Fran Tarkenton says he's the greatest quarterback ever
NOV 20, 2013 11:38a ET
Now, I'm not going to get on a soapbox and say that Fran Tarkenton is no good. That would be insane. The man revolutionized the quarterback position with his ability to run and throw and his three Super Bowl appearances in a testament to that.
But arguing over the greatest quarterback in history? Can there be a more subjective thing to discuss?
Well, let's hear his argument.
"I feel like I can outplay any of the quarterbacks that ever played," Tarkenton said in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Go look at my record. Go look at my record in that era and what I did, the results that I got from passing and rushing. ... In my mind, I played better than anybody that has ever played the position."
Now, before we start fitting Frannie for a straight jacket, let's break down the numbers: Tarkenton is still in the top 10 in completions, attempts, passing yards and touchdowns. In fact, when he retired in 1978, he held the NFL record in all four categories. At the start of the 2013, his 342 touchdown passes was still fourth all-time until Tom Brady and Drew Brees passed him on Oct. 27.
"It's amazing," Tarkenton said. "I haven't played the game since the 1970s and I'm still up in the top five or six. Think of that. Who else of my era is even close? ... The game has changed, and I'm still sitting up there in pretty good position."
That's true. Let's not forget, Tarkenton played in an era when there weren't spread-out passing attacks. Formations with four and five wide receivers were still unheard of.
However, this is where Tarkenton gets tripped up. What do people value the most in quarterbacks? Super Bowl wins, not appearances. That's why Jim Kelly, with his four Super Bowl losses, is never mentioned in the "greatest quarterback ever" conversations. And Kelly was dynamic to watch in his heyday. Tarkenton's three Super Bowl losses is a black mark, for better or worse.
Is it fair? Probably not. Don't think that doesn't bother Tarkenton.
"Darn right, it does," Tarkenton said. "Bud (Grant, the Vikings coach who lost four Super Bowls) laughs at me. Bud moved on. Bud moved on the day after they lost. But not me. I've not forgotten. Every day and every night, it pisses me off."
I think most people reading this can sympathize with that.
"There's a lot of great quarterbacks that didn't win Super Bowls," Tarkenton said. "And that idiot, Jim Irsay (Indianapolis owner), talked about Peyton Manning (not winning one other than for the Colts after the 2006 season). So Joe Montana is better than him because Joe Montana won four and Terry Bradshaw is because he won four. It's stupid.
"When the pundits talk about the best of all time, they don't mention much of Peyton because he's only won one. They mention Montana and Unitas (with three overall championships) and now Brady (with three Super Bowl wins). But you tell me who has had the better career at quarterback, Brady or Peyton Manning? I'll tell you, Peyton Manning by far."
Fran is pretty fired up, right? And he does have a high opinion of Peyton. In fact, Tarkenton considers Manning to be almost his equal.
"I'll give him 1b," Tarkenton said.
Here's my question: Why are we wasting time with this? All the quarterbacks mentioned here are or were great. All of them are either in the Hall of Fame or have a guaranteed spot waiting them.
So, what's the difference? Why waste time arguing or worrying about questions that can't be proven? Fran Tarkenton was one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. What's more, he had a great post-football career. Remember "That's Incredible?"
Can't we all just be happy?
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