The Electric Commentary

Monday, October 29, 2007

John Elway, Super Bowl Choker

Update: The Helicopter actually picked up a first down, not a touchdown, which set up a Terrell Davis TD a few plays later. I had my memory altered by the box score, as Elway did record a rushing TD in the game, just not on that play. It doesn't really effect the larger point at all.

One clip that all Packer fans hate is that clip of John Elway getting drilled as he picks up a first down by "helicoptering." The reason we hate that clip is that it is the only memorable clip Elway has from that day, as he played an absolutely terrible game. If not for that stupid run no one would even think that Elway contributed anything to that game, because he didn't.

But what makes Packer fans, and me even crazier, is that John Elway's two Super Bowls have put him ahead of Brett Favre on the "all-time greatest QBs list" in the minds of many people. (The worst offender is probably ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd, but that's OK because disagreeing with Colin is one of the ways to know that you're right.)

It's stupid to use Super Bowl wins as a criteria for judging individual players anyway. You need a great team to win the Super Bowl. But if you are going to use Super Bowl performance as a factor, shouldn't you actually examine the contributions of those players in the Super Bowl? Of course you should. I went into the NFL archives and ranked every starting Super Bowl QB since 1982 by QB rating. I took out the RBs, WRs, and backups QBs that the NFL has on the list. It's pretty interesting:

1. Phil Simms, 1986, 150.9
2. Joe Montana, 1989, 147.6
3. Troy Aikman, 1992, 140.7
4. Steve Young, 1994, 134.8
5. Doug Williams, 1987, 127.9
6. Joe Montana, 1984, 127.2
7. Joe Montana, 1988, 115.2
8. Jake Delhomme, 2003, 113.6
9. Tom Brady, 2004, 110.2
10. Troy Aikman, 1995, 108.8
11. Brett Favre, 1996, 107.9
12. Jim McMahon, 1985, 104.2
13. Tom Brady, 2003, 100.5
14. Kurt Warner, 1999, 99.7
15. John Elway, 1998, 99.2
16. Jim Plunkett, 1983, 97.4
17. Jeff Hostetler, 1990, 93.5
18. Mark Rypien, 1991, 92.0
19. Brett Favre, 1997, 91.0
20. Tom Brady, 2001, 86.2
21. John Elway, 1986, 83.6
22. Peyton Manning, 2006, 81.6
23. Jim Kelly, 1990, 81.5
24. Trent Dilfer, 2000, 80.9
25. Brad Johnson, 2002, 79.9
26. Steve McNair, 1999, 77.8
27. Troy Aikman, 1993, 77.2
28. Donovan McNabb, 75.4
29. Joe Theismann, 1982, 75.1
30. Rex Grossman, 2006, 68.3
31. Matt Hasselbeck, 2005, 67.8
32. Jim Kelly, 1993, 67.1
33. Dan Marino, 1984, 66.9
34. Frank Reich, 1992, 60.4
35. Steve Grogam, 1985, 57.2
36. Stan Humphries, 1994. 56.1
37. John Elway, 1997, 51.9
38. Neil O’Donnell, 1995, 51.3
39. Rich Gannon, 2002, 48.9
40. Chris Chandler, 1998, 47.2
41. Drew Bledsoe, 1996, 46.6
42. Boomer Esiason, 1988, 461.
43. Joe Theismann, 1983, 45,3
44. Jim Kelly, 1991, 44.8
45. John Elway, 1987, 36.8
46. Ben Roethlisberger, 2005, 22.6
47. John Elway, 1989, 19.4
48. Kerry Collins, 2000, 7.1

Basically, John Elway should thank his lucky stars that Kerry Collins managed to play in a Super Bowl, but Elway still has 2 of the worst 4 Super Bowl performances since 1982, and 3 of the worst 12, including the Broncos' victory over the Packers. His best performance ranks only 15th on this list.

But what this list really tells you is how stupid it is to use one game to define a career. Ben Roethlisberger quarterbacked the 3rd worst game of the last 24 years, and his team managed to win. Phil Simms tops the list and no one thinks of him as an all-time great. Jake Delhomme is in the top ten and he's probably not even an average QB.

The fact is that John Elway is an all-time great, but you can't tell anything about his career from his Super Bowl play, just like you can't tell anything about Dan Marino, or Jake Delhomme, or Doug Williams from their Super Bowl play.

But, when you're watching the game tonight and they invariably show that highlight of Elway's run against the Packers in the Super Bowl, you will now be able to turn to the person next to you and say:

You know, that guy had 3 of the worst Super Bowl performances of the last quarter century. And he somehow managed to win one of those games.


  • I love stats like this, because I also think the Super Bowl criteria for "all-time" QBs is nonsense. Even Elway's most dominant performance, against the Falcons, isn't nearly in the top 10.

    By Blogger Chris, at 1:45 PM  

  • You shouldn't pick on the guy who has been to the Superbowl FIVE times. He must have done something great to get there all those times. Furthermore, I can't believe you Packer fans are still bitter about your Superbowl loss. I'll tell you what though, I hope Brett Favre and the Packers make it to the SB this year and beat the hell out of the Patriots

    By Anonymous SnowBob, at 6:06 PM  

  • The fact that Elway was on this list more than just about anyone else says enough in itself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 PM  

  • Yup. That Terrell Davis was awesome.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 5:14 PM  

  • Excellent pieces. Keep posting such kind of information on your blog. I really impressed by your blog.
    NFL Schedule|

    By Anonymous Super Bowl Commercials 2012, at 12:23 AM  

  • Broncos all day u crybaby haters. Favre sucks and is a traitor.hahahahaha

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:49 PM  

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