Ron Jaworski

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The Case for Tom Flores to Enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Perhaps the most widely known coach in the history of the NFL is John Madden. The former leader of the Oakland Raiders established a virtually unsurpassed record of regular season success during his brief ten-year tenure. Madden won more than 76% of his games. His closest active pursuer, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, has managed only a .672 winning percentage. John Madden also coached the Raiders to an impressive, physical victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, 32-14. After leaving the sidelines, Madden carved out the most unique, imposing and meaningful niche in the history of sports broadcasting. And, if that was not sufficient, he also established the premiere video gaming series that has redefined how our society views, plays, and understands football. Simply, John Madden’s football legacy is incomparable. In 2006, John Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2nd in Playoff Win Percentage Behind Vince Lombardi (10 games, min.)

Madden’s successor in Oakland and Los Angeles was the man pictured above, Tom Flores. Back in 1960, Flores shared passing duties with George Blanda and Babe Parilli, but he did most of the heavy lifting in the Raiders first season and over the next 6 seasons. The Raiders laid the foundation for one of the greatest offensive machines in league history. In the popular mind, the preeminent offensive teams were Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins of Dan Marino. However, Al Davis’ Raiders ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense every year but 1 from their inception in 1960 until 1984. No team in the league has enjoyed a similar run of offensive prowess…not even the San Francisco 49ers during the era of Walsh and Seifert.

During this run, Tom Flores was the leading passer on the team for five of their first 7 seasons. And, he won two Super Bowls as head coach – one in Oakland and one in Los Angeles.

Time doesn’t permit a full exploration of all that Tom Flores achieved on the sidelines, but the recent nominations of Bill Cowher and Bill Parcells for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, suggest a few bullets may be in order.

Flores and Plunkett Defeat the Eagles in Super Bowl XV

 Consider these facts:

  • Tom Flores coached the Raiders for 9 seasons and won 2 Super Bowls. John Madden coached the Raiders for 10 seasons and won 1 Super Bowl.
  • Tom Flores amassed an 83-53 record with the Raiders, and a winning percentage of .610. Bill Walsh’s career winning percentage is .609. Marty Schottenheimer, another nominee for induction to Canton, has a .613 winning percentage.
  • Tom Flores ranks 2nd all-time in playoff win percentage (10 games minimum) behind Vince Lombardi. Bill Parcells has an 11-8 career playoff record. Bill Cowher has a 12-9 career playoff record. Marty Schottenheimer has a 5-13 playoff record. Tom Flores is 8-3.
  • After the 4th Super Bowl title of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1979-80, Tom Flores’ Raiders were the only AFC teams to win the Super Bowl until 1997. The NFC dominated the Super Bowl for two decades with powerhouse teams in larger markets like New York, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, and northern California.
  • Tom Flores won 2 Super Bowls in 4 years, and in 1983 he handed Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs his only loss in a Super Bowl.

Perhaps the thing that has kept Tom Flores out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame these many years, aside from a bias against Latino excellence and a league-wide contempt for the Raiders, is the fact that he coached in Seattle. The Great Northwest has been the equivalent of a Black Hole for talented football players. It’s where careers go to die. Flores coached the Seahawks for 3 years. His teams had a combined record of 14-34.

Flores went from being a coach with a sterling 83-53 record to a rather pedestrian 97-87 (At .527, he’s tied with the recently fired Brad Childress…but he’s still ranked higher than Dick Vermeil). However, this should not undo the greatness that he achieved in Oakland and Los Angeles for the Silver & Black. Did a stint in Seattle keep Franco Harris from induction? Of course not. Did two 8-8 seasons in Seattle keep Warren Moon out of Canton? Of course not. The remoteness of Seattle and the irrelevance of many of their games may have shattered our collective memory of players like Cortez Kennedy, Kenny Easley and Curt Warner (with a C), but Flores should be teflon in this regard.

Mike Holmgren is still regarded highly even though he’s only managed to win one Super Bowl and lost two. Holmgren has a 13-11 playoff record and, unlike Flores, he had prized QB’s at the helm in each of his playoff games. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells are still revered though neither has been able to ameliorate the morass or mend the mess that is the Miami Dolphins.

And, Tom Flores’ quarterbacks in Seattle were Stan Gelbaugh and Rick Mirer!! That he managed to win as many as 14 games in 3 years with these passers qualifies as a minor miracle.

Some other thoughts to consider on Tom Flores:

  •  In 1980, the Raiders won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card. Statistically, the Eagles were “better” than the Raiders on both sides of the ball, but Flores and his staff and team figured out a way to win that game.
  • Since 1980, Eagles QB Ron Jaworski has become nationally known as a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN. Perhaps he could take up the mantle on behalf of Tom Flores. It’s long overdue.
  • In 1983, the Raiders beat a team with one of the largest statistical advantages in league history entering a Super Bowl. The Redskins were defending champions and were perceived to be a juggernaut. Jack Squirek did to Joe Theismann what Rod Martin did to Ron Jaworksi. And Marcus Allen did to the Redskins defense what Kenny King had done to the Eagles only three years prior.
  • Since 1983, Redskins QB Joe Theismann has become nationally known as a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN and the NFL Network. Perhaps he could take up the mantle on behalf of Tom Flores. It’s long overdue.
  • Tom Flores won two Super Bowls with an over-the-hill, washed up, washed out quarterback named Jim Plunkett. He beat long odds twice and still stands in the record book — right next to Vince Lombardi as the second-winningest coach in the post-season with an astounding .727 winning percentage.

It’s time for Flores to make his speech and be heard…for perhaps the first time.

Is Joe Flacco the Worst Post-Season QB of All Time?

It is possible that Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is the WORST POST-SEASON QUARTERBACK in the history of the NFL?  While the national media (and Baltimore’s local media) have given Flacco a pass for his ineptitude, 2010 will be the season where improvements must manifest.  ESPN’s top football writer, John Clayton,  considers Flacco to be an elite quarterback and cites his post-season performance as proof.  While no one at NFL.com is quite that delusional, Flacco has managed to escape public scrutiny.  If Flacco cannot perform with the addition of Anquan Boldin to the receiving corps, Baltimore needs to look for a new quarterback.

In five post-season games, Joe Flacco has an abysmal rating of 46.5.  He has completed 57 of 120 passes (47.5%) for 660 yards.  The Baltimore signal caller has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions.  The Ravens are 3-2 in these games.  The defense and a powerful ground game were able to mask a horrific 4-10, 34 yard, 1 INT performance vs. the New England Patriots in January.

Brady Consoles Flacco for Piss Poor Performance

Flacco has yet to pass for 200 yards in the post-season.  He has had two games with ratings under 20 and two games with ratings under 60.

How much worse does it have to get before Ozzie Newsome turns to the guy he originally envisioned in this position: Troy Smith?

Addendum:  If Flacco is not the primary candidate, “Jaws” is in the running.  Ron Jaworski completed 46.5% of his post-season attempts and finished his career with a 4-5 record, including one Super Bowl appearance punctuated by 3 interceptions to Oakland Raiders LB Rod Martin.

Drew Bledsoe is in the conversation as well.  7 games.  51.2% completion percentage with 6 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.  Cumulative rating of 54.9 and a measly yards per attempt measure of 5.3 yards.

Donovan McNabb’s Round Table Talk with the Legends

In four weeks, the greatest quarterbacking legends in the history of the NFL will come together for the first time under one roof to talk about their memories of the game, their challenges in today’s game, and their hopes for the future.  This historic meeting will be convening on the scenic Riviera Maya and will allow these stars four days and three nights to share, reflect and preserve what they’ve built.

ocan_720x300_dining16The architect of this meeting?  Donovan J. McNabb, quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.  McNabb was the second selection in the 1999 NFL Draft.  He was lustily booed by the hometown faithful that day, and the relationship since then has been fraught with tension.  The Eagles and their leader are coming off an upset loss in the desert to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game.  The Cardinals won 32-25.  McNabb, for his part, was 28-47 for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns.  The Eagles trailed early and only ran the ball 18 times all day.    Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald combined on 9 catches for 152 yards and 3 scores.  Since that loss, the Eagles 4th in 5 conference championship games, the burning question in Philadelphia and across the nation is, “Hey Donovan, how come you suck in big games?”  Troy Aikman asked the question, in a manner of speaking.  He wasn’t alone.  Ron Jaworski, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms wanted answers.

ocan_720x300_seaview7 Between the time on the beach and the time at the bar, the QB’s will watch old film, discuss strategy and their greatest achievements and failures.  I will have the distinct privilege of moderating the discussion.  What follows is a little of how I think it will go.

Simms: “Donovan!  This was a great idea.  Thank you for bringing us all together.  I never would have thought to do something like this.”

McNabb: “Well, I thought it just made sense to get all the guys together and talk about what our keys to success have been.   Besides, this place is gorgeous.”

ocan_720x300_room15Simms: “That’s just very ‘Obama’ of you, Donovan.  Thanks.”

Jaworski: “Where’s the film room?  I’m anxious to get a look at some game film…especially of that Cardinal game.  I just knew we were gonna win it.”

McNabb:  “I’ll take you down there now.  A bunch of the guys are coming down together.  They haven’t seen each other since last year at Canton.  It should be great.”

Jaworski: “Yeah, I remember.  I was there.”

McNabb to self: “Not with those numbers you weren’t.  And you had Harold Carmichael for ever… Gimme a break.”

Simms:  “I’ll see you all at the pool.  I think Chris is on his way down as well.”

McNabb to self: “Who the hell invited Chris Simms to this damned event?”

McNabb:  “Phil!  No kids allowed at the adult events.”  (Smiles, exits with Jaws.)

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McNabb:  “Have a seat.  I’ll get you started.  Is there a particular game you’d like to see?”

Jaworski: “You know it.”

McNabb:  “Let me guess.  Anything coached by Dick Vermeil.  Philadelphia,  St. Louis or Kansas City?”

Jaworski: “Let’s start in Philly.”

McNabb:  “Super Bowl XV?” (Raiders 27, Eagles 10.  Jaworski’s Line. 18-38, 291 yards.  1 TD, 3 INTs…to the SAME GUY!!!)

Jaworski:  “Uh, actually, I’d rather see some other games that really highlight just how great Coach Vermeil was as a planner and strategist.  You know.”

McNabb:  “It’s all set…pick what you like.  I think the fellas should be rolling in about now.  If you see Phil, tell him, ‘No kids.'”

A bus arrives from the Cancun Airport with the rest of the group:  Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway, Brett Favre, Warren Moon, Tom Brady, Boomer Esiason, Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Randall Cunningham, Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett, Troy Aikman, Fran Tarkenton, Bart Starr, Jim Kelly, Jim Plunkett, Terry Bradshaw, Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner.  Warner has just completed his third Super Bowl game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

McNabb:  “Welcome, gentlemen.  I’m glad that you all could make it.  I know that each of you are always in high demand, so I am looking forward to this.  Phil and Jaws are already here.  Jaws is –

Steve Young and Peyton Manning in unison: “Downstairs watching film!!”

Jim Plunkett:  “If he would have watched that film when he played, he wouldn’t have thrown the ball to Rod Martin three times!  Tell him its too late.  The rings are already made.”

McNabb: “That’s cold, Jim.”

Plunkett: “That’s the way it is with this group.  It’s always cold.  Either you have ‘em or you don’t.  Where’s Theismann!?!  That’s my other bitch!”

Manning: “Thank GOD for Rex Grossman!  I would be getting it like I know Boomer’s gonna get it.”

Bradshaw, Brady and Montana: “You might still get it!”

Bradshaw: “Where’s Eli?”

Manning: “Donovan said, ‘No kids!'”

Brady: “I’m glad you didn’t bring that little bastard. I can’t stand his ass!!”

Peyton edges closer to Brady, not laughing.  “Please Tom.  The Giants just kicked your ass.  They said you were scared and just played like a little bitch.  I was gonna invite Vinatieri.  He was your real QB.” (Brady’s line in Super Bowl 29-48, 266 yards, 1 TD, 0 picks, sacked 5 times.  229 net yards.  16 rushes by Patriots.)

McNabb: “I think you two should settle down.  Just take a breath, relax.”

Brady: “Oh, like you and Terrell?!?”

Montana: ‘Damn, Tom.  I used to talk alot of smack – especially to Steve, but just chill out.  It’s a long weekend.  Save some for the other ringless wonders.”

Bart Starr: “I see humility is as fleeting as ever.”

Staubach and Bradshaw, as they often do, wind up standing next to one another as the group moves toward the film room.  McNabb leans in with a question.

McNabb:  “Okay, I know both of you played behind tremendous offensive lines…so do I.  You also played with great defenses.  So do I.  I’m wondering though, what’s the most passes you ever threw and won a playoff game?”

Bradshaw: “Damn.  That’s a good question.  I’d have to think about that.  I know it wasn’t that many because when we won, we were usually able to run.  If we couldn’t run, Joe and Mel and them kept us out of shootouts.  Hell, anyone can win a shootout.  Ask Dan!”

McNabb:  “Marino?”

Bradshaw:  “No, Fouts.  Remember that game they played against Miami that went into overtime and Winslow blocked the kick?  Dan was slingin’ the ball all over the field that day.  He must have thrown 50 or 60 passes.  I bet they didn’t even have time to run the ball that day.”

Fouts:  “That game was on the highlights of my career.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  We ran all over the Dolphins, but couldn’t put them away.  Chuck Muncie had over 100 yards and we ran about 30 times.  I threw it about 50, but if we didn’t run it, I would have been dead.”  (Fouts’ line: 33-53, 433, 3 touchdowns, 1 INT.  SD 29 carries, 149 yards. SD 41, MIA 38.)

Marino: “I had a bunch of games like that.  Dan, you and I probably had the quickest releases of every one here.  Neither of us could run farther than the door.  I don’t remember winning but one of those games.  I don’t remember how much we ran, though.  Seems like I was always throwing to ‘the Marks Brothers‘.”

Simms:  “I’d put Kurt in that ‘Quickest Release’ group, too.”

Manning: “Ditto, that.”

Marino: “I remember a wildcard game against Buffalo.  I threw 64 passes and we got smoked.  Yeah…I did win once.  It was at Cleveland and Marty was coaching.  So, we knew we had a chance.  The Browns couldn’t throw and our defense was still decent enough.” (Marino’s record in playoff games throwing 47+ passes? 0-4.  In games throwing 37+ passes? 1-8.  In games throwing 34 passes or less? 7-2.)

Montana: “You call that ‘decent.’  We walked all over you guys.  Roger Craig still shows that damned highlight video every time I’m over his house.  Nothing but high-stepping over little men in aqua blue tights.”

McNabb: “Dan.”

Marino and Fouts: “Yes?”

McNabb gestures to Fouts: “What was it like playing with Wes Chandler, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow?”

Fouts: “It was amazing, but don’t forget we had Chuck Muncie and Lionel James.”

Marino: “Boomer!  You had it pretty good with Collinsworth, James Brooks, and Eddie Brown.  You even had that Ickie Woods character.  How did you lose that damned game?  You had them right where you wanted them.”

Esiason:  “I know.  We were pretty damned good for a minute.  We couldn’t hold on.”

Montana: “I beat all of your asses like a drum.  If you all don’t shut up I’m getting my jewelry.  Terry! I’m not talking about you, so take it easy.”

Bradshaw: “I’m just sitting here quietly.  I’m enjoying the decor — and wondering what defensive linemen would say about this conversation.  Those guys are haters.  You see how Howie is always going against everything I have to say.  Strahan is becoming the same way.  I need to be on a show with more quarterbacks.  Then again, the only guys with rings on your show (to Marino and Esiason) are Shannon and Bill (Cowher).  I guess I’ll stay where I am.  Besides, I sit right next to the new J.B.  We are a good lookin’ group…except for Howie!”

foxnflsunday_2007_240 Fouts: “Well, like I was saying, I know I didn’t win a Super Bowl, but I’ll be damned if I couldn’t throw the ball with any of you.  Besides, say what you want Joe, but we would’ve kicked your butt in ’81.  If it wasn’t 52 degrees below zero in Cincinnati, we would have rolled the Bengals and you would have been next.  Don’t forget it!”

Montana: “Talk is cheap, chubby.”

Elway: “You couldn’t throw it with me.”

Cunningham: “Me either.  Besides, Warren threw a prettier ball than you.  Come to think of it, Jeff Blake threw a prettier ball than you too.”

Esiason: “That’s debateable.”

Cunningham: “Did he just say something?”

The group empties out of the corridor and is fully assembled in the film room.

Fouts: “I’m not talking about arm strength — but even if I was…the point would be the same.  I’m just thinking about this question.”

Favre: “What question?”

Fouts: “Have you won playoff games when it was all on you?  When you had to throw the ball a ton of times and your team either couldn’t run or didn’t run.  I mean, isn’t that what made us all legends of the game.  We were each that guy who made all the throws when the chips were down in the big game and delivered…right?”

Jim Kelly:  “Damn right, Dan.  I know I lived for those moments in big games when it was all on the line.  We ran that K-Gun spread offense and most teams couldn’t stop Thurman or even slow us down, but when they did, I wanted to make the throws.  I wanted the ball in my hands.”

Aikman: “You’re mostly right Jim.  We throttled you guys in the Super Bowl, and so did Washington and the Giants (at least on defense).  He even forgot his helmet in the Super Bowl!  Crazy!!  How did you do career-wise when it was all on you?”

Kelly: “I think I did pretty well.  That’s why we’re here, right!?!” (Kelly’s record in games throwing 45+ passes? 0-3.)

Esiason: “Definitely.” (Esiason never threw more than 25 passes or for more than 150 yards in a playoff game.  Super Bowl line? 11-25, 144 yards, zero Tds, 1 pick.)

McNabb: “Food is on the way.  I’ve selected some healthy options.  What could be more important than having a healthy, good time.”

Stabler: “Liquor.” (Stabler never threw 45 passes in a playoff game.  In games with 35+ passes, Stabler was 1-4.  In the lone victory, the Raiders ran 47 times and won by 6.)

Kurt Warner: “Donovan’s right.  And, I’ll be right back.”

Favre: “I’m starved…and the Jet lag is the worst!” (Favre was 0-1 in games in which he threw 45+ passes.  He is also 0-5 in games in which he threw 39+ passes.)

Aikman: “Jaws,  you’re awful quiet over there.  Dial up that video of Super Bowl XII.  I thought that was Roger’s finest moment.  I’ve love to take a look at that.” (Aikman’s record? 0-3.  No games with a 60% completion rate.  3 tds, 7 picks. Aikman’s record in games with 37 or fewer passes?  11-2.)

Jaworski: “I know.  I’m trying to remember my gunslinger days.  I think I might have pulled one out back in the day against the Giants.” (Jaworski never threw 45+ in a playoff win.  Close? Jaworski’s stat line: 17-38, 190 yards and 2 INTs combined with 42 Eagle rushes to pummel Minnesota.  His other games with 30+ passes? 0-3.)

Cunningham: “That was Minnesota.  I always liked them as a kid.  Sir Francis was my guy.  I loved that squad.  Chuck Foreman, Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad!  My question is, “How did Matt Blair block so many kicks?” (Cunningham’s record in games with 45+ passes? 0-4; Tarkenton’s 0-2)

(QUOTE OF NOTE at :49)

Tarkenton: “Thanks, Randall.  That means a lot to me.  By the way, you know I was pulling for you guys back in ’98.  What a team!  Moss, Carter, Reed, Robert Smith, whew!  Do you think the Vikings are cursed?”

Cunningham: “Any teeam that fires Dennis Green to hire Mike Tice s is worse than cursed.”

Warner (in the distance): “Amen to that, brother.  I love Dennis almost as much as I love Larry Fitzgerald.”

Jaworski: “It’s really all about mobility in the pocket.  All this ‘mobile quarterback’ business is overrated.  Look at Vince Young and Michael Vick.”

Cunningham: “Look at Joe and John and Steve.  Enough hardware to fill a vault.”  (Steve Young averaged more than 6 yards per carry in the playoffs!  Montana and Elway were just a hair below 5 yards per carry.)

Young: “Hello!  We mobile guys have to stick together.  John (pointing to Elway), are you still with us?” (Young’s record: 0-2; Elway 0-1)

Elway: “I’m with you.  I remember when Joe was with us too.  What happened Joe?”

Montana: “Nothing happened, John.  I’m the same fast, mobile guy I’ve always been.  I’m still with you.  ‘Sprint right option‘ made me rich and famous.” (Montana’s record: 0-2; failed to complete 60% of his passes in both games.  Montana was 16-5 with four Super Bowl wins in other post-season games.)

Simms: “I thought you were going to say that Jim Burt happened.”

Montana: “I don’t remember a thing.”

McNabb: “Enough on mobile vs. sitting ducks.  That’s why Drew Bledsoe’s not here.  Alright, maybe one reason why Drew isn’t here.  Terry, getting back to the question, what about you?”

Bradshaw: “No way.  I remember all my big games…concussions, too.   I don’t even have to think about it.” (Bradshaw was 0-3 in games with 35+ passes.  He never threw as many as 45.  He was 14-2 with four Super Bowl wins when throwing under 32 passes.)

Favre to no one in particular: “I’m really thinking about retiring this year.”

Moon: “Dan, this question is humbling.  It looks like we have these reputations for doing the one thing we’ve never done.  Does that sound crazy to you?  My teams in Houston were built to pass the ball.  We really only got around to running it with Lorenzo White.  I wish the other Dan (Pastorini) could have been here.  He’d have some real stories to tell about Earl Campbell.” (Warren Moon: 0-5 in games with 40+ pass attempts.)

Plunkett:  “This is amazing.  First off, I know I never threw that many balls.  We had too many good runners and besides, my knees were shot after I left San Francisco.  Tom Flores believed in running the ball to balance the offense and keep the defense honest.  We won two Super Bowls with our strategy.  Not many people can say that.”

Aikman: “I can.”

Brady: “I can.”

Bradshaw: “I can.”

Montana: “I can.”

Elway: “I can.”

Plunkett: “Alright, you know what I mean.  Damn.  Why are you guys so literal?”

Starr: “Who’s left?  What about ‘Roger the Dodger’?” (Staubach never attempted 45+ passes and was 0-2 in games with 30+ attempts.)

Staubach:  “You, Bart?” (Starr never came close to 45+ attempts.)

Starr: “No way, Roger.  Can you imagine Lombardi putting the ball up in the air like that?  Never!  You know, Donovan, I’m a little sad that Len Dawson isn’t here.  He did win a Super Bowl.”

Tarkenton: “Don’t remind me!”

McNabb: “He was invited, but wasn’t able to make it.  It had to do with some celebration in his hometown in Ohio.  He sent his regards.  That reminds, how come all of you are from Western Pennsylvania?” (In Dawson’s highest pass attempt contest (36), he threw picks and lost handily.)

Favre to no one in particular: “I mean, really, how long can you play this game before you run into your own personal Lavar Arrington or Aeneas Williams?” (Big hits from Arrington and Williams ended the careers of Troy Aikman and Steve Young, respectively.)

Montana: “Peyton, what about you and Tom?”

Brady: “I’m not retiring.”

Manning: “He didn’t mean retirement.  That’s just Brett being Brett.  You know I track my stats and splits religiously, so here is the deal: I did it once.  I beat the Patriots 38-34.  You guys remember.  They were up 21-3 and then Tom and those guys choked.  It was great.  Anyway, I was ripping the ball all over the place, but I was only 27-47 for 349.  I even threw a pick.  The reason we were able to come back was because we ran the ball 30 times.  Dominic and Joseph split the load right down the middle.  That was the difference…and, that we had Vinatieri. (Manning’s record with 45+ passes:1-2.  Record inother games with 40+ passes? 1-5; without run support 0-5.)

Starr: “I never would have expected that.  The Patriots fading completely is what allowed you to escape in that scenario.  They only scored 10 more points the rest of the way.  That reminds me of the game when Jim beat Warren in the playoffs.  Man, that was historic!”

Moon: “Jim didn’t beat Warren.  Jim never beat Warren.  That was Frank Reich, and our team lost that game.  Lorenzo White only had 19 carries.  That wasn’t enough to salt it away.  Damn!!”

Kelly: “I beat you, too.  I just didn’t beat you like that.  I’m not suprised you forgot.”

Cunningham: “At least you don’t have to live with wanting to strangle Gary Anderson every day.”

Kelly: “We all have our Norwood’s to bear.”

Manning and Brady: “And our Vinatieri’s.”

McNabb: “Where’s Kurt?”

Bradshaw: “In the bathroom.  Talking to Brenda.”

Simms: “I really want to talk about what happened in all these games.  I mean, none of us had any idea we’d actually lost all of these dad-gum games.  I bet our coaches knew.”

Jaworski: “It sounds like everyone who won also ran the ball in their game.  Isn’t that right?”

Plunkett: “Check.”

Marino: “Not exactly, but I told you…we were going up against Marty.  You know how he is.” (Marty Schottenheimer ranks #6 all-time in coaching wins, but is 5-13 in the post-season.  He was most recently fired after leading the San Diego Chargers to a 14-2 season, and a shocking open game loss to the New England Patriots in 2006.)

Elway: “Yep.  Marty was so predictable.”

Montana: “Yep.  He was great.”

Brady: “Yep. I always knew what to look for.”

Manning: “Check.  We ran it too.”

Favre to no one in particular: “Marty was always in the AFC.  I never got a chance.  Hell, I haven’t been close to a Super Bowl since ’97.  I haven’t won more than 1 playoff game since 1998.  You know, I’m thinking about retiring.”

Staubach: “Who was my Marty?  I’m torn between Chuck Knox and Bud Grant.”

Aikman: “My Marty was Mike Holmgren.  Sorry Brett.”

Favre: “What?”

Aikman: “Sure.  You remember when we beat you 3 years in a row.  Anyway, it just occurred to me how you could get a win in Dallas.  It’s perfect.  T.O. always said the Eagles could’ve been undefeated with you.  Sorry Donovan.  Anyway, with all the weapons they have in Dallas, you could go there.  Surely you could win one game at home.  Romo, as we all know, is probably in Cabo right now and you can beat him out in pre-season.  He’s just an imitation of you.  He’ll wilt under the competitive pressure just like he has in December for the past few years.  I think its perfect.” (Favre is 0-7 vs. the Cowboys in Dallas, 0-3 in the post-season.)

Favre: “I don’t know, Troy.”

McNabb: “It’s worth a shot.”

Plunkett: “Is that why Bernie Kosar’s not here?  What the hell is Boomer doing here, again?  Are you working?”

Esiason: “I’ve had about all I’m going to take.”

Montana: “I’ve got more to give.  When are you leaving?”

Brady: “I’d rather talk about me.  We definitely ran it – but we won.  Charlie was a little crazy with the passing game back then.  Remember that time we went to Pittsburgh in like Week 2 or 3 and ran them ragged.  That was like a big joke to Charlie, but it the playoffs, it was totally different.   Remember the Tuck Bowl vs. Oakland?  We ran 30 times mostly with Antowain Smith.  Even in the Super Bowl vs. Carolina we ran 35 times.  There was even a division rounder against Jeff Fisher’s bunch a few years back.  Antowain put in the work to keep the defense honest.  That was the only way for us to pull it off.  The only time we didn’t run was in the 2007 game against the Giants and Little Eli.  Damn it.  16 rushes and those guys were coming like their hair was on fire.  I hadn’t been hit like that all year.  I was able to make some throws, but we only scored 14 points.  It was the worst feeling I’ve had in football.”

Manning: “Okay, thanks for the soliloquy.  I just want you to know that I know.”

Brady: “Know what?”

Manning: “You know.  Just know that I know too.  You’re the luckiest dude on two legs this side of that old guy Dick Cheney shot in the face.” (Tom Brady is 4-0 is his four lowest rated games as a passer.  In those games, he’s thrown 5 tds and 7ints.  In 3 of the 4 games, the opponent was held to 14 points or less.)

Young: “Stop it.  You two are worse than Joe and I were and I can’t stand him to this day!!”

Montana:  “Don’t hate me just because you owe your ring to Deion Sanders.  When you beat a team with Stan Humphries as the QB, you aren’t really a true Ring Bearer.  I still see a little monkey on your back.”   (Sanders played one of his best seasons with the ’94 49ers snatching 6 interceptions, returning 3 for touchdowns, and discouraging QBs like Troy Aikman from throwing in his direction.)

Aikman: “Joe, that’s not right!”

Montana: “Playing defense now Troy?  How’d you do against Deion in that NFC Championship game?” (Aikman threw 53 passes for 380 yards.  30 to the Cowboys (12 to Michael Irvin), 3 to the 49ers.  Young ran 10 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.)

Aikman: “I’m just saying th–“

Montana: “I’m just saying be quiet.  How’d you do the very next year with Deion on your team?  I seem to remember you winning a Super Bowl while Neil O’Donnell threw 2 picks to Larry Freakin’ Brown all because he didn’t want to throw toward Deion.  How many yards Emmitt have in that one?”

Aikman: “49.”

Montana: “Yeah, thought so.  What’s with you and Steve anyway?  Is there something I should know?”

Bradshaw: “Kurt, come out of that bathroom!!”

Marino: “What’s the deal, Kurt.  How did you do in those games?”

Warner: “Only had 1.  We won.”

Jaworski: “Did you run it 25 or 30 times?”

Warner: “Hardly at all!  It was the Super Bowl win vs. the Titans.  We were playing on turf and I had Marshall, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.  There was only so much they could do.”

Moon: “But you only won by a yard.”

Warner: “That’s right.”

Jaworski: “Kurt — are you telling me that you are the ONLY person in this room who has won a game by throwing 45 balls and going after a team without running the ball?  And, that you guys won because Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson at the goal line?  You’ve got to be kidding!!”

Simms: “This story better not ever get out.  Thank goodness we’re in Mexico.”

Marino: “What about me?”

The Group: “Marty!”

Aikman: ” Donovan, what’s your record in these games?”

McNabb: “0-4.”

Simms: “Well, that actually sounds normal in this room?  What about when you throw under 40 or 45 times?”

McNabb: “9-2.”

Manning: “Shoot.  Really?  Not bad.”

Favre: “I remember the last time we played head-to-head in the playoffs.  You went off.  It was like a Superman show or something.  Didn’t you run for over 100 yards?!?”  (McNabb was 21-39 for 248, 2 tds and no picks.  11 carries for 107 yards in a 20-17 win over the Packers.)

McNabb: “Great game, bad year.  You remember what happened the next week?  Ricky Manning ate my lunch – and I was starving!  They tossed our receivers all over the field.”

Manning: “How could I forget.  The exact same thing happened to me against New England.  Marvin was getting the ‘Rag Doll’ treatment from Ty Law.  That’s why we got that damn rule changed.  No one wanted to see Tom in the Super Bowl again.  They wanted to see you and I.”  (Manning was 23-47 with 4 ints.  Marvin Harrison caught 3 balls for 19 yards.  McNabb was 10-22 for 100 yards with 3 interceptions.  Freddie Mitchell caught 4 balls for 38 yards.)

Brady: “You’re just a jealous bastard, Peyton.”

Manning: “You better tell it to Bridget.  She’s got your bastard.  I own you.”

Young: “Stop it, you two.  Enough.”

McNabb: “Peyton…that’s too far.”

Manning: “He started.”

Brady: “And finished.  Check the hardware.  Too bad your scramblin’ daddy never won a ring.  Maybe your family would have as many as me.”

Montana: “Alright.  Are you two done?”

Fouts:  “Honestly, that’s enough.”

Staubach: “Terry – did we ever hate each other this much during our rivalry?”

Bradshaw: “Of course we did, but I whooped your ass on a regular basis so I didn’t have to show it.”

Terry’s joke breaks the ice and everyone settles down.

Aikman: “Donovan, 9-2…Not bad.  Not bad at all.  I was 11-3.”

Elway: “Welcome to the club.”

Scramblers and Statues: The Quarterback in Black, White and Gray

In the NFL, one of the most electrifying players in the game is “the running quarterback.” The players to which this label have been affixed are blessed with tremendous speed, agility and vision. Some of these players have also been considered too nervous or undisciplined to stay in the pocket long enough for a play to develop. In recent years, much has been made about the superiority of the “classic pocket passer” over the “running quarterback.” One staunch advocate of the classic passing game is ESPN’s Ron Jaworski. The former Eagles quarterback is known for saying that “points come in the passing game” and “you can’t design your offense around a running quarterback.” He has added the proviso that mobility within the pocket is a critical aspect of playing the quarterback position. I’ve wanted to test his hypothesis for some time because my own recollection of elite quarterbacks over the past 30 years did not fully square with Jaw’s assessment. I certainly agreed that points came in the passing game. I believe that teams pass to score and they run and play defense to win. It’s nice to be able to do all three of those things, but if I could only take two, I’d take a Top 10 defense and a Top 10 running game. (I’ll take my chances with play action passes and a motion offense any day of the week.)

I have to give a tip of the hat to Jweiler over at The Starting Five. His comparison of Steve Young and Michael Vick (specifically during the first 6 years of their careers was eye-opening. His piece illustrated the extent to which MSM (mainstream media) will go to blur lines, to misinterpret statistics, and to fabricate claims absent a scintilla of evidence.

It spurred me to finally crunch the numbers. I used the same approach as J did over at TSF. I divided pass attempts by rush attempts to establish a pass:run ratio. This is a basic approach to making determinations about QB playing styles. I did not look at yards per attempt. Clearly that statistic would allow for additional separation, but that was not my principal concern here. As it is, I believe there will strong agreement between these ratios and those we recall as “scramblers” and “statues.” The term “running quarterback” is so widely used that it has escaped definition in most circles. We may not have listed all the elements, but we know one when we see one. That’s probably not sufficient for this discussion if it grows beyond this post, but it is a start. So, what then is a “running quarterback”? For me, a running quarterback is a quarterback with the capacity to run. In looking at the data, I found that quarterbacks who can run do run. Quarterbacks who cannot run, do not run. Given the skill level, athleticism and fury of defenders, running is not the worst idea. In fact, some of the greatest quarterbacks in this game were/are excellent runners. It is also probably not sufficient to say a running QB is a QB who can run because there are so many reasons why QBs run. Here are a few:

  • Poor offensive line play
  • Poor wide receiver play
  • Lack of comfort with the offense
  • Lack of knowledge of the offense
  • Lack of confidence in passing ability
  • Evading pressure to extend plays
  • Planned runs/draws/sneaks

I believe there has always been a negative connotation to being a running QB. That’s not entirely surprising. Some players prefer to be called “mobile quarterbacks.” Perhaps that is more accurate. After all, most players and coaches recognize that it is easier to pass for yardage than to run; that players are more dangerous when they pose a dual threat; that powerful offenses tend to have success passing the ball. With respect to the data, I have attached a PDF chart to demonstrate a rather surprising continuum of quarterbacks in the league. For those of you with no desire to look at a PDF, the table is presented below with all of the same data.

QB Pass-Run Ratios.pdf

The first thing that jumped out at me on this continuum of quarterbacks was that the cluster of four quarterbacks with 11 total Super Bowl rings: Montana, Brady, Aikman and Simms. Each has a pass ratio between 11.8 and 14.4. That is a tight grouping. It is interesting that Warren Moon is in the middle of this group with a ratio of 12.6. Moon, of course, was precluded from playing in the quarterback in the NFL due to white supremacy for six years. Stringent unwritten rules were rescinded and Moon was granted an opportunity to play. Moon’s Oilers ran the “Run ‘n Shoot” offense which may have undermined their ability to seal the deal.

Then again, Terry Bradshaw and John Elway have significantly higher ratios – and both did a great deal of running around early in their careers. Bradshaw’s numbers in Super Bowl years, though, are interesting. The numbers would support the idea that as quarterbacks and offenses mature, the pass:run ratio will increase. In the Steelers first four Super Bowl victories, Terry Bradshaw has pass:run ratios of 4.4, 8.2, 11.5 and 22.5. The Steelers won back-to-back twice. Bradshaw basically doubled his ratio with each Super Bowl win.

Other items of note: Quarterbacks with passing records and limited or no success in Super Bowls, except for Fran Tarkenton, were clustered at the traditional pocket passer end of the continuum (Favre, Warner, Marino, Fouts). Some passers who might be considered traditional pocket passers actually have much higher ratios than anticipated (Brady, Williams, Leftwich). Then there’s Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. Stabler had to be one of the more elusive pocket passers of his or any era. I was so shocked by his numbers, I need to check the data from another source. There’s more: consider the pass:run ratios of Danny White and Roger Staubach. That’s a contrast of more than 2:1.

This is just the beginning of an analysis which should weigh some of these questions:

  • How have these quarterbacks performed during the early years of their careers?
  • What were the pass:run ratios of quarterbacks during years in which they won the Super Bowl?
  • Is there really a “sweet spot” ratio for optimizing the effectiveness of quarterbacks?

The table is not working. Please read the PDF.