The Difficulty With Top Ten Lists

Bruce DickensonCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2008

As I was driving to work this morning, listening to NFL Satellite Radio, I was sucked into a conversation about a recent Top Ten Quarterback list.  As I listened to the "experts" and callers discuss their reasoning, criteria, and who they would have added, I became increasingly aware of how subjective this ranking business can be.  So when I got to work (I hope my Boss doesn't read this), I did my own research.

I started with some very basic numbers.  First I looked at total touchdowns, total yards, and completion percentage.  I know people will ask why I did not include a touchdown-to-interception ratio, but I figured completion percentage would alleviate some of that argument.  Let's face it, if you throw an interception, it is not considered a completion.  I then scanned the top ten in each category and made a list of names that appeared in all three.  This list was then accompanied by the rankings of each player in all three categories and added up to create a score. 

This created an interesting list, however I was not satisfied.  To make it fair, I decided to add one final statistic to sure up my analysis.  I added the career seasons of each player to their overall score.  The player with the lowest score would be ranked highest.  Well, here it is:

1. Brett Favre - score = 22

2. Peyton Manning - score = 24

3. Dan Marino - score = 25

4. John Elway - score = 31

5/6. Warren Moon - score = 32 (tie)

5/6. Fran Tarkenton - score = 32 (tie)

7. Joe Montana - score = 37

8. Vinny Testaverde - score = 43

Huh?  It is NO surprise to see Elway, Marino and Montana on this list, but Vinny?  I love Vinny and admire his longevity, but is he in the top ten quarterbacks of all time?  And where is Unitis, Staubach, Bart Starr, or Terry Bradshaw.  Even more interesting is, as you go down the list a little further, you find names like Dave Krieg, Dan Fouts, and even Drew Bledsoe begin to round out the top twenty.

So in conclusion, as I have before and will continue to do, every time I hear about another "expert" creating a new list of top ten anything in sports, I will listen, but only for entertainment value.