AFC East: John Elway
That is partially the reason there is some momentum to bring Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino into the fold. Marino is available after being let go by CBS, and the Dolphins could use some good publicity.
But would Marino to the Dolphins work? Let’s examine the pros and cons.
- Pros: The Dolphins need an image makeover and Marino is the most popular former Dolphin in South Florida. He was the best quarterback in franchise history. Marino’s image alone brings back memories of when the Dolphins were consistently a competitive franchise. Marino offers instant credibility. The Denver Broncos recently did a similar move by bringing back John Elway, their best quarterback, in a prominent role. The move worked wonders for Denver’s organization. Why can’t it work the same for Miami?
- Cons: What role would Marino have? The Dolphins already have a structure where the GM (Dennis Hickey) and head coach (Joe Philbin) answer directly to owner Stephen Ross. What sense would it make to have Marino as team president or some other prominent role also answer to Ross? Also, how much does Marino really know about talent evaluation, or overseeing the process of talent evaluation? He’s never done it. Just because Elway was successful doesn’t mean Marino can have the same impact. There are also questions of whether or not Marino wants to put in the long hours it takes to work everyday in the NFL.
It seems unlikely the Dolphins would hire Marino at this stage in a prominent role. That would be disruptive to Miami’s current setup under Philbin and Hickey. A figurehead role may not be enough to satisfy Marino. The timing may not be right.
A total of six quarterbacks were taken in the first round, with four AFC East teams drafting the position. Half of the division landed Hall of Famers and the other half whiffed.
Here is a recap of the first round of the 1983 draft for the AFC East:
- The Bills drafted Jim Kelly No. 14 overall. He went on to lead Buffalo to four Super Bowls and became the franchise's all-time leading passer. The Bills dominated the AFC East and won the AFC from 1990-93 but came up short each time in the Super Bowl. Kelly is a staple in Buffalo and still lives there.
- The Patriots drafted Tony Eason one pick after Kelly, at No. 15 overall. His career highlight was helping to lead New England to the Super Bowl during the 1985 season. But Eason was mostly a bust and only reached double figures in touchdown passes three times. He would have an injury-plagued career and posted a 28-23 record in as a starter in right seasons.
- The Jets drafted Ken O'Brien No. 24 overall. Jets fans were disappointed that the team passed on Dan Marino for O'Brien -- and they were correct in their assessment. But O'Brien had a decent career that included two Pro Bowls, and he was actually 8-7 head-to-head against Marino during their AFC East rivalry in the 1980s and early 1990s. But O'Brien could never come close to matching Marino's overall numbers and victories. O'Brien was 50-59-1 as a starter in his career.
- Fortunately for the Dolphins, Miami landed Marino at No. 27, the second-to-last pick of the first round. Marino went to a very good Dolphins team and a Hall of Fame coach in Don Shula. The pair turned out to be the second-winningest quarterback-coach combination of all time, trailing only New England's Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Marino's super-quick release and arm was one of the best ever. But like Kelly, Marino never won a Super Bowl.
- The old Baltimore Colts were also in the AFC East in 1983. They drafted quarterback John Elway No. 1 overall, and you know the rest: Elway did not want to play for Baltimore and threatened to play baseball. As a result, the Colts traded Elway to the Denver Broncos, where he went to five Super Bowls, won two titles and had the most accomplished career of this famed quarterback class.
It's mind-boggling to think of the possibilities with every AFC East team drafting a quarterback in 1983.
What if the Jets took Marino? What if the Bills passed on Kelly and he went to New England one pick later?
The history of the AFC East would've been entirely different.
Overall, it's impressive. But lately Brady hasn't done so well with the season on the line.
Brady is a stellar 14-5 in 19 career playoff games. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Brady is tied with Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and John Elway for the second most playoff wins in NFL history.
But Brady is winless in his past three playoff games. This includes two consecutive one-and-done postseasons following the 2009 and 2010 seasons. New England also lost Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants.
In fact, Brady hasn't won a playoff game since the AFC Championship following the 2007 season. Four years is a long postseason drought for Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who are the NFL's winningest quarterback-coach tandem.
There are no excuses for New England not to win a playoff game this year. The Patriots (13-3) are huge favorites and got the easiest possible draw for the divisional round with Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos (9-8).
Brady, who won 14 of his first 16 playoff games and three Super Bowls, needs to get back on the winning side of the postseason starting this Saturday. If the Patriots, Brady and Belichick lose their fourth consecutive playoff game, expect a ton of offseason criticism in New England.
Dolfans didn't like the idea of Parcells helping another NFL team while he's still drawing a paycheck from the Miami Dolphins as a consultant.
Would it make Dolfans feel any better that two years ago -- while still a full-fledged executive vice president with an office, parking spot, secretary and access to free office supplies -- Parcells advised the New York Jets to hire Rex Ryan?
ESPNNewYork.com columnist Ian O'Connor caught up with Parcells to revisit that moment and other thoughts on Ryan's success. Ryan has reached the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons as Jets head coach.
Parcells said he probably would have hired Ryan on the spot for the Dolphins had he not been so close to Tony Sparano, who served on Parcells' staff with the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dolphins won the AFC East title in Sparano's first season, but they have gone 7-9 back-to-back years and tried to replace Sparano with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh two weeks ago.
"I was very impressed with Rex when I met with him," Parcells told O'Connor. "I could just sense that, 'Hey, this guy's going to have a chance.' "
He was so impressed that when Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum approached him for guidance upon firing Eric Mangini at the end of the 2008 season, Parcells recommended Ryan for the job -- even though the Dolphins would face him twice a year.
"I enjoy his personality," Parcells told me two months after the Jets hired Ryan. "I think he's a real football guy. Football is very, very important to him. Those are the kinds of guys that I like.
"I'm happy he got a chance to be a head coach. He's good. You've got to welcome competition. That's the way it is. It's a highly competitive industry. I like to see young guys get a chance."
Parcells also recalled what he declared "my saddest day in professional football," when he guided the Jets to the AFC Championship Game and had a 10-0 lead in the third quarter before succumbing to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
Parcells compared that defeat to the top-seeded New England Patriots' stunning elimination Sunday.
"It was such a devastating loss, it's hard to explain how I felt," Parcells said. "I'm sure it's how Bill Belichick felt last Sunday. I'm sure every coach gets to a place where you think you can go to the next spot, and you don't get to go. It takes a lot of blood to get back there, and those windows can close fast."
"That's ... That's ... That's ... That's something else," Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found the number "mind-boggling," and he owns a Harvard economics degree.
"It's ... I mean," Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said before a contemplative pause to gather his thoughts. "It blows my mind a little bit, to be honest with you."
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown four interceptions this year. He hasn't misfired once since Oct. 17, a record span of 319 attempts and counting.
Brady has been the ultimate mistake minimalist. With one game left in a phenomenal season, he could finish with the lowest interception percentage of any quarterback to start more than 10 games.
"Even the best quarterbacks have something they give away," New York Jets safety Brodney Pool said. "He really doesn't. It's hard for opposing DBs to get a clue. He's very smart. He knows where to go with the ball and knows the weaknesses of the coverages.
"You can try to hold a coverage, but even if you trick him one time he'll come back the next time and you won't know what hit you."
Brady has a 0.84 interception percentage. The NFL record of 0.41 was set by former Brady backup Damon Huard with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006. Huard threw one interception, but that was with 10 starts and only 244 attempts.
Pool and Carr comprise half the membership of the exclusive "I Intercepted Brady In 2010 Club." Also in are Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie and former Ravens safety Ken Hamlin, now of the Indianapolis Colts.
"You know what?" Pool admitted. "I thought about that after the game: 'Man, that was Tom Brady. That's pretty special.' I should've kept it."
That baby was a limited edition.
"I don't keep any balls," Carr said. "A ball is a ball to me. It probably would end up lost in my house, laying around somewhere."
That's right. Carr's chances of losing that ball -- even with nobody trying to steal it -- probably would be higher than Brady's.
"Sport Science" examined the likelihood of a quarterback not throwing an interception in 319 straight attempts.
Since Brady's last interception, quarterbacks around the league have thrown 296 of them, 2.9 percent of all attempts. Based on those averages, the chances of dodging an interception on 319 straight throws would be 0.00837 percent -- or one in 11,947.
Math is one thing. Where a fellow quarterback such as Fitzpatrick or an opposing coach like Sparano has comprehension problems is when they consider how Brady has skirted all those happenstances that cause interceptions.
A tip, a bobble, a defender hitting the quarterback's arm as he throws, a receiver falling down, a badly gripped football in the snow, a wind gust altering trajectory just enough ...
Brady's season is even more incredible when considering the Patriots receivers are second only to the Detroit Lions in drops this year. ESPN Stats & Information has charted 36 drops for the Patriots and a league-worst 11 for Wes Welker.
"A tipped ball has haunted us three or four times this season in different ways, whether it's just fluttering up in the air or lands on the ground," Sparano said. "To think that not one of those -- not one of those things -- is happening in 300-plus attempts is pretty impressive."
Most of the four interceptions Brady did throw weren't his fault. Three of them were deep balls. Two were long passes to Randy Moss, who's no longer on the team. Moss twice tipped the ball into the air before Pool swooped in and made a tippy-toe grab at the sideline. The play originally was ruled incomplete and overturned on video review.
Hamlin fielded Brady's last interception, a Hail Mary skyball that sailed 48 yards through the air and into the end zone on the last play before overtime against the Ravens.
Since that play, Brady has completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,536 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Carr stressed that interception-avoidance isn't about luck with Brady. He's a great quarterback within a proficient offensive structure. The Patriots often have a lead and rarely play from more than one score behind, erasing the need for Brady to force throws late in games.
"It's more quarterback than system," Carr said. "If you put any other quarterback in that system, he's not going to have that streak. You put Brady in any system and he's going to be successful."
Joe Montana threw at least seven interceptions each season he made 10 starts. Dan Marino never threw fewer than nine interceptions in any season he started at least 10 games.
John Elway had double-digit interceptions every year he played. Brett Favre threw a career-low seven interceptions once as a starter, but never fewer than 13 interceptions any other season.
Peyton Manning has a pair of four-interception games this year. Drew Brees has one also.
A search of Pro-Football-Reference.com turns up seven Hall of Fame quarterbacks with at least seven "quadriception" games on their ledgers since 1960. George Blanda had 18, Joe Namath 15 and Terry Bradshaw 12.
Brady owns five four-interception games.
Yet he's one game away from closing out a four-interception season.
Criminy, the Patriots' defense has returned that many interceptions for touchdowns this year.
"He doesn't stare down receivers like some quarterbacks do," Carr said. "He looks off receivers when he does throw the ball down the field. When the receiver's not there, he's going to throw the ball away. When it's time to take a sack, he's going to take a sack.
"He has confidence that 'Hey, if the throw's there I'm going to make it. If it's not, we're going to live to play another series, and we'll score then.' He takes what the defense gives him."
Brady hasn't thrown any interceptions on passes that traveled 10 yards or fewer in the air, ESPN Stats & Information notes. And before you dismiss that zero as unimpressive because those are higher-percentage throws, keep in mind Drew Brees has thrown 12 interceptions in this range. Eli Manning has thrown 13.
Brady has 358 passing attempts of 10 yards or shorter. Every quarterback with at least 115 attempts in this category has been intercepted.
Carr noted Brady didn't make a mistake on his interception, a deep pass over the middle to Welker. Carr said the Ravens tricked Brady by doing something unexpected.
But when asked to recount the play, Carr showed deference to Brady's and the Patriots' shrewdness. The Ravens might meet the Patriots again in the playoffs.
"I'm always thinking ahead," Carr said with a chuckle. "I know how smart Brady and them are. They'll read the article. Somebody in the organization will go back and watch the film and get a little bead on that. They're always looking for that advantage."
"Back in Pop Warner I had a couple of pretty big days," Fitzpatrick deadpanned.
An NFL statistical correction gave Fitzpatrick 8 more passing yards, nudging him that much closer to Peyton Manning for the league's best passer rating.
The play in question originally had been ruled a 17-yard loss on a completion to Roscoe Parrish. It was changed to a 9-yard loss because a review showed the ball had been batted.
Fitzpatrick's official stats for Sunday are now 29 of 43 for 382 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions.
The 8-yard adjustment raised Fitzpatrick's season passer rating two-tenths of a point to 102.2, putting him 1.2 points behind Manning.
Monday afternoon on Buffalo sports-radio station WGR, I actually heard giddy callers compare Fitzpatrick to Drew Brees and Brett Favre. Some fans no longer want the Bills to draft a quarterback in the first round next spring.
In response to the euphoria, WGR reporter Joe Buscaglia put together "Find the Fitz," an inspired feature to keep Fitzpatrick in perspective.
Buscaglia compared Fitzpatrick after 33 career games to Favre, John Elway, Steve Young, Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman after a similar number of games. With the names removed, you must guess which quarterback belongs to which stat line.
Fitzpatrick wasn't about to make any declarations the Bills should expect to be prolific from here on out.
"I think certainly after last week's performance, we have a little bit of momentum just in terms of the enthusiasm and the confidence that we have right now," Fitzpatrick said. "That being said, this is the NFL, and that could change in an instant, week-to-week, but we want to continue to get better every week.
"I think right now we've got a good opportunity to do that, feeling good with the guys that I'm playing with, and I think the chemistry will only get better and better."
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez helped the Jets overcome a late fourth-quarter deficit to win 24-20.
Sanchez had a difficult day overall, but was composed enough when the Jets took possession on their own 20-yard line with 3:55 to play and down by three points.
On the same plot of land where John Elway staged so many dramatic finishes, the Jets turned Elway-esque in the fourth quarter, overcoming 17-10 and 20-17 deficits. Sanchez was no Elway, not after two early interceptions that easily could've been four, but he shook off the awful start and got his team in winning position.
"Guys were excited in the huddle," Jets right guard Brandon Moore said. "I don't think it was like that in the past. There was always maybe a little doubt, like, 'Can we get it done?' This time, going into the huddle, I felt something was going to happen."
It came down to a fourth-and-6 play from Denver's 48-yard line.
Second for second, Cimini broke down what he called a "curious play call" from Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. The end result was a pass interference flag on Broncos safety Renaldo Hill at the 2-yard line, setting up LaDainian Tomlinson's second fourth-quarter touchdown run.
"That's championship football," Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "You don't want 'em -- you don't want these types of games -- but you need 'em. Championship teams need these games. It builds character and shows you can pull out a game when no one gives you a chance."
Luckily for New York Jets fans, Gang Green's dossier is the free sample chapter to promote the looming release of Football Outsiders Almanac 2010.
If you enjoy smart, statistical-based analysis, then you can immerse yourself in this reference staple. Any given paragraph of this book can provide information you didn't know could be tracked.
To get an idea of the type of insight you can pick up, here are highlights from the Jets' section, written by Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell:
- Football Outsiders projects the Jets to win 9.8 games, but they have a 39 percent chance of winning 11 or more.
- The Jets have a 7 percent chance to win six or fewer games.
- The odds of opposing kickers missing five straight field goals, which happened in the postseason, was 5,292-to-1.
- Cornerback Darrelle Revis limited receivers to 3.5 yards a catch. The league average for qualifying cornerbacks was 7.5 yards. Revis was targeted 96 times, more than any other cornerback.
- Football Outsiders "Revisized" other players' stats to put his season in context: "A player playing at Revis' level while getting a comparable usage rate at a different position in 2009 would have set the NFL passing record by nearly 500 yards, beat out Jerry Rice for the single-season receiving record or run for 2,000 yards while averaging a record-tying 6.4 yards per carry."
- Peyton Manning's "Revisized" season would have given him 5,532 passing yards. Brandon Marshall would have gained 1,922 receiving yards.
- Among the 11 quarterbacks from 1978 through 2008 with statistical seasons most similar to Mark Sanchez's are David Woodley (1981), Troy Aikman (1990) and John Elway (1984). Then again JaMarcus Russell (2008) and Tony Banks (1996) are in there, too.
- The Jets' defense forced opponents to go three-and-out on a league-best 34.4 percent of drives.
- The Jets allowed an NFL-high 10.6 yards on every screen pass against them. On offense, they tried an NFL-low 10 screen passes for a measly 2.6 yards a try.
Nevertheless, NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly made a bold statement Friday about this year's draft class.
"This is the best first round I've seen since 1983," Casserly said at the NFL scouting combine in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Of the 28 players selected in the first round in 1983, six have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They went to 77 Pro Bowls and won nine Super Bowls.
The 1983 quarterback class is legendary. All five AFC East clubs selected quarterbacks.
The Baltimore Colts took John Elway first overall. The Buffalo Bills drafted Jim Kelly 14th. One spot later, the New England Patriots chose Tony Eason. The New York Jets got Ken O'Brien 24th, and the Miami Dolphins used the 27th pick on Dan Marino.
Other first-round stars included running backs Eric Dickerson and Curt Warner, offensive linemen Chris Hinton, Jimbo Covert and Bruce Matthews and defensive backs Joey Browner, Gil Byrd and Darrell Green.
Casserly claimed only that crew will surpass the one that comes together in April.
With a rookie salary cap expected to be part of the next collective bargaining agreement, 53 underclassmen declared for this year's draft so they can sign under the current CBA, which allows rookies to get whatever they can.
"In talking to general managers throughout the league, decision-makers," Casserly said, "I think it's the result of two things. Last year, there was a concentrated effort to keep players in school. Conversely, both sides in the labor negotiations have talked about a rookie wage scale.
"So when you have those two things working, players without a motivation to stay in school will say 'The players who stayed in last year, you have a perfect storm to have the best junior crop you've had since all the way back to '83.' So I think this is the best first round I've seen going into a draft since 1983."
Cold, Hard Football Facts kingpin Kerry J. Byrne rolls out all the statistical data from the 20 quarterbacks who've played in more than one Super Bowl and ranks them purely on how they performed on the biggest stage.
Reputation doesn't matter one iota. That's why Jim Plunkett is slotted waaaaaaaaaaay ahead of John Elway.
Byrne breaks them down into four categories -- Legends, Champions, Cling-ons and Gimps -- and backs up the ranking, complete with a spreadsheet that lists all of their stats.
1. Joe Montana
2. Terry Bradshaw
3. Jim Plunkett
4. Troy Aikman
5. Bart Starr
6. Tom Brady
7. Brett Favre
8. Roger Staubach
9. Kurt Warner
10. Len Dawson
11. Peyton Manning
12. Bob Griese
13. Ben Roethlisberger
14. John Elway
15. Joe Theismann
16. Jim Kelly
17. Fran Tarkenton
18. John Unitas
19. Earl Morrall
20. Craig Morton
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
The New York Jets have unearthed some info that shows just how rare it is for a rookie quarterback to win a season opener on the road.
Mark Sanchez became only the fourth since the NFL-AFL merger to accomplish the feat in Sunday's 24-7 victory over the Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium.
The first three:
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.
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.
Two AFC East clubs remain alive in SportsNation's NFL draft class tournament.
The third-seeded 1985 Buffalo Bills and the eighth-seeded 1983 Miami Dolphins advanced to the quarterfinals. They'r coming out of different brackets and can face each other in the final to determine the best draft class of all-time.
But an all-AFC East championship doesn't appear likely. The Dolphins are up against the top-seeded 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers, a class that produced four Pro Football Hall of Famers: receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, center Mike Webster and linebacker Jack Lambert.
The Bills have defensive end Bruce Smith, receiver Andre Reed and quarterback Frank Reich. But the '83 Broncos featured one of the greatest draft picks ever. Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg was selected in the 12th round. John Elway doesn't factor because he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts.
ESPN Stats & Information ranked the top draft class from each of the 32 clubs and seeded them into a five-round bracket to determine the best of all-time. SportsNation visitors are voting for the winners of each matchup.
For those angry over the possibility an 8-8 team could reach the postseason while the New England Patriots might finish with 11 wins and not qualify, perhaps you can find solace in knowing that it has happened before.
"The thing that sticks out that I remember about that season was that we lost two games to the Oakland Raiders in overtime," Dan Reeves, the coach of the 1985 Broncos, told Quincy Patriot Ledger reporter Eric McHugh.
"I just remember thinking if we get to 11-5 we'll be in the playoffs. If you win 11 games, it's hard to believe [you'd be shut out]. That kind of sticks in your craw."
Two AFC East teams could win 10 games and not reach the playoffs. That has happened 20 times in NFL history and usually in pairs. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been seven seasons in which two teams won 10 games but didn't advance. Although the last time that occurred was 1991.
- The Patriots would win the AFC East with an 11-5 record.
- The Ravens would clinch the second wild-card berth.
- The Jets and Dolphins both would be 10-6 and getting ready for the draft.
If the Dolphins don't reach the postseason, then they will miss out for the fourth time in franchise history despite double-digit wins. They also didn't advance in 1975, 1977 and 2003.
The Washington Redskins won 10 games but couldn't get into the playoffs three times in an 11-season stretch, from 1979 to 1989.
The old-man references won't be thrown around like they were a year ago when Brett Favre faced Vinny Testaverde, but there's plenty of mileage between the quarterbacks in Sunday's game between the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.
How many clicks on the odometer? Over 57 miles.
The Elias Sports Bureau computes that Favre and Kerry Collins will have the third-most most combined yardage between opposing quarterbacks in NFL history with 100,364 yards.
Favre and Testaverde also set the record for combined age in that game at 82 years.
Favre is 39. Collins will turn 36 next month.
"I appreciate every game," Favre told reporters Wednesday in Florham Park, N.Y. "If you talk with Kerry, if you talk with Kurt [Warner], older guys, you realize that you're playing game to game.
"Your focus is so much different than it was as a younger player. You just appreciate the moment a lot more because you realize it won't be there forever. This game could be my last."
Favre clearly is having a blast with the Jets, as evidenced by a video clip that's making the rounds in cyberspace of the legendary quarterback forcefully hugging Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum after last week's sudden-death victory over the New England Patriots.
"You have to seize the moment, whatever that may be, whether it's taking in the crowd, whether you take in a rivalry, whatever it may be, really appreciate it," Favre said.
"I'd like to say I've seen it all and done it all, but that's not true. A big win like we had Thursday night, I think 'Man, it just doesn't get any better than this.' Then you play next week against a team that's undefeated. You never know."