Why Bart Starr Is Underrated

T.AAnalyst IMarch 29, 2009

In today’s NFL, fans focus too much on the present day. We love the players that we witness play, however, many of us fail to learn about the players of the past.

I was recently at a sports bar and I overheard a conversation about the greatest quarterbacks of all time. As a lifelong NFL fan, I decided to participate in the conversation. When I heard their list, I was shocked. Nowhere in their list did I hear the name Bart Starr.

After realizing this I asked them, “Why isn’t Bart Starr in any of your lists? Clearly, he was one of the all time greats that played this game.”

Their answer was “he had Hall of Fame talent all around him, besides, his stats weren’t even that good.”

I excused myself from the table as soon as I heard the ludicrous statement.

Many NFL fans today, fail to have knowledge on the history of this eminent game. Many fail to do extensive research and adhere to their colleagues', friends', or families' accepted beliefs.

They fail to realize that Starr has achieved more success in the era that he played in than most of the quarterbacks that they consider to be better than he was.

Starr was a clutch and prolific passer who led his teammates to adore and admire him. He did nothing but win month after month, and year after year. He was the on-field general of one of the greatest if not the greatest dynasties the NFL has ever seen.

He was a samurai of the Packers offense, slicing through defenses with his efficient passes. He was just what his last name said he was: a star.

However, in the modern world, his accomplishments are thrown out in the streets like garbage. His achievements are stomped on by the feet of inanity. Some even go as far as to call him overrated.

Common misconception has done a severe injustice to Bart Starr’s legacy. His legacy is usually shrouded by the fact that he was surrounded by Hall of Fame talent.

People throw his achievements away, stating that he had a great defense and great running game to back him. They discredit his clutch abilities by saying he rarely had to score a lot of points in order for his team to win.

On the contrary to popular opinion, I believe that Bart Starr is one of the most underrated and underappreciated quarterbacks in NFL history.

How good was Bart Starr? Well, I’m here to shed some light to this subject.

Statistical Analyst

Here are Bart Starr’s career stats.

1808/3149 (57.4 percent), 24718, 152 TD, 138 INT, 80.5 QB rating

From a first glance, these statistically may not seem good at all. But let’s take an in-depth look into them.

Many blame him for not having a spectacular season as he has never thrown for over 3,000 yards, nor has he ever thrown more than 20 touchdowns in a season. Let’s examine this situation.

Throughout his career, Bart Starr has started a full season as the primary quarterback only four times. This limits his opportunities to put up big stats.

Here are the seasons that he did in fact start the whole year.

1961: 172/295 (58.3%), 2418 yards , 16 TD, 16 INT. (Pro Bowl Selection)

1962: 178/285 (62.5%), 2438 yards, 12 TD, 9 INT. (Pro Bowl Selection)

1964: 173/272 (59.9%) 2144 yards, 25 TD, 4 INT.

1965: 140/251 (55.8%) 2055 yards, 16 TD, 9 INT.

His best seasons, besides 1966, occurred when he started the entire year.

But starts doesn’t tell the whole story to why Bart Starr never had a spectacular season. Passing attempts has a lot to do with it. He averaged 20 attempts per start.

Sammy Baugh averaged 36 attempts per start. Tom Brady has averaged about 33 attempts per start. Peyton Manning has averaged about 34 attempts per start.

As you can clearly see, all of these quarterbacks average over 10 more attempts per game than Bart Starr.

The most attempts Bart Starr has ever had in season was 295. When Johnny Unitas threw for 24 touchdowns in 1957, he had 301 attempts.

In 1959, Johnny Unitas threw 34 touchdowns, but he had 367 attempts. He had 378 attempts in 1960 when he threw for 25 touchdowns.

When Sammy Baugh threw for 25 touchdowns in 1947 he had 354 attempts. In 1962,  Y.A Tittle had 375 attempts when he threw for 20 TD. In 1967, Fran Tarkenton had 377 attempts, throwing 29 touchdowns.

All of these players took 300 or more attempts in order to throw for 20 or more touchdowns, Bart Starr never had 300 or more attempts in a season.

So if Bart Starr had 300 or more attempts would he have thrown 20 or more touchdowns?

A statistic that could help us figure this out is TD% (touchdown percentage). This statistic helps us find out how many attempts it took for a quarterback to throw one touchdown.

In Bart Starr’s case, it’s not logical to use his career TD% since he had very few attempts his rookie (44) and his last year (45). I decided to take the TD% in the year that he the best TD% and see how many attempts it would have took him to pass for 20 touchdowns.

In 1963 Bart Starr had 244 attempts and had a 6.1 TD%. If he kept going at that pace it would have took him about 327 attempts to reach 20 touchdowns.

This was the case for many quarterbacks in his time such as Sammy Baugh and Johnny Unitas. In fact, in the seasons in which Johnny Unitas didn’t have 300 or more attempts he never threw for 20 or more touchdowns.

Neither did Sammy Baugh. In fact, many quarterbacks today would struggle to throw for over 20 touchdowns if they had about 240 attempts per year.

Fans today make the mistake of focusing too much on the overall results. I like to look at the averages. And that's the place where Starr excelled in.

Throughout his career, Starr has averaged 7.8 yards per attempt. Joe Montana, Sammy Baugh, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Y.A. Tittle, Fran Tarkenton, and Otto Graham all couldn’t match that mark.

He averaged 13.7 yards per completion in his career. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, John Elway, and Dan Marino all couldn’t surpass this mark even with the fact that they started in more games and completed more passes.

He has a better career completion rating than Johnny Unitas, Sammy Baugh, Fran Tarkenton, and Y.A. Tittle.

His interception percentage was lower than that of Johnny Unitas, Y.A. Tittle, and Sammy Baugh.

His quarterback rating is better than that of Sammy Baugh (72.2) , Sid Luckman (75.0), Johnny Unitas (78.2), and Y.A. Tittle (74.3).

Bart Starr led the league in passer rating three times.

He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1960, 1961, 1962, and 1966. In 1966, he was named the NFL MVP and was named First Team All-Pro.

Postseason and Clutch Play

Bart Starr is arguable the greatest postseason quarterback of all time. He has an NFL record 9-1 playoff record, and he has won five NFL Championships.

Many may argue that the record and championships were a result of the team being talented in all positions. What they don’t know is that Bart Starr had some prolific games in the playoffs and championship games.

In the 1961 Championship game against the New York Giants, he threw for three touchdowns as the Packers humiliated the Giants in 37-0 victory.

His best postseason game was the 1966 NFL Championship game, when he threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns as the Packers beat the Cowboys 34-27.

His best clutch performance came in the 1967 Ice Bowl. The official game-time temperature was -13 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind chill made it seem like it was -48 degrees Fahrenheit.

The average quarterback will not dare to play in this kind of weather. In fact, the league won’t even allow anyone to play in this kind of weather.

The officials couldn’t even use their metal whistle in the frigid weather. The NFL Network reported that the referee tried to blow the whistle after the first play and as he pulled the whistle out of his mouth his lip started bleeding.

Even with the relentless Doomsday Cowboys defense Bart Starr quickly went to work and he gave his team a 14-0 lead after two touchdown passes.

With the Packers down 17-14 and 4:50 remaining in their own 32-yard line, in sub-zero temperatures, Starr led his team to one of the most ostentatious and methodical drives in NFL history.

His play calling and pinpoint accurate passes propelled the Packers down the field all the way to the Dallas 3-yard line.

With the ball on the 3-yard-line, Starr gave the ball to Donny Anderson three straight times and he only managed to gain two yards.

It was third and goal at the one yard line with 16 seconds left on the clock. Center Ken Bowman and Guard Jerry Kramer made perfect blocks and allowed Starr to execute a quarterback sneak to give Green Bay the victory that gave them a third consecutive NFL Championship.

Team Support

Many say that he had great team support. They state that he had suffocating defenses and prolific running games. These are the same people who don’t do enough research on the subject and adhere to the general public’s point of view. 

Bart Starr’s Packers weren’t a great running team in their early and later years. In fact in some Championship years Bart Starr had horrible run support.

Here is the rank of his running game in every year that he played:

Year:                                 Rank:                        Amount of Teams in the league:

1956                              10                                        12

1957                              11                                        12

1958                              10                                        12

1959                               3                                         12

1960                               2                                         21

1961                               1                                         22

1962                               2                                         22

1963                               2                                         22

1964                               1                                         22

1965                             15                                         22

1966                             11                                         24

1967                             5                                           25

1968                            15                                          26

1969                            13                                          26

1970                            16                                          26

1971                             4                                           26

This chart helps us see that The Packers had their best rushing teams from 1959-1964. They had horrible rushing teams from 1956-58 and had sub-par rushing attacks from 1965-71.

So how did the rushing game impact Bart Starr’s performance?

Well, from a first glance it seems that whenever the rushing game was good, he did better, considering he had his best seasons from 1961-65, the same span of years in which the Packers had a good running game.

But a closer look proves otherwise.

In the years that he had a prolific running game those were the years that he had the most attempts in. So we can’t really say that it was the running game that made his numbers go up.

He also had a very good year in 1966 and lead his team to the a Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs even though his defense ranked 11th in the league. 

The conclusion that he didn’t play well when he had a bad running game cannot be made, because he averaged 186.5 attempts in the years that his running game wasn't one of the most productive in the league.

The Verdict

Even with all of his accomplishments and accolades the general public proves to be ignorant and foolish by not giving Bart Starr his due respect. He played in the harsh weather Green Bay had to offer, called his own plays, and yet, many consider to him to be overrated.

The public loves the quarterbacks with all the stats but fail to recognize the quarterbacks that have done nothing but win. They fail to take an in-depth look into the stats to reveal secrets that they may not have known.

I hope that this article gave you a more clear understanding of who Bart Starr was a player.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.