Fran Tarkenton: The Forgotten Quarterback

Thaddeus YeiserCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2009

Do you remember a man named Fran Tarkenton? Well if you don’t then this article is for you.


Fran Tarkenton is one of the most underrated quarterbacks…scratch that…he is THE most underrated quarterback ever, and I have quite a bit to back that up, but first I’ll give you a brief history.





Tarkenton played at the University of Georgia and was drafted by the Vikings in 1961. He played with Minnesota until 1966, and played for the Giants from 1967-71. He was subsequently traded back to the Vikings and played with them again from 72-78.


He threw 342 touchdown passes and 266 interceptions. He passed for over 47,000 yards and posted an 80.4 passer rating. When he retired in 1979, these were all NFL records. He was also the all-time leading rusher as a quarterback at the time of his retirement.


Let's add in the fact that he played in three Super Bowls in four years, and was a nine-time Pro-Bowl selection. Plus he was the MVP in 1975.



What they say


Now this may not convince you of his greatness. You must be thinking…Thad, didn’t Dan Marino and Brett Favre break all his records? He never won any of those Super Bowls? Lots of QB’s scramble now? Well here’s what I have to say to that.



What I say


Tarkenton played in an era of football when it was much easier to throw interceptions. Pass interference rules were simply more lax, and touchdowns were harder to come by. On top of that the West Coast-style pass-happy offense hadn’t even been thought of yet,


Plus, can you honestly name me one of Tarkenton’s receivers? He didn’t exactly have a Hall-of-Fame cast around him. Now with all this going against him the man throws 342 touchdowns?!


To put that in perspective, consider other Hall of Famers who played in that same era. Keep in mind these are Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks.


Johnny Unitas 290 TD’s

Terry Bradshaw 204 TD’s

Joe Namath 173 TD’s

Roger Staubach 153 TD’s

Bart Starr 152 TD’s


That’s right, the next closest guy was 52 touchdowns off, and that pattern follows suit with his incredible yards passing as well. He threw for 47,000 yards when most Hall of Famers threw in the 20's!!!


Now, let’s also throw into the mix the fact that Tarkenton literally invented scrambling. It simply wasn’t done very much until he came around, and he made it an art. He pretty much was his offensive line, and bought himself time to make throws.


Let’s take a look at the men who broke his records Dan Marino and Brett Favre.


Marino was in one of the most pass-happy systems ever invented with Don Shula’s playbook. On top of that, running the ball wasn’t as essential as it was in Tarkenton’s day. Also, let’s add in the fact that Marino had the famous “Marx” brothers to throw to.


Brett Favre may have thrown a ton…I mean a ton of touchdowns, but in an era where interceptions are harder to throw, he throws over 300! Come on now.



The Super Bowls


Now I understand that he never won any of the Super Bowls he played in. In fact, they weren’t even close. That can’t be explained and criticism goes all around for the way the Vikings played in those games, but he still played in three of them!


If some people say Marino was the second greatest QB of all time, then why do they overlook the fact that he played in only one Super Bowl. That’s no comparison.


Let's make one side note. Had it not been for the robbing call at the end of the famous “Hail Mary” game against the Cowboys in the 1975 divisional round, Tarkenton may have won that ring after all.



Last Note


Now I’m not saying that this man is the greatest quarterback ever. I’ll argue that it's Montana ‘til I’m blue in the face. But to forget the man, and lose sight of what he has accomplished is wrong. I think we owe this man some more credit, and I’m just giving him his due.


Thanks for reading guys.