?? How different would have Don McCafferty’s legacy been had they won it? As a matter of fact, the Dolphins split their games with the Colts in 1970 and 1971. Would the Colts even make it to Super Bowl V had the Dolphins been able to get past Oakland in the ’70 playoff game??

Epilogue: Carroll Rosenbloom’s Rams won the NFC West 5 times from 1973-1978 but lost the NFC Championship 4 times. He died from a heart attack and drowned before the 1979 season when the Rams did make it to Super Bowl XIV. Which left the team to his wife…. Georgia Rosenbloom who later remarried. Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere.

Don McCafferty died of a heart attack in 1974 after he had coached the Detroit Lions for one season.

John Unitas remains one of the greatest players in NFL history and was the first to throw for more than 40,000 yards. A staple at Baltimore Ravens games well into the 2000s. Unitas passed away on Sept 11th, 2002.

Bubba Smith, the giant Defensive End  passed away in August 2011. Smith played the majority of his career in Baltimore and stated in 2007 “Super Bowl III, I still haven’t gotten over it.”

Earl Morrrall, the journeyman quarterback who was player of the year in 1968 with Unitas out. Was with the team when they lost Super Bowl III. Afterward he would duplicate his 1968 with a great performance leading the Dolphins to the undefeated season in Bob Griese’s absence. He won 2 more Super Bowls (VII & VIII) with Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins. Morrall died last month on April 25, 2014.

To these men I dedicate this article to… they were a champion. NFL champions for 1970.

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SUPER BOWL III RUNNER UP 1968 BALTIMORE COLTS

Wow Talk about shock and awe!!!

superbowliii

The Jets 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III was one of those events that defined an era. Everyone has spoken of the great accomplishment, the AFL arriving on the big stage but so few people talk about the vanquished 15-1 Baltimore Colts and Don Shula.

The loss was so devastating and embarrassing that the NFL didn’t issue a championship ring. A team that was 3hrs away from being the greatest team in NFL history received THIS WATCH when they failed to win the game…wow! Think the NFL thought highly of their championship season? Now before you ask, the answer is yes the teams that lost Super Bowls I, II, and IV did receive rings.

old-nfl-logoLet’s take you back to 1968…The Colts were motivated to win it all in 1968 because in 1967 they had the BEST record ever to NOT make the playoffs:11-1-2 including a win over the Packers who would go on to win Super Bowl II. The Rams had an identical record and won the tiebreaker for giving the Colts their one loss. The Colts were in the Western Conference and for the better part of the 60’s couldn’t unseat the Packers.

Except in 1964 when Paul Hornung was suspended for gambling, yet the Colts were upset in Cleveland in the Championship game. Yes you heard me correctly…the Packers and Colts were in the WESTERN CONFERENCE back then. So Vince Lombardi steps down and the Packers run out of steam and the Colts go 13-1 in 1968. So in TWO seasons they had only lost 2 games going 24-2-2. No regular season overtime back then hence the two ties.

super-bowl-logo-1968Like other teams I’ve mentioned, this team that DIDNT win it all was the strongest Baltimore Colts team ever. They had a defense that set the league record for fewest points allowed in a 14 game season with 144 points. They held 11 of their 14 opponents to 10 pts or less including 3 shutouts.

superbowliiiwatchThe great Johnny Unitas got hurt and Earl Morrall replaced him and became league MVP at quarterback. They had Tom Matte and Jerry Hill as arguably the best running tandem in football. Their only regular season loss in 1968 was to the Cleveland Browns who they would go on to blow out 34-0 in the NFL Championship game IN CLEVELAND. So with that it was as though they practically had an undefeated season and were lauded as the best team in NFL history.

Then came January 12th, 1969…wow!! One look at this watch shows you how embarrassed the NFL was to lose to the upstart AFL. The corporate pressures, corporate culture and such were so great that within 2 years coach Don Shula was gone. Within 4 years Carroll Rosenbloom would swap franchises with Robert Irsay (then Rams owner), become owner of the Rams, would later marry Georgia, drown and she became Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere owner of the Los Angeles / St. Louis Rams. Of course this legitimized the AFL and NFL merging as well. Everyone talks about the champion but take a look across the river and pay attention to the team that loses it. The after affects can be frightening…

Would all of this have happened had the Colts WON Super Bowl III?

Epilogue: Although the Colts would go on to win Super Bowl V, how redemptive was it?

Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl XLVII Ring: Rich City of Tradition

The bauble earned for the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII.

The bauble earned for the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII.

So to conclude a reunion week of the team that vanquished the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl last February, the Baltimore Ravens were on tour again. First a trip to the White House where they met with President Obama where they presented him with a ceremonial jersey. Then to have the week culminate in the presentation of their Super Bowl rings in a gala on Friday night.  Ray Lewis and most of the players who have moved on from the organization, were back to bask in the evening commemorating their achievement sitting atop the NFL for 2012.

The first view leaked on the day by CBS Sports didn’t do the ring justice. This professional shot from the Ravens organization shows off the quality of the ring and downplays it’s size. The oval design of the top distinguishes it from the rectangular face of the first championship ring. This ring needed to say more where the typical design of a first ring is normally the team logo and a series of diamonds. With the oval face we see the off centered dual Super Bowl trophies layered beneath the logo amid a bed of diamonds.

The best aspect of the ring is it was made in white gold which gives it a clean and sleek look. Much like the Super Bowl trophy itself, it has a steely look to it. One that reflects the clinical moves that an organization makes with awarding a Ray Rice with a $35 million contract before the season, yet make Joe Flacco sweat it out in a contract year. Another that comes to mind is the steely resolve Flacco exhibited in his road performances in Denver and New England. Where he took the measure of the two best quarterbacks whose status kept his in question when you think of the AFC’s elite quarterbacks.

The ring will forever reflect the steely grit a team showcased once their leader in Ray Lewis announced he would retire after the 2012 postseason. Finally, it reflects the steely nerves a tired Raven defense had to display in the greatest goal line stand in Super Bowl history. Greater than the 49er stand in Super Bowl XVI?? Absolutely!! This one won the Super Bowl with seconds left where the one the 49ers put on was in the third quarter.

By doing so the Baltimore Ravens brought the city its fifth NFL championship. Just as Johnny Unitas used to attend Ravens games, those old titles belong to this city, not with the original franchise that sits in Indianapolis.

1958 NFL Championship ring

1958 NFL Championship ring

The championship team that put the city of Baltimore on the map forever was the one that won this ring right here. Arguably the most influential NFL Championship ever played was the 1958 epic where the Colts beat the New York Giants in overtime 23-17. In fact it’s moniker has been “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. Although there had been winning drives in championship games before, Johnny Unitas came of age as a quarterback during his. With the Colts down 17-14, where they hadn’t scored since the second quarter, Unitas took to the air. Through his will and determination he directed Baltimore on a long drive to tie the score on a Steve Myra kick. Forcing the first “sudden death” overtime in NFL playoff history.

You have to remember we were just two years removed from the New York Giants having won the 1956 championship with the league’s best defense 47-7 over the Chicago Bears. This was to be their era and the New York media was there en masse to cover their second championship triumph in 3 years. Yet as Unitas to Raymond Berry began to dominate the overtime period, media attention switched to; “Who is this skinny quarterback riddling the NFL’s best defense?” Unitas was inventing the “two minute quarterback” with his every move from quick passes, to his deft play calling. He had total command of the game and performed with glacial calm.

Unitas famous drive showcased his flair for the dramatic as well as his play calling taking advantage of what the Giants defense would think he would do. Once inside the 10 yard line where the Colts could kick the winning field goal, Unitas threw an out to TE Jim Mutscheller to get down to the 1. The Giants were out of position as they were geared to stop the run. Just as the Giants braced themselves for the customary fullback leading the halfback into the line, Unitas called the opposite. Alan Ameche crashed into the endzone behind a Lenny Moore block through a gaping hole.

The game was over with the city of Balitmore champions of the football world and Johnny Unitas was on the map forever. On the heels of the excitement of this game, Lamar Hunt formed the principles of what would become the American Football League. Football became the new American obsession after this game and began to rival baseball as the #1 sport.

Watch that was awarded to the 1958 NFL Champion Colts. Unsure if this went to the coaches and owners or the complete story.

Watch that was awarded to the 1959 NFL Champion Colts. Unsure if this went to the coaches and owners or the complete story.

In a rematch that concluded the NFL’s “Golden Age” of the fabulous 1950s, the New York Giants again faced the Colts for the league championship. This time the Colts would be at home. A city that famous Baltimore writer John Steadman once said “Baltimore was known for being the train stop between Washington DC and New York.” Tapping into the city’s inferiority complex. The Colts and principally Johnny Unitas gave the city a legitimacy on a nationwide scale that it hadn’t experienced before. Yet here they were again facing the evil empire that was New York’s Football Giants coming to take back the crown.

However in a dominating performance, Unitas and the Colts throttled the Giants 31-16 thanks to a 24 point 4th quarter. They were down 9-7 when the highest scoring team in football scored with a Johnny Unitas 4 yard scamper around end. Then Unitas found Jerry Richardson for a 12 yard touchdown to push the lead to 21-9. Then Johnny Sample, yes the same one that played with the Jets and intercepted Unitas twice in Super Bowl III, returned a Charlie Conerly pass  42 yards to push the Colts to an insurmountable 28-9 lead with half a quarter to go.

Richardson would go on to own the Carolina Panthers many years later.

Gino Marchetti and Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb and the Colt defense came up with timely plays to hold the Giants to 3 first half field goals by Pat Summerall.  In Tom Landry’s last game as the defensive coach (defensive coordinator) of the Giants, the Colts were held to only 280 yards of total offense to the Giants 323.

The NFL Championship ring of the 1959 Baltimore Colts.

The NFL Championship ring of the 1959 Baltimore Colts.

The Colts winning back to back championships made them a dynasty and one of the greatest champions in NFL history. Not bad for a team that had come into the league from a defunct All American Football Conference with the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns in 1950. In 10 years, these 3 teams from the inferior league won half the decades NFL championships. Winning the first in 1950, the last in 1959, and the Browns playing for 3 more championships. Yet it was the team from Baltimore that ushered football into the modern age as the 1960s dawned.

The ring commissioned for winning Super Bowl V.

The ring commissioned for winning Super Bowl V.

The last Colts team that won Super Bowl V for Baltimore was one that suffered from the fallout from having lost Super Bowl III. The turbulent 1960s were over and the merger between the NFL and AFL happened with a championship between the two leagues starting after the 1966 season.  The Super Bowl III loss to the New York Jets legitimized the AFL and the merger but the Colts suffered from the fallout that lasted the rest of their lives VIDEO.

The Colts were led by an aged Johnny Unitas who was getting by on guile. He now had All Pro Tight End and fellow Hall of Famer John Mackey on offense along with Roy Jefferson and Eddie Hinton at the wide outs. Gone were Raymond Berry, Tom Matte and familiar names with the Colts. They were transitioning from the team that won for most of the decade of the 1960s but couldn’t overcome the Green Bay Packers in the Western Conference. Now they found themselves in the first year of interleague play under the AFC along with former AFL teams and the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers who were paid $3 million to move from the NFL to the AFC. Each conference now had 13 teams.

After posting an 11-2-1 record, they bested the Oakland Raiders in the first ever AFC Championship Game 27-17 to make their way to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the Orange Bowl. Rookie Jim O’Brien kicked a last second field goal to win Super Bowl V 16-13 over the Dallas Cowboys. Unitas who would be gone from the Colts in less than two years was knocked from the game in the second quarter. The Colts put themselves in position for the winning field goal when Mike Curtis intercepted a Craig Morton pass with seconds left to put the ball on the Dallas 28 with seconds left.

This ring was the first for the city of Baltimore with it’s new team, the Ravens. Art Modell had moved the former Cleveland Browns (ironically) to town in 1996. Free agency had dawned after the 1993 season and teams were struggling to put offenses together. Yet the trend became one where a suffocating defense through free agency could be built, and the Ravens built one of history’s finest. After drafting Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Duane Starks, and Chris McAlister, they filled in the blanks with free agents Tony Siragusa, Robert Bailey, Corey Harris, and future Hall of Famer Rod Woodson to form a defense the league hadn’t seen since the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles.

The first ring won by the Baltimore Ravens after Super Bowl XXXV.

The first ring won by the Baltimore Ravens after Super Bowl XXXV.

The Ravens first ever foray into the NFL playoffs came after a regular season where they had given up a league record 165 points for the season. The old record had been 187 points allowed by the 1986 Chicago Bears.  Although the Ravens defense was ranked #2 on the year, they yielded the fewest points, highlighted by four shutouts. They had become the first team since the ’85 Bears to record back to back shutouts during any NFL season. How dominating were they?? If you include the 3 points allowed to Denver in the wildcard 21-3 win, the 10 points given up to defending AFC Champion Tennessee Titans in a 24-10 win, and the 6 points given up in the AFC Championship win over Oakland 16-6, in 19 games they still gave up less points than the Bears old 16 game record. (184-187 points) Yikes!!

Couple that with the fact the Giants only touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV had been a kick return by Ron Dixon, they would have ended the game with a fifth shutout which would have been a Super Bowl first. Ray Lewis was the 2000 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of the Super Bowl as well. Trent Dilfer, Jamal Lewis, and free agent acquisition Hall of Fame Tight End Shannon Sharpe powered an efficient offense. This was one of the greatest defensive champions of all time.

There you have it… Baltimore’s rich NFL tradition punctuated by championships from different eras. Ironically there is a lot more to the Cleveland Baltimore rivalry than meets the eye. They have been joined from the hip since their 1950 NFL inception and the present day franchise started in Cleveland. Yet here they sit as champions of the football world for another year. How will they fare in 2013?? Go read our previews.

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Top Ten Quarterbacks Ever!

The position of quarterback is unique in the sports world. No other position commands more respect, need to process information in a more condensed timeframe, or expected to lead his team with his play and demeanor like that of a quarterback. Point guards in basketball call out the plays but the team is defined by their big men and scoring comes from either forward positions or the shooting guard.  Pitchers share pitch calls with the catcher and the relief pitcher finishes a tight game to help the pitcher get a win.  The quarterback has to do all of these things which include last second touchdown drives in a two-minute drill. He doesn’t get to turn the game over to a reliever.  He is easily the central nervous system of the team and without his efforts they’re paralyzed to move the ball or win.

The greatest quarterbacks ever master all of these qualities.  The art of the pre-snap read, then to decipher what the defense is doing in under 2 seconds and where his teammate are going to be, while making the right throw.  All the while 4 to 5 fire-breathing defenders are closing in to do bodily harm.  So what makes the great ones, who stand amidst the masses, and calmly deliver the football?  There are all time quarterbacks who are winners and championship teams whose quarterback went along for the ride. The all time greats willed their team to victory through their play.  Here is my all time list.

  1.  Joe Montana: First 3 time Super Bowl MVP while quarterbacking 4 Super Bowl Champions in San Francisco. Performed the signature play of a dynasty with “The Catch” in the 1981 NFC Championship. Beginning in 1983 as a starting QB he led 10 straight teams to the playoffs (49ers ‘83-’90, Chiefs 93 & 94). Ushered in the West Coast offense as a staple while leading more than 30 4th quarter come from behind drives.  Had 8 3,000 yard seasons including his last.  Although 1989 was statistically his best season, in 11 games in 1987 he threw for his career high of 31 TDs.  The best.

  2. Johnny Unitas: Frank DeFord once said that “All quarterbacks today are descendants of Johnny Unitas.”  The benchmark every quarterback is still be measured by.  Retired with more than 40,000 yards passing, 3 NFL Championships, a 4th with a Super Bowl III loser.  Engineered the first two minute drill in the last minutes of the 1958 NFL Championship.   His leadership, demeanor, throwing style, and playing style molded the next two generations of youngsters with how the game should be played.  Still holds the equivalent of Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak with 47 straight games with a touchdown pass.  I think Unitas feat is greater.  Had 11 seasons with over 2500 yards passing.

  3. Otto Graham and Paul Brown

    Otto Graham: The first quintessential winner who was part of a system (Paul Brown’s) that led Cleveland to 10 straight championship appearances. From 1946-1949 the Cleveland Browns ruled the AAFC winning all for league titles.  Then once merged into the NFL: 1950-1955 the Cleveland Browns were in every championship game winning 3 of them while battling the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Rams.  The first quarterback on a Wheaties Box and Mapo Oatmeal commercials so youngsters could “be like Mike.” Statistics don’t measure the man and what he meant for his football team as a leader.

  4. Brett Favre: Winningest quarterback ever. Embodied the epitome of a gunslinger and was durable. He broke the record of most consecutive starts for a QB in October of 1999 at 114 straight and kept it going until he retired after 2011 with over 290, nearly tripling it. First MVP of the league in 3 consecutive seasons.  He brought the Packer’s franchise out of the doldrums of the NFL and made them winners in Super Bowl XXXI.  Favre threw for a conference record for TD passes with 38 and 39 respectively in 95 and 96. Would go on to throw for the most yards & TDs in history.  A gunslinger from the word go, his first taste of NFL action in 1992, he replaced Don Majkoski and hit Kittrick Taylor with a game winning TD with under a minute to go.  A flair for the dramatic.  Had 1 stretch to begin 1999 where he engineered 4 straight 4th quarter comebacks in successive weeks with under 2 minutes to go.   One of a kind.

  5. Our #4 Brett Favre and #5 Dan Marino

    Dan Marino: A completely transcendent performer with a quick release that burst onto the scene in 1983.  His record breaking year of 1984 was the single greatest passing performance ever.  He shattered the single season record for TDs in a season at 48, blowing by the old record of 36.  He became the first to throw for 5,000 yards in a season.  Also threw for 44TDs in 1986.  His attitude and throwing motion struck fear in defenses for most of his career.   His undermanned Dolphins never won the Super Bowl during his tenure. Went on to throw for 61,000 yards and 420TDs over his career.  His release (on film) was under 9 frames when the typical frame rate for most QBs was 12 – 13.  So when you see film of someone almost sacking him, had they been someone else it would have been. By the way, it was Marino who has the most 4th quarter comebacks at 36 to John Elway’s 34…just so you know.

  6. Tom Brady: A 3-time Super Bowl champion who quarterbacked the Patriots to team of the decade status in the ‘00s.  A technical quarterback with an emotional streak that went from being a serviceable player to one of the best ever. He holds the single season record for TDs at 50, directed the only 16-0 regular season, and still in his prime can achieve another milestone or two.  Entering the latter stages in his career and still writing his history.

  7. Terry Bradshaw: The number one draft pick in 1970 who became the first 4 time Super Bowl winner and MVP of the 13th and 14th editions.  He led the Steelers to 4 championships in 6 years.  Had a rocket arm and was a tough runner early in his career.  Became a more complete quarterback as the Steelers attack took to the air in 1978 with the rules changes.  Played big in big games.  He iced Super Bowl IX with a TD to Larry Brown and had his first 300 yard game in Super Bowl XIII while setting the TD pass record in Super Bowl’s at 4.  Held the Super Bowl record for longest TD (to Stallworth75 yards) and nearly matched it with a game winning TD pass to Stallworth at 73yds in Super Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams.

  8. Roger Staubach: Tremendous quarterback who began as a scrambler, evolved into a true pocket passer and retired as the highest rated quarterback ever in 1979.  Was efficient and led the Cowboys to 8 playoff appearances in 9 years. A fearless leader who brought Dallas from behind 23 times in the final two minutes or in overtime.  Roger the Dodger morphed into Captain Comeback and was one of sport’s biggest icons.

  9. John Elway: The rocket arm quarterback who brashly demanded a trade before he ever played a game.  The heir to Staubach’s comeback mantle by producing 30 wins in the final two minutes or in overtime. Produced some of the most breathtaking drives in playoff history.  Passed for numerous 3,000 yard seasons and won a record 5 conference championships including 2 Super Bowl championships.  Had one of the strongest arms in NFL history and the architect of 34 4th quarter comebacks and many of the breath taking variety.

  10.  Steve Young: Greatest left hander in history.  Replaced Joe Montana and led the NFL in passer rating 4 straight years, made 3 NFC Championships, and won one Super Bowl during that era.  He went on to set a record for passing efficiency in 1994 and led the 49ers to the playoffs 7 straight seasons and 4 berths in the NFC Championship Game.  He was also a fearless and rugged runner.  A weapon that allowed the 49ers to play offense 11 on 11 since teams rarely account for the quarterback.   Saved many drives with his ability to run. 

So who’s your top ten?!?!