Research shows Marino should be Comeback King

August, 10, 2009
8/10/09
2:50
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

While I was immersed in Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio, a few items I normally would have blogged about didn't get addressed.

Here's one.

Fittingly, it rewrites NFL history.

Mike Tanier of "The Fifth Down" blog at NYTimes.com directed us to some fascinating research performed by Scott Kacsmar at Pro-football-reference.com.

What Kacsmar recently discovered is that John Elway's distinction as the greatest fourth-quarter comeback quarterback of all-time is a myth.

The honor belongs to Dan Marino.

It was so often referenced that Elway conducted 47 fourth-quarterback comebacks. Problem is, comebacks aren't an official NFL stat. Kacsmar found that teams defined a fourth-quarterback comeback differently. The Denver Broncos were liberal with their interpretation, while the Miami Dolphins were conservative.

The Broncos gave Elway credit for a fourth-quarter comeback if they went into the fourth quarter tied and then pulled ahead. Included in that oft-referred to 47 was a game that ended in a push.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, considered only games in which Marino took the field in the fourth quarter while behind and he engineered a winning drive.

Kacsmar standardized a definition and crunched the data again.

Final tally: Marino 36, Elway 34.

If you're into stats and historical data, I recommend clicking on the links to Kacsmar's research for other intriguing info. His analysis shows Johnny Unitas also had more fourth-quarter comebacks than Elway.

Around the AFC East, Kacsmar has New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady down for 20 (Drew Bledsoe finished with 24) and Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington down for seven so far.

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