Hey guys … been away for long while but just logged in and was intrigued by this discussion.
I belong to a Jets Facebook group and posted this awhile back in response to some guy who was ripping Namath as not even belonging in the top 50 QB's of all time, never mind the Hall of Fame.
I think its pretty relevant to this or any discussion that tries to compare QB's of different eras to each other … you just can't do it, as the game is so different now than it was back when Namath played.
Anyway, I hope my little analysis below helps drive this home to people...
"For a period of about 6 years, Namath was the best quarterback in Pro Football, and it wasn’t even close. Just listen to the likes of Lombardi, Madden, Shula, Davis, Walsh, Gillman, Baugh all talk about him.
Time and the evolution of the game has not been kind to Namath because the post 1980 rule changes and emphasis on scoring has helped dwarf not only his stat line, but his impact on the game. Most people who saw him play, look past the career stat lines because you could “see” the greatness of his talent.
If you never saw him play, and you only measure greatness through stat lines, you’ll never be convinced that Namath was one of the top 20 talents to ever play the position. It’s unfortunate that injuries, the disadvantage of playing in one of the most “unfriendly” passing venues in football, and horrendous Jet teams of the mid 70’s have damaged those career statistics.
But here’s a stat to consider...
In the history of the NFL, from 1920 to now, there have been 188 quarterbacks that have thrown for over 4,000 yards in a single season. 186 of those occurred AFTER 1980, after the first set of rules to help offenses pass the ball were instituted.
From 1920 to 1980, there were ONLY 2 quarterbacks to do it, Dan Fouts and Joe Namath, and Namath is the ONLY 1 in the history of the game to do it in a 14 game regular season.
Furthermore, there have been 11 quarterbacks that have thrown for 5,000 yards in a season since 1984, when Dan Marino did it first. The other 10 times it was done all occurred after 2007, which shows you how great Dan Marino was.
The point is this... the NFL game we watch today isn’t even the same game it was in 1985, never mind 1970. You can’t measure QB's from different eras against each other... everything about the game (I.e. pro offense rules, stadiums/weather conditions, injury treatments, offensive systems, etc...) is so different. It is far easier today, FAR EASIER, to compile big stat lines in today's game which has been changed to benefit offenses, than it prior to 1980. The immense increase in single season passing yardage statistics are the biggest proof of that.
Bottom line is this... Joe Namath was not the most accomplished QB of all-time, especially when measured against the video game stat line era QB's of today. However, he was one of, if not THE best QB of his generation and many of the greatest coaches and players in the history of the game back that up, even if Namath's career stat line doesn’t. He was one of those rare players that you just had to "see" play in the time he played to really appreciate how great he really was, how he could impact a game, and how opposing coaches revolved their entire defensive game plans around stopping him to beat the Jets... especially when he was relatively healthy early in his career.