What Defines a Great Quarterback?

David KlinglerCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2010

378240 01: Joe Montana and Troy Aikman December 2, 1999 at Sports Illustrated's 20th Century Sports Awards in New York City. (Photo by Brenda Chase/Online USA)
Brenda Chase/Getty Images

Winning the Super Bowl.

It's the goal of every organization in pro football.

It really is that simple.

Right or wrong, every quarterback is judged on their ability to deliver that championship.

Individual records are great, but ask Dan Marino if he would rather be known as a champion and the answer is always the same. Marino retired with countless records but could never deliver that elusive Super Bowl title.

For all his regular season greatness, he never seemed to be able to raise his level of play in the biggest games.

That's what it's all about.

In his one Super Bowl appearance, Marino struggled against the rugged 49ers defense. The biggest game of his life, and he didn't give the Dolphins a chance to win it.

Marino appeared in two more AFC Championship games—both played in Miami—and he didn't rise to the occasion in either game. The Dolphins lost both times and Marino never did get back to the big game.

When I think of great quarterbacks such as Montana, Brady, Bradshaw, Starr, Aikman, they all played their best football in the biggest games. They elevated their play against rugged playoff defenses and delivered Super Bowl wins.

That's the sign of a great quarterback.

I remember Fran Tarkenton taking the Vikings to three Super Bowls in four years during the 70s. He had a supporting cast full of All-Pros and Pro Bowlers and he still played dreadfully, destroying any chance Minnesota might have had to win.

Tarkenton and Marino put up historic regular season numbers but produced no championships.

Which would you rather have?

I think most players would take a Lombardi trophy over a passing title any day.

Peyton Manning is another quarterback who has failed somewhat in the postseason.

Seven straight 12-win seasons have produced only one Super Bowl. He didn't play particularly well in either of his Super Bowl appearances and somehow we have come to expect more from someone widely regarded as the best quarterback of all-time.

When I judge quarterbacks, postseason performances weigh heavily on my thought process and they should.

After all, the goal is to win Super Bowls. It always has been.

In the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl when your team is trailing and thoughts of hoisting that Lombardi trophy are starting to fade, who would you rather have at the controls?

The guy with all the fancy statistics or the guy who is going to drive your team 78 yards in the final two minutes to win the game?

Remember, great quarterbacks aren't great because they win Super Bowls, they win Super Bowls because they're great.