Destroying the Tim Tebow Comparisons to Dan Marino, John Elway and Tom Brady

The DenverSportsNut@DenverSportNutContributor IIIJanuary 6, 2012

“But is Tim Tebow the quarterback who is going to lead a team to a Super Bowl Victory?”

How many times have you heard that? 

When you strip away all the talk about intangibles, throwing motion, religion, Tebowing, being a running quarterback, accuracy and whatever else, the ultimate question that “TeBashers” ask is whether Tebow can lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. 

And that’s a pretty good question.  In fact, it is the ONLY question.  We shouldn’t be asking what his completion percentage is.  We shouldn’t be wondering how many 300-yard passing games he has. 

We shouldn’t be pondering whether teams have gotten enough film on him to know that the Broncos really really really really like to run on first down.  And second down. 

Third down, too.

What we need to always ask is whether "our" quarterback can lead "our" team to a title.  And while Tim Tebow is a little early into his pro career (only 14 games, but that hasn’t let any ‘expert’ stop them from pronouncing Tebow incapable of winning a championship), we need to remember a few things.

One is that Tim Tebow is one of the most accomplished QBs (at the previous two levels) of all time.

I find it strange that the best high school player in the nation, who went on to become the best college quarterback in the nation and most decorated college football player of all time, suddenly has no chance to have long-term success as a pro. 

I guess the cream no longer rises to the top. 

Sure, he can luck out and have his 24th-ranked defense or twice released running back win a game for him here and there, but can he lead a team to a Super Bowl victory?

Well, let’s look at who else didn’t lead their team to a Super Bowl victory.

Dan Marino.

Warren Moon.

Jim Kelly.

Fran Tarkenton.

Drew Bledsoe.

Dan Fouts.

Vinny Testaverde.

That right there is a “murderers’ row” of all-time, big-armed, traditional-style QBs.  In fact, let’s look at the top 20 all-time NFL passing leaders:




1. Brett Favre



2. Dan Marino



3. Peyton Manning+



4. John Elway



5. Warren Moon



6. Fran Tarkenton



7. Vinny Testaverde



8. Drew Bledsoe



9. Dan Fouts



10. Kerry Collins +



11. Drew Brees+



12. Joe Montana



13. Johnny Unitas



14. Tom Brady+



15. Dave Krieg



16. Boomer Esiason



17. Donovan McNabb+



18. Jim Kelly



19. Jim Everett



20. Jim Hart



What do you notice?

One thing should be that 14* of the top 20 “rocket armed” QBs in league HISTORY never won a title.  So that means that if you get one of the ALL TIME best throwers, there is a 70 percent chance you aren’t winning a title.

(I’m pretty sure even Tebow can live up to that failure rate.)

Marino is undoubtedly great.  Maybe the finest pocket passer (statistically or not) of all time, with probably the greatest throwing motion of all time.  Yet, if the question is, “but can he lead your team to a Super Bowl victory,” the answer is no.   

Was it because he never had a top-flight running game or defense?  Hmmm?  Is he less great because of this?  Well, if we judge him like we want to judge Tim Tebow (after 14 games, not 14 seasons, mind you).

Think about Jim Kelly, who lost FOUR Super Bowls.  IF you take into account his USFL stats, he is the most accomplished thrower of all-time. 

Yet, who did he and his pass-crazy, offensive-explosion Buffalo Bills lose to?  The ball-controlling, grind-it-out NY Giants (QB – Hostetler).  The ball-controlling, counter-trapping Washington Redskins (QB – Rypien).  And the ultra-balanced Dallas Cowboys, led by the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith (QB – Aikman).

Top QBs Warren Moon, Dan Fouts, Jim Everett, Dave Krieg, and Jim Hart never even got there.  Donovan McNabb and Boomer Esiason both made it, but lost in their one shot. 

We also have on the list journeymen like Vinnie Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe and Kerry Collins.  Would anybody call them great?

*Johnny Unitas did win championships in the pre-Super Bowl era.  However, he was on the team that lost to Namath and the Jets.  Later, he had a disgraceful exit with San Diego.  So it slightly skews these stats.  However, it better serves my purpose to call him a Super Bowl loser, which he is, technically. 

Even without him, we would say 13 of the top 19 haven’t won one, and it is still 68 percent.  Further, the next Super Bowl winning QB isn’t until the No. 23 spot…the ‘gunslinger’ Phil Simms.

Take a look at that list again.  What else should you see? 

That among another three of our leaders, including No. 1 Favre and No. 3 Manning, each only has ONE title.  And both those guys lost in second title shot (though, to be fair, each guy lost to another gentleman on this list… but let’s reverse that and say that the stat is skewed because one of them HAD to win.  God forbid they played Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson). 

Drew Brees still has a shot to win another one (but no NFL season-passing leader has ever won the Super Bowl that year), and so does Peyton Manning (unless a bad neck or a ‘bad Luck’ keep him from it), but as of now, they only have the one.

So, for 17 out of the top 20 QBs with perfect throwing motion, we have a total of three NFL championships.  Wow!  I better draft a legendary pocket passer.

Let’s further break down the three guys who have multiple titles. 

Joe Montana was the original “that offense is a will never last” guy, running a newfangled “West Coast Offense” that flew in the face of the experts who said you have to run the ball and play tough, smash-mouth football to win championships (how quickly we forget!).    His passing (scheme) was FAR ahead of the NFL curve. 

It didn’t hurt that he played with dozens of Hall of Famers, All Pros, and Pro Bowlers.  Or that he happened to be throwing to the greatest wide receiver, and maybe the greatest football player of all time, Jerry Rice. 

And maybe more importantly, Montana played with Roger Craig, who rushed for over 8,000 career yards to finish in the NFL’s all-time top 40 list (#37).

John Elway is in my top three list, along with Jerry Rice and Jim Brown, of football players of all time.  He has played in more Super Bowls than any other QB.  However, he "only" won two and lost three.  It is instructive to remember that Elway lost his first three Super Bowls when he didn’t have a running game (sorry, Sammy Winder). 

He didn’t win his first until Terrell Davis, to paraphrase Warren Sapp back in 1998, toted his ass to it.  Terrell Davis ran for 157 yards in less than THREE quarters to win the MVP, and as Pat Bowlen said, win the Super Bowl, “for John.”

Speaking of stats, let’s look at Elway’s Super Bowl stats (well, before we do that, I thought it was important to note that through Elway’s first 11 career games, he completed 47 percent of his balls, and threw 7 touchdowns to 14 INTS. 

But you can’t compare these two eras,” whines Colin Cowherd on ESPN.  Really, Dan Marino threw for 5,000 yards the next year, setting the NFL record that was JUST NOW a year with a lockout, soft rules, and pass-crazy offenses.  So, uh, yeah, I think you can.  Anyway, back to Super Bowl stats):

John Elway














Vs Wash




























Wow, look at that collection of duds.  He has THREE out of the all-time worst Super Bowl QB ratings.  Not just one, THREE. Everyone makes fun of Tebow for his 20 QB rating against KC in the season finale.  At least Tebow’s season finale wasn’t THE SUPER BOWL. 

Nice 19.4 QBR there, Johnny. Maybe you shouldn’t have hesitated to pull the trigger.    

Elway doesn’t have a single game where he throws more TDs than INTs.  He has three games where he doesn’t even crack 52 percent completion.  That sounds downright Tebow-esque.

But, people will make excuses for John (but you can’t do that for Tebow...unless he wins, then it is only because ____ happened.): 


1.  “You can’t compare Elway’s first three Super Bowls from the 1980s, that was a different era.”

 Really?  Look at the stats of his opponents:








Phil Simms







Doug Williams







Joe Montana







Those look like big-boy passing numbers to me: all three are over 250 passing yards, three TDs, 62 percent completions, and 127.9 QB rating.  In fact, those three are the top 1, 2, and 5 passing performances of all time.


2.  “Well, John Elway had a great Super Bowl in 1999 against Atlanta to close out his career.”

Congratulations!  It only took you 16 years and five tries to do so!

Oh, and you had NFL rushing champion and league MVP Terrell Davis running for over 100 yards (again!) to help you out.

How quickly we forget.

Next up is Tom Brady.  Like Montana, there isn’t much to rub against his Super Bowl accomplishments.  However, I will say this: in years that were more about defense and balanced offense, they won three Super Bowls. 

In the year that the New England Patriots went undefeated in the regular season and set the NFL record for scoring offense*, and Tom Brady threw for an NFL record 50 touchdown passes, they lost the Super Bowl (to a defensive-minded Giants team).

Another interesting note is that the second highest scoring offense of all time, the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, who only lost once in the regular season, were upset in the NFC Championship game (by the defensive minded Falcons).

Keeping with the theme of high-scoring offenses, let’s talk about The Greatest Show on Turf, and more specifically, Kurt Warner.  This will lead us to a few more key QBs we need to discuss who aren’t in the Top 20 gunslinger list. 

Kurt Warner finished his career as the 29th best passer of all-time.  Yet, he was only 1-2 in Super Bowls.  His Greatest Show on Turf, one of the greatest (scoring) offenses of all time, BARELY won their low-ish-scoring Super Bowl against the defensive-minded Titans

It was, for 54 minutes, the most boring show on earth.

The next year, he lost to Tom Brady, and eventually, to the defensive-minded Pittsburgh Steelers and Top 55 QB Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger is 2-1 in Super Bowls, but his victories are more about the defense than him.  Sure, he threw the game-winning TD pass, but (if this were Tim Tebow, it would be pointed out that) Santonio Holmes made a great catch. 

Additionally, if James Harrison hadn’t picked off Kurt Warner and returned the ball 99 yards for a 14-point swing before half, Arizona would’ve walked away with the game (and surely Tim Tebow’s defense would be given the credit for the victory in that case, too?). 

In the Seattle Super Bowl, Big Ben, like John Elway, had one of the worst clunkers of all time, dropping a 22.6 quarterback rating. 

So what should we want in our QB, if it isn’t an all-time gunslinger with a laser-guided, heat-seeking, super accurate, perfect motion right arm?

It seems to be balance.  And lots of Hall of Fame teammates.

Let’s go back to the Steelers.  With Terry Bradshaw, they won four Super Bowls.  The all-time No. 46 passer was supplanted with THE GREATEST defense of all time, The Steel Curtain (greatest, at least, in terms of Hall of Famers.  And nicknames). 

Bradshaw also had two HOFers at wide receiver (that never hurts), and the NFLs 13th all-time leading rusher, Franco Harris (who only recently has been supplanted by some guys). 

Then there is Troy Aikman.  He was throwing to HOFer Michael Irvin, could dump it to one of the best tight ends of all time, had one of the best fullbacks of all time for security, and was handing off to the greatest (statistically) running back of all time, Emmitt Smith.

Oh, and don’t forget the bevy of HOFers he had on defense, including Deion Sanders. 

Another Cowboy, Roger Staubach, had the pleasure of handing off to Tony Dorsett (No. 8 all time) and a load of HOFers at positions all over the team.

Bob Griese was surrounded by HOFers as well, and was handing off to studs like Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. 

If you want to just win one Super Bowl, then it doesn’t hurt to play on ball-control teams with great coaches and other Hall of Famers

  • Doug Williams > Joe Gibbs > Art Monk, Darrell Green;
  • Phil Simms > Bill Parcells > Lawrence Taylor
  • Jim McMahon > Mike Ditka > Walter Payton, Richard Dent;
  • Trent Dilfer > Brian Billick > Ray Lewis.

In fact, the guys that helped these QBs aren’t just HOFers… they are the tippity top of the tippity top.  You need help, man.   You need top-level receivers, strong defenses, excellent running backs, and good coaching.

Poor Tim Tebow.  He isn’t playing with the tippity top of the Hall of Famers.  He isn’t playing with any Hall of Famers on offense.  In fact, he isn’t playing with any Pro Bowlers. 

Frankly, he is playing with guys who may not even start for most teams. Willis McGahee has been released by two other teams, Lance Ball is ….who?, Jeremiah Johnson is…who?  Matthew Willis (who?) treats every pass like he is covering a punt (great for when he really is covering a punt, not so great for when Tebow hits him right in the hands).   

Eric Decker is a ladies’ man, no doubt, but I don’t think he would get much playing time (on the field, anyway) in Green Bay, Atlanta, Detroit, or New Orleans.

Poor Tim Tebow. By not being an all-time great passer, he has a (best-case scenario) better-than-you’d think chance of winning a Super Bowl.

Poor Tim Tebow.  He may, if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl (worst-case scenario), be on the same level as Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, Archie Manning, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts and Dan Marino. 

That is, on the same level, if your only criteria (as people make it out to be with Tim Tebow) that you can only be considered a success if you win a Super Bowl.

So is Tim Tebow going to lead his team to the Super Bowl? 

I don’t know… but neither do any of these other clowns.  But no matter what, he’ll probably be in pretty good company.


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