Who Scores Highest As New York’s Best NFL Quarterback Of All-Time?
Football fans in the "Empire State" have been spoiled for as far back as most fans can remember. With three teams proclaiming its home base, the Giants, Jets, and Bills have trotted out several great quarterbacks to cheer for. Selecting a clear winner as the top Sunday signal caller is a competitive process. Let's take a look at the careers of our finalists.
The New York Jets of the fledging American Football League in 1965 made Joe Namath their top draft pick. Finishing up a storied collegiate career at Alabama under the watchful eye of legendary head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, "Broadway Joe", as Namath would be coined by Jets teammate Sherman Plunkett, was an instant superstar on Sundays.
During his 13 professional seasons (12 with the Jets and his final season of 1977 with the Los Angeles Rams), the kid from Western Pennsylvania turned out to be as accurate with his throws as he was flashy with the media.
In total, Namath tossed 173 touchdowns, and passed for 27,663 yards. Honors gained included an AFL MVP, selected to several all-star teams, the pro bowl, AFL Rookie of the Year, his number 12 is retired by the Jets, and the name Namath is included among those of the Jets Ring of Honor at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey.
Then there's the Super Bowl III victory which "Broadway Joe" emphatically guaranteed in January 1969.
Plagued with knee injuries most of his hall of fame career, Namath held it together, as the 1968 season came to a close, as the Jets defeated the Oakland Raiders 27-23 to capture the AFL Championship. Next up, for the Namath-led Jets was a visit to Miami for a Super Bowl III meeting with the best of the National Football League - the Baltimore Colts.
Baltimore was heavily favored over the Jets. As history shows, the Jets were the first AFL team to win football's biggest game, a 16-7 upset over the Don Shula coached Colts. Namath was selected as the game's MVP.
When talking Buffalo Bills, in their 64 seasons, one quarterback's name will usually find its name into the conversation - Jim Kelly.
Coming to Buffalo after playing for two seasons with the United States Football League's Houston Gamblers in 1984 and 1985, it would take Kelly just five seasons in Western New York to drive the Bills to their first of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
With teammates (and future hall of famers) Andre Reed to pass to and Thurman Thomas taking handoffs in the backfield, in January 1991 Buffalo played the New York Giants in Tampa. A last second field goal attempt missed by Bills' kicker Scott Norwood solidified the Giants' victory. A loss to the Washington Redskins in the 1992 Super Bowl, followed by back-to-back losses to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and 1993, Buffalo remains the only team in NFL history to reach four straight Super Bowls, and lose as many.
However, Kelly's journey to the "Big Game", and subsequently trying to get back to the game's biggest stage is one to be proud of. Like Namath, Kelly joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2002) after 11 seasons with the Bills. Passing for 35,467 yards, throwing 237 touchdowns, Kelly led the Bills to 108 winning games.
Other notable awards that came his way once hanging up his helmet for good after the 1996 season - his number 12 is retired by the Bills, his name included in the team's Wall of Fame at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park (NY), and five times selected to the Pro Bowl.
When thinking of the New York Giants, a franchise that dates back to 1925, there are two names that most consider to be the most successful quarterbacks of all-time - Phil Simms and Eli Manning.
During his 14 seasons calling signals at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford (NJ), Simms took the team from awful (6-10 in 1979), to great (14-2 in 1986). In January 1987, with Simms leading the charge on offense and Lawrence Taylor rallying the defensive troops, the Giants captured their first Super Bowl. In January 1987, a 39-20 win over the Denver Broncos solidified Simms as an elite NFL arm.
During the 1990 season, in week 15, Simms suffered a broken foot in a game against the Buffalo Bills. As history will show, the Giants went on to Super Bowl XXV, and defeated the Bills 20-19.
A first-round draft pick by New York in 1979, Simms connected on 33,462 yards and threw for 199 touchdowns. After retiring at the end of the 1993 season, Simms is remembered in the same breath as other Giants immortals as Taylor and coach Bill Parcells (both hall of famers). Like the few who saw their careers reach the heights as Simms has, he too, has had his number 11 retired by the Giants, and his name added to the Ring of Honor at Met Life Stadium in 2010.
The most recent "Golden Arm" of the Giants' franchise belonged to Eli Manning.
After 16 seasons with the Giants, the NFL's first overall draft pick in 2004, Manning is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2025. By all accounts, the two-time Super Bowl MVP should be a first-ballot selection.
Few could equal Manning's will to play and win. Having never missed a game due to injury, the football product of Ole Miss took to the field for 210 consecutive games (2004-2017). He passed for an astonishing 57,023 yards and hit on 366 passing touchdowns.
Along with the Pro Bowl selections, and having his name added to the Giants' Ring of Honor in 2021 and his number 10 retired by the team, Manning steered the franchise to two Super Bowl victories over the New England Patriots.
In Super Bowl XLII, Manning connected on a pass with David Tyree, who caught the ball off of his helmet. Four plays later, with just 35 seconds remaining in the game, Manning threw to Plaxico Burrress who hauled in the 13-yard touchdown. The Giants won their third Super Bowl.
In Super Bowl XLVI, again matching the Giants and Patriots, Manning shined; completing the unthinkable to many. Once again, trailing New England late in a Super Bowl, Manning made his case for Hall of Fame status. The quarterback led his team down field for an 88-yard scoring drive. Manning claimed his second Super Bowl MVP.
For my NFL two cents, Kelly edges out his other New York football arms as the best of all-time. Getting to a Super Bowl, at best, is monumental. To reach the NFL's grand prize four times, and consecutively, is something that will probably never be equaled. Yes, the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls. But, they were one of two teams standing among dozens. Kelly was the anchor of those great teams in Western New York. He is the all-time best of New York quarterbacks.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.
Top 10 Local News Stories of 2021
Gallery Credit: Jim Rondenelli
Top 5 Local Sports Stories Of 2021
Gallery Credit: Jim Rondenelli
Fox Host Failla Reaches USA from WIBX Studio in Utica
Gallery Credit: Bill Keeler