The True Ironman: Brett Favre Vs. Cal Ripken Jr.

Zeke FuhrmanAnalyst IIIDecember 17, 2008

Over recent years, sports records have been set and broken: Most passing TDs (and receptions) in a season, the single season TD record, the all-time home run record*, most passing TDs in a career, most passing yards in a career, an undefeated NFL regular season, the single game rushing record, the most points scored by an offense in an NFL season, and we recently saw a record-tying 99 yard TD pass.

But there are some records that will be hallowed and untouched forever.

Sure, anybody can play the game with ferocity while setting in-game records, (like hitting home runs or recording sacks) but it takes a special player to do this day in and day out.

Especially over the course of 20 years.

Two of the most hallowed numbers in sports history are 264 and 2632, and they are owned by two of the best players in their respective sports.

These numbers, of course, refer to Brett Favre's and Cal Ripken Jr.'s consecutive games started.

But, as arm-chair athletes know, it is un-American to end a game in a tie. So that begs the question:

Who is THE Ironman?

A couple of my buddies have been at this a long time. They squabble over Facebook posts, but the arguments have been known to become more heated when they see each other in person.

Tim, who played baseball in high school, argues in favor of Ripken. Tim argues that "2632 is a lot more games than 264. In football, you only play once a week, and an average of 16 games per year. In baseball, you play 182 games, usually five or six games a week."

P-dub, who played football in high school, argues in favor of Favre. P-dub argues that "Ripken was an infielder. Had he been a catcher, I could understand a little more, because catchers take beatings. But Ripken saw very little contact, give or take a few hard slides he took while covering second. But Brett Favre is a quarterback. Over the past few season, NFL officials have changed rules trying to prevent hits on the quarterback. And Favre played 16 years in what they call the 'Black and Blue' division, and he had to face guys like John Randle, Warren Sapp, and Brian Urlacher twice a year. What do you think Ripken would do if he saw Michael Strahan, with fire in his eyes, coming to slide into second base?"

Both friends present very valid arguments. Another thing they have done is really break down and compare stats:

  • Favre has three MVP awards ('95-'97), and Ripken has two ('83 & '91).
  • Favre has played, roughly, 15,800 minutes in the NFL, compared to Ripken's 20,232.0 innings.
  • Favre has completed 5,682 pass attempts. Ripken has 4,112 putouts (not including his 8,214 assists.)
  • Favre has 463 passing touchdowns. Ripken has 431 home runs.
  • Favre's career record is 169-98, while Ripken's career record is 1616-1712.
  • Favre won an NFL title in 1996, and Ripken won an MLB title in 1983.
  • Favre is a 10-time Pro Bowler, and Ripken is a 19-time All Star.
  • Favre has scored 84 points (14 rushing touchdowns), while Ripken scored 1,647 times.
  • Favre has fumbled 157 times, while Ripken has 294 errors.
  • Favre's career passing percentage is 61.7, while Ripken's career batting average is .276.
  • Favre has an "Ironman" Exhibit in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with the jersey he wore in his record-breaking 177th consecutive start, but Cal Ripken's nickname is "Ironman."
  • Favre led the league in pass attempts in 2006 with 613, while Ripken led the league in at-bats in 1983 with 663.
  • Favre has 11 career playoff appearances, while Ripken has three.
  • Favre has had one losing season, while Ripken had eleven.

When compared head to head, these two have identical stats. Favre, undoubtedly, played on better teams during his career, and in order to make a successful offensive play happen in football you need teamwork. You need someone to throw the ball to. Baseball, however, requires a more singular effort, where you rely on the defense to provide your offense.

As for my thoughts, I think both athletes are some of the best players to field their positions. Even if you take away their consecutive games streaks, both have had phenomenal careers. Also, neither can be placed in the "Never Got A Ring" category, which seems to make or break an athlete's career now a days.

I leave you with Tim and P-dub's latest Facebook posts:

P-dub's latest argument:

“Cal played day in and day out, but Favre still did more. These being just passing attempts made, and not including routine plays such as handoffs, or though relatively few, rushing attempts by Favre. Favre taking the snap, evading defenders, and rifling a football can't be any easier on the body than fielding a ground ball and making a throw to first (and these attempts also include routine pop ups, plays requiring little effort past squeezing the ball). Add in the 438 sacks on Favre during the streak, something a baseball SS/3B would very rarely ever encounter (double play balls at 2B yes, with Ripken turning almost 1600, but not all those included physical contact outside of making a flip to the 2B), as opposed to being tackled by 300 pound lineman, also granted, not every play was a vicious hit, but not every non-sack was without a hit on Favre).


Another stat that could also be included is the fact that Favre’s wining percentage with his team was significantly higher than Ripken’s. I do take into consideration that the Orioles had to play the Yankees during the streak, while the Packers had to play the likes of the Lions, so it could be a bit of an unfair comparison, but figured Id throw it out there anyway.


I’d take Favre’s streak over Ripken’s any day. By the way, how about Jim Marshall's 282 game streak? Being a D lineman is rough. You are CONSTANTLY smashed every single play. No plays off. Believe me, I know from experience. There’s no way you could put Cal's above this. I'd really put this above Favre’s too. Favre’s and Cal’s are close, but Id still have to say it would be Marshall, Favre, then Cal, though a very close finish.”


Tim's latest argument:

"But, you seem to be giving stats that could supply the more skilled. You make very valid points about each. What it comes down to is comparing apples (Ripken) to oranges (Favre). Apples are better...and they keep the doctor away..."