A Comparison of Quarterbacks From Yesterday To Today

I have always enjoyed comparing or contrasting athletic performances from different generations. Today, I will be contrasting NFL quarterbacks from a generation ago and comparing them to today’s stars.

I have chosen to compare two quarterbacks from the ’60s and ’80s with today’s counterparts. They are Joe Namath and Bernie Kosar and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Joe Namath most undoubtedly know is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It can be said that Joe for his time was the most popular and charismatic player of his day or at least one of them. He won a Super Bowl with the New York Jets in the 1968 season. Joe was selected to two pro bowls and won one MVP award in 1968. Namath, for his career which spanned 13 years from 1965 through the 1977 season. Had a career completion rate of 49.5 pct. He threw for 173 td’s and had 220 passes intercepted. His career passer rating was 65.

Would these numbers get him in the Hall of Fame if he played in this past decade?

I highly doubt it.

Bernie Kosar played in three AFC championship games for the Browns and won a Super Bowl ring for the Cowboys. In 1987 Kosar was the top-rated QB in the AFC with a 62% completion rate, 22 TD’s against nine interceptions and was selected to the Pro Bowl. For his career (1985-1996), Kosar had a completion pct. of 59%, 124 td’s against 87 interceptions and a career rating of 82. (Kosar never won an MVP and is not in the Hall of Fame.) The numbers for both Kosar and Namath seem paltry when compared to today’s QBs.

For instance, thus far Tom Brady has a career rating of 97, a career completion pct. of 64% with 581 TD’s to 191 interceptions. Peyton Manning finished his career with similar numbers. Consider the following- 65% for his career, a career rating of 96.5 with 539 TDs and 251 interceptions. While it is true that today’s NFL is a pass-centered league compared to earlier generations, I have heard it said that the reason passing numbers were not as good a generation ago as today is because the quarterbacks of today throw more shorter passes to the running backs vs. longer passes to the wide receivers. While that is certainly true of Namath, whose two main receivers, Sauer and Maynard, always led the Jets in receptions by far, the same can not necessarily always be said for Kosar.

While for his Browns career Webster Slaughter and Brian Brennan led the Browns in receptions, it must be noted that in Kosar’s ProBowl year of 1987, Ernest Byner ( a running back), led the Browns in receiving. During the years of both Manning and Brady by far, the reception leaders of their respective teams were wideouts. During his time with the Colts, Manning’s favorite targets were Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. During his Broncos years, his favorite target perpetually was Demarius Thomas a wide receiver.

For Tom Brady, the numbers are similar. Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and earlier in Brady’s career it was Troy Brown another wide receiver.

What to make of all this?

In today’s NFL, would Namath have always been a Jet and a starter at that? Would Browns fans been clamoring for a Kosar replacement? While the team mostly won then, would fans have been down on his play He had some rather unremarkable years? Aren’t the defenses supposed to be more sophisticated now than a generation ago and certainly during Namath’s day? Are the defensive backs worse today than ever or are the quarterbacks and receivers better today? Certainly, the passing game is more sophisticated today.

Points to ponder…

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