I’m sure it’s a generational thing. But all this yakking about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning leaves me cold.
Great quarterbacks? Yes. Accomplished QBs? Yes.
As interesting as my favorite QBs? Not really.
Peyton is only my second or third favorite Manning. Archie was much more fun to watch. And Eli has had his moments.
Brady wins, but he’s in that whole KGB-Patriots thing. If you’re not a New England fan, the Pats have taken all the fun out of winning.
For excitement/entertainment, there are so many better candidates: Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Dan Marino are three that come to mind. Drew Brees, Joe Namatha and Ken Stabler also are worthy.
My all-time quarterback list, though, has prominent places for Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr.
They might not have had the arms or the legs of more glamourous QBs who followed them.
But they were the old-school personification of what a quarterback should be a leader as well as an athlete.
Unitas was a perfectionist and a competitor and a winner for the old Baltimore (don’t call me Indianapolis) Colts.
Unitas threw a touchdown in 47 straight games from 1956-60, in an era when 14-10 games were common and passing numbers were not. He also was the winner of the 1958 overtime NFL championship game that put the NFL on the television map.
One or my most cherished sportswriter memories is of being around Raymond Berry, Unitas’ over-achieving receiver, during the run-up to the 1985 Super Bowl, when Berry coached the New England Patriots against the Bears.
Warming up before a game in his playing days, Berry was going through his routine. Finding something amiss, he told the officials the field was one yard short in width.
They measured it. He was right.
Bart Starr won five NFL championships from 1961 to 1967. As a young Bears fan, there was no team I disliked more than the Green Bay Packers.
But Starr, like Unitas, was the consummate quarterback and field leader. He didn’t put up the numbers Unitas did, partly because the Packers had excellent personnel around him that was well-suited to Lombardi’s power-sweep running.
But I can still hear those calls from Ray Scott, who had a Vin Scully-like delivery during ‘60s NFL games: “Starr to Boyd Dowler. Touchdown.’’ And “Starr to Carroll Dale. Touchdown’’
And then the camera might cut to a disgusted George Halas on the sideline.
Like Unitas, Starr called his own plays. They weren’t just players. They led their teams, defined their teams, made the quarterback position into the most important job in athletics.
As I said, it’s probably a generational thing. But any list of all-time NFL quarterbacks that doesn’t mention Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr prominently doesn’t work for me.